An exclusive piece written by Alexie Kalenga
"Dead Stock, Discounts and Deception"
“It's the most wonderful time of the year,
There’ll be much over-shopping,
And hearts will be dropping,
When the sales are all near,
It's the most wonderful time of the year”
Yes, we are drawing ever so close to “that time of the year” again.
Everyone’s go-to icebreaker is going to be talking about the rain and the cold weather. Coming along with the frosty air, is the fast approaching whirlwind of the winter sale season.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Day and New Year’s.
For nearly two months every year the world goes into an apocalyptic shopping frenzy.
Our current consumerist culture drives the masses to doorsteps and websites of big brands to look for the hottest deals. The high streets will be splattered with bright red urgency. SALE. Up to 70% off. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Massive Discounts. SALE NOW ON! 50% off Everything!
SALE SALE SALE.
This can be quite overwhelming, but shopping on a day like Black Friday has become a new age tradition that gains more traction every year. A recent study by Statista 2021, predicted that consumer demand for leading fashion brands would see its highest level of growth on Black Friday, with a staggering increase of up to 41 percent for some well known brands.
It feels like we are encouraged to fill any gaps in our wardrobes and leave gaps in our wallets.
Yet, have we ever asked ourselves how these brands and stores can afford to give show-stopping discounts to their customers? Where did all of this stock suddenly come from?
Black Friday is a lucrative opportunity for big corporations to clean up their inventory and increase their sales for the year. This is achieved in two simple steps: persistent marketing and dead stock.
The very strong reductions found during Black Friday reveal false promotions and highly inflated prices for the occasion. Research by Which?, in 2020, disclosed that 98% of the discounts advertised on Black Friday were available for the same price or cheaper in the six months following the massive sales. Furthermore, their study tracked 119 products over a year, and found only 3 items at their cheapest price on Black Friday.
So, this is how the game is played.
Fast fashion brands will advertise a top worth £10 for £20, and then put it on sale for £10. This is a marketing strategy used to make you feel like you made a good deal. Convincing consumers with irresistible reductions, is all a part of the plan.
Now that we have an idea of the marketing strategy that is used, let’s talk about how these clothes are so cheap. Fast fashion companies often over-order and overproduce items that can’t be sold — otherwise known as dead stock. Dead stock can also include damaged items, incorrect deliveries, returns and leftover seasonal products which can remain on warehouse shelves for months.
This is mostly what we buy during Black Friday. However, the story doesn’t end there. Examples of mass discounting that we saw last year like a £1 bikini and 99% off sales are a strong indicator of cheap over- production.
So, how are brands managing to sell garments so cheaply? A 2020 survey, by the Fashion Checker uncovered that 93% of brands surveyed are not paying garment workers a living wage. So, if brands are having massive discounts, how much are they paying their labour force.
‘Luxiders’ quite rightfully voice that “ It should not be possible to buy a garment for so little, when you consider the cost of a fair living wage to workers, and the cost of sustainable materials.” And I agree particularly when some renowned brand Senior Execs have accrued a net worth of up to $1 billion based on this operating model!
In 2020 it was revealed that the average wage for UK factory workers was as little as £3.50 to £4 an hour. Despite legislation in place such as National Living Wage, here in the UK brands and their supply chain operated modern day slavery wages to produce their cheap clothes.
I’m sure a lot of us are guilty of giving into a sale season frenzy, because it feels so good and rewarding at the time. At some point it may be worth asking ourselves if it’s worth it. The long queues, garments on the floor, clothing racks falling apart, the demoralised staff, all of which perfectly fit the scene of a capitalist war zone.
Now, ask yourself, “ Do I really need it?” At some point in our lives we would have come across Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Whether it was at school, work or just in a passing conversation. If you haven’t, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a pyramid portraying the theory of human motivation from our most dominant psychological needs to our least dominant needs being self-actualisation.
The accelerated rates of fast fashion and constant pressure to buy new clothes seems to have infiltrated our psyche and has disguised itself as a physiological need.
We find ourselves saying that we “need” to go shopping or we “need” something new to wear. For a lot of people, shopping for clothes, especially on Black Friday, is not out of need but rather out of want. Many people love a bargain too much to care about how their bargains were made or to think about where they came from.
Despite being surrounded by deceptive messaging, we thankfully know that there are many people who are trying to paint a different picture for the clothing industry, one being Susan Lazarovic. A Canadian illustrator who brilliantly reimagined the theory from a Hierarchy of Needs to a Buyerachy of Needs.
This new adaptation presents a new way of finding what we need. The first level, being the fundamental principle of using what you have, whilst buying as the last resort after all other options have been exhausted. This theory can be applied to almost anything you would usually buy and is a great way to save money, especially during the winter sale season.
So why not use this model to create an intentional wardrobe. With this theory you have the opportunity to save money and put it towards high-quality items when you do get to the point where you need to buy something new.
This can be your game plan to fight the unjust fast fashion system.
Some of us have heard of the age-old quote “good things take time.” Let’s apply that to our shopping habits.
Don’t just give in to what these brands have to say, let’s give it time and hold out for quality and ethical brands.
In the wise words of Maria Loria, a local British circular fashion designer, “ next time you get that fast fashion push notification for 70% off everything, think of the people behind the scenes and what they stand for. Ultimately, asking yourself does The Devil Wear Prada whilst clothing our nation in Polyester.”
Alexie Kalenga is a marketeer, model and sustainable fashion enthusiast. Her expertise lies in purchase intension and retail consumer behaviour. Her passion for helping people understand all aspects of sustainability flow through to her passion for saving the environment
Photo Credit @tasha.h_film. You can follow Tasha and Alexia on Instagram @alexie_kalenga
An exclusive piece written by Marcelo Marino
Marcelo Marino is an Art Historian and the Director of “Estudios de Moda” (Fashion Studies), a series of books on Fashion History and Fashion Theory published in Spanish in Buenos Aires and Madrid by Ampersand.
"Fashion is not always about the future"
Talking about the future of fashion has always been a fashionable obsession. Fashion, by definition, is expressed as an idea of future. One collection succeeds another, one style replaces the previous one, the new becomes old. Even each year has a Pantone-designated colour that displaces the previous one. The colour of 2022 is called “Very peri” and that of 2023 will be “Digital lavender”. Both are from the purple family -two different shades of purple- and for me there are no big differences between them. What will make “Digital Lavender” the new trending colour will be the speeches and narratives around the idea of the new colour the year and suddenly, the poor “Very peri” will be forgotten. The truth is that both shades of purple somehow already existed, always existed, and will continue to exist.
The same goes for fashion. Although we think that fashion is the future, in reality fashion is the past and above all it is the present in which some parts of the clothing styles of the previous years and decades are recreated.
However, the discussion of the future of fashion is always present and above all, it takes the form of the apocalyptic announcement of its end. During the first year of the Covid pandemic and with the successive lockdowns that reached every country in the world, including the great fashion capitals, the ideas of the end of fashion began to be discussed again. Actually, what looked like The End was that the process of commodification of fashion had stopped. What is normally confused with the future of fashion is fundamentally linked to its commercial aspect, the next collection, the next sales season and so on. But the truth is that during the lockdowns we were not left without clothes. Quite the contrary, we realized that we had too many and most of those clothes in our closet we don't use them because we forget they are there or because we are too lazy to refresh them and bring them back to life. Nevertheless, it was at that moment that many of us rescued an old jumper or some jeans from ten years ago and still in perfect condition. Others were more courageous and transformed, disassembled, intervened, redesigned and recreated new garments with fragments of others. I do not want to romanticize the moment of the pandemic, nor do I want to recite an ode to needlework. What I intend to point out is that something in fashion always remains alive, even if we are told that it is going to end. There is a mainstream fashion that we have all consumed and continue to consume. But there are also other individual actions that can become fashionable for us and spread collectively.
Take for example the JW Anderson patchwork knit cardigan worn by Harry Styles that recently entered the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum. That cardigan would not be in the National Collections if it had not been popularized during the pandemic by the version that a young American knitter, Liv Huffman, made of it. Harry Styles wore that cardigan to a concert rehearsal and Huffman decided to recreate it and teach how to knit it via her Tik Tok account. Hundreds of fans began to knit their own versions and it went so viral that JW Anderson released the patterns and instructions to reproduce it according to the original design. Such was the popularity of the cardigan that the V&A now exhibits, Harry's cardigan alongside the knitted one by Liv Huffman in the Fashion and Textile galleries. The full story can be seen in the documentary series Secrets of the Museum on BBC Player and versions knitted around the world can be easily traced with the hashtag #HarryStylesCardigan. Examples and anecdotes like this were innumerable during the pandemic and show that the creative power of fashion is what is important. Not all of us need to start knitting to create a positive change, but we can all find imaginative solutions to reduce unnecessary consumption.
Fashion that matters is built in the present. Approaching the materiality of clothing, knowing textiles and their creation processes, valuing quality, sustainability and good design are good guides to review our wardrobe. I do not mean that we should have a nostalgic look and recover the past to relive it in the present. Nor is it about going back to needle work or sewing and not buying new clothes anymore. Rather, it is about giving meaning in the present to what we bought in the past and giving our creative abilities a chance to build a subjectivity for ourselves. It's not about wearing old clothes; it's about developing a style that admits the incorporation of what we already have. It makes no sense to go against the grain of the times. That's not fashion either.
This new way of relating to fashion should also be applied to our purchases and as responsible consumers we have to demand that sustainability is not for the rich or a prerogative of luxury brands. All brands should offer sustainable alternatives for a wide variety of audiences. Clearly this is a utopia but when we talk about inclusive fashion brands, the question of class is as important as that of gender, identity or sizes. The great Italian fashion theorist, Maria Luisa Frisa says that “fashion has become an insular phenomenon, which is dangerously positioning itself outside of society”. This is an alert so that individually and collectively we make sense of fashion practices. The communicational power of fashion is fascinating, and we have to master it in our own ways. The “Harry Styles’ cardigan phenomenon” was a phenomenon of global communication. If it hadn't been for a Liv Huffman, that cardigan wouldn't be a museum piece today. Many media outlets highlight now JW Anderson's gesture of making patterns available but quickly forget that the main link that unites the chain was Huffman's video on Tik Tok.
Fashion is more vital than ever and truly takes centre stage in our lives. Fashion is in our Instagram accounts. We all follow at least one influencer, we watch fashion shows and adverts, we follow our favourite brands or wait for the big sign of Sale on the feed. Fashion is a complex system that connects us with the world. We have to know how to use it for our benefit and according to our wishes. And if the Pantone colour of the year for 2023 will be “Digital lavender” but you actually like the plain Green, well just choose your plain Green and make it the mark of your identity.
You can follow Marcelo on Instagram: @thebestfashionbooks and @marcelomarinow