Brand: a modern fairytale

To quote myself, on a recent FB rant:

There are no ethics in branding. Branding is story telling designed to promote loyalty in consumers. Replace God with your chosen logo and you’re free to worship whatever bullshit brand fairytale you fancy. Brand ID is more important than product/design/innovation/practice, that’s why corporations only act when news threatens their brand ID and ethics. Burberry are now not going to burn their old stock, because it looks bad for their inclusive/sustainable/ethical dialogue. Hallelujah! They’ll be promoting the fuck out of this development in their practice like their hand wasn’t forced. They did it to protect the exclusivity of the brand, now they’ll not do it to protect the image of the brand. The story is more valuable than their product.

I hate brand.

 

Despite my hatred of branding, and I make no exception for Vivienne Westwood (who generally talks the talk, but ethically fails to walk the walk) but I do love her designs. The Westwood products are exciting, and stylised, and this dress is a favourite. I love it. I didn’t buy it new though, it’s vintage and I brought it from someone that no longer wore it. In this way I’m not really supporting the brand, but I do get to wear it. I’m no angel, clearly, but I don’t buy branded new.

 

Recently the fashion industry enjoyed some BBC level Headlines.

I think maybe ‘enjoyed’ may be too strong a word, Burberry was guttered by their repellent practice of stock burning to protect product exclusivity, I get it, they were hit pretty hard following Daniella Westbrook-gate in the noughties, when the exclusive print was adopted by the common people as chav uniform in knockoffs, following her mid-crack addicted, septum replacing, down and out style lead. Of course they have apologized since my rant, Scout’s honored a pledge to stop burning their old crap and committed to stop using fur in their collections. They are of course promoting the hell out of their change of heart, much like I prophesized, what a stand up example of humanitarian effort they have suddenly become.

Then there was H&M, the high street golden child for sustainability, they have conscious collections, they are committed to using increasingly more sustainable fabrics in production, working on invisible supply chains for some garments, and dedicating entire design teams to progressing easy to recycle designs, in 2017 approx 35% of all fabrics used in production were sustainable. Seriously, giants among men I tell you, well, besides the unwanted clothes they got caught burning by a Dutch TV show. For H&M this is a PR shit storm, and they have a harder rap that Burberry, because they produce for the common folk, and therefore have no iconic exclusivity to protect, they just churn out disposable fast fashion that no one cares about. How very dare they!

And then there’s Nike.

Nike are a global company, with excellent marketing, they’re constantly looking for big names to promote their brand. They’re also excellent at ‘green washing’ their practice to fit with current ethics. They are big and therefore slow, and after their ‘out’ in 91 for sweatshops etc., they begrudgingly made an effort to change, more in publicity than in substance. They use a few sustainable materials, when they should be market leaders and more consistently funding research in these areas, Stella McCartney has achieved way more than they have with much less budget without being a sportswear specialist, in one collaborative collection last year.

So they choose Colin Kaepernick, a logical choice because he comes as an ethical standard with a bulk of back-story press. Nike may take a small calculated hit from hard right US as they burn their logos, cut up socks and ignite a twitter campaign of hatred, but the liberal market is what Nike wants, because globally it’s bigger, and right now, it’s the hip under dog!

Nike still uses sweatshops, commits to the loosest worker rights charters they can get away with, they commit to living wage in the next 10 years (not right the hell now), carbon footprint reduction in 30 years (not right the hell now), and don’t operate any empowerment initiatives especially for women. They are unusually transparent (plus), but animal welfare is completely secret (bad sign) and have been beaten in every area of sustainable practice by Adidas (who are by no means a beacon of virtue). This is a beautiful PR play for Nike, they win regardless, but that’s as far as their ethics go.

So I’m left once more hating what Branding stands for, hating that people buy into morally hollow, slavery endorsing, wasteful, narcissistic, inflated, tax dodging, giants of industry that provide poor quality, unimaginatively designed crap, which they will outmode with their own products within 6 months. I hate that we still buy into these empty stories, so we can wear a garment to which more consideration has been given to promoting the label, than the garment’s construction.

I would happily burn Burberry bags in protest, I’m more than happy to cut off Nike ticks from my socks, and I absolutely love that people are showing their disgust for a relatively disgusting company by defiling the sacred logo, but seriously, campaign against something that means something.

 

It’s a minefield of misinformation and excellent green washing campaigns out there, if you care about what your preferred brands get up to behind the scenes, the goodonyou website is a great place to start, they cut through an awful lot of noise with well researched info on your brand. You can feel better about your choices with a little bit of research.

 

Visit https://goodonyou.eco and find out just how sustainable/ethical or not your favourite brands are.

 

More information:

Burberry product funeral procedures: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44885983

H&M Sustainable fire starters: https://fashionunited.uk/news/fashion/h-m-accused-of-burning-12-tonnes-of-new-unsold-clothing-per-year/2017101726341

 

About The Author

Eve Copper

1 Comment

  • John Reese on October 3, 2018

    Well said, Eve. I remember the Add Busters campaign against Nike, “100% slave made” on a billboard in Oz. It woke up a large segment of the population who thought the world of branding.
    I can be found shopping from thrift stores for second hand clothing, but height is a limiting factor in finding much. I think you get that too. Durability is of primary concern with horse work, and often I’m left with the choice of not finding what I need, or spending for that branding anyway. It’s “a poor way to run a railway”.

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