(CNN) – Luxury brand Coach announced that it will no longer destroy damaged or “unsellable” products returned to its stores, after a viral video from TikTok claimed the brand intentionally “cut” unwanted items for tax purposes.
Without referring directly to the allegations, the US brand wrote on Instagram Tuesday that it had “stopped” destroying returns at the store and would seek to “responsibly refuse, recycle and reuse excess or damaged products.”
The move follows claims made by TikTok user Anna Sacks, who filmed herself unpacking Coach products that appeared unusable. In the minute-long video, Sacks, who uses the username @thetrashwalker, said it was Coach’s policy to “order an employee to deliberately cut up (unwanted merchandise) so no one can use it.”
Holding cut out bags, cut off strappy shoes and a jacket with large tears, Sacks alleged in the video that the practice was part of a “tax loophole” in which the brand cancels products “as if they had been accidentally destroyed.” Neither Coach nor its parent company, Tapestry, responded to CNN’s requests for comment.
The video, which was first posted on TikTok on Saturday, received more than 560,000 likes as of this writing. The social media backlash intensified Tuesday when Diet Prada, a vigilante fashion industry influencer, posted the allegations on Instagram along with videos that appear to show Coach items being recovered from a dumpster.
Fashion Industry Practices
Coach is by no means the only luxury company believed to intentionally destroy unwanted inventory. The practice generally aims to prevent excess stock from being sold at cheaper prices and damaging the exclusivity of brands.
In 2018, Burberry announced that it would stop burning unsold products after it was found to have destroyed clothing and perfume worth more than US $ 36 million past year. Several fashion houses, watchmakers and apparel firms have faced similar allegations in recent years.
But critics of Coach’s alleged policy drew attention to the brand’s (Re) Loved program, a repair service and resale platform that markets itself as “a less wasteful way of doing things.” In the video, Sacks said he intended to send the damaged items to repair to see if the brand would fix them.
In its statement on Instagram, Coach said the brand was “committed to sustainability” and “dedicated to maximizing the reuse of such products in our Coach (Re) Loved and other circularity programs.”
Tapestry, which also owns brands such as Kate Spade and Monique Lhuillier, said in its 2020 Corporate Responsibility Report that it had repaired 28,258 Coach items, which is equivalent to 85% of those shipped to the brand that year, and that it “continues to develop scalable solutions “for the remaining 15%.
Speaking to CNN via WhatsApp, Sacks welcomed Coach’s response as “a start.”
“I want to emphasize again that Coach is the brand that was caught publicly this time, but this is still a widespread practice in the fashion industry,” he said. “My fear is that other brands, instead of taking production of the right size seriously, will continue to overproduce and destroy only now, being very careful to hide the evidence.”
“This could include using compactors, blocking dumpsters and forcing employees to sign punitive (nondisclosure) agreements. It would be a shame, and to the detriment of our planet, if this is the lesson that the fashion industry It draws from this Coach incident. That is my greatest fear in exposing destruction. “