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Vicki Swain, Quality Lead

Behind The Seams

Loving and wearing your clothes for longer – why durability matters

Vicki Swain, Quality Lead, Primark Cares tells us why durability is important when it comes to our clothes and whether price can tell us how long clothing will last.

At Primark, we believe everyone should feel confident that the clothes you buy can be loved and worn for a long time, no matter what the price.

We’ve all got those items of clothing that have been in our wardrobe for years, tried and trusted staples that have withstood many washes and wears. I can think of many in my own wardrobe.

But have you ever wondered why some of your clothes seem to last forever, washed and worn season after season, and others don’t seem to last so long? This is what we mean when we refer to durability in the context of clothing and something we want to understand more about.

What does durability mean, and why does it matter?

Durability to Primark means how long an item of clothing remains functional and wearable, without needing much maintenance or repair when faced with normal wear and washing.

Durable clothes reduce the need for replacement purchases, increase the chance of a longer second life and offer better value for money – something that’s really important in the current cost of living crisis.

There’s currently no agreed standard when it comes to durability though, so it means different things to different people. We think that needs to change and we want to see a standard across the industry so consumers can be confident in the clothing they buy.

What is Primark doing about durability?

We need to do all we can to ensure that clothes are kept in use for as long as possible – making sure clothes are loved and worn time and time again.

Under the product pillar of our Primark Cares strategy we are committed to giving clothes a longer life. We’ve launched several durability and repair initiatives to support our commitment to deliver affordable clothes designed to last. These include strengthening the durability of our own clothing range by 2025, working with The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) through the Textiles 2030 initiative to establish an industry wide durability standard, and upscaling our free clothing repair workshops across Europe and maintaining an online education hub of helpful how-to resources to support our customers.

We’re also keen to start a discussion around durability and work with others to look at this. That’s why we’ve been working with behaviour change experts Hubbub to explore the factors that impact clothing durability and look at how we can address these.

Does price affect durability - Do you really get what you pay for?

One of the central questions we wanted to explore is whether the price of an item of clothing impacts how long it will last. We know that lots of people tend to think there’s a relationship between the price and durability – in fact, polling commissioned by Hubbub showed that almost 7 in 10 (67%) of the UK public believe that more expensive clothes will last longer than more affordable items. More than half of people said that price dictates how they care for their clothes too, including their likelihood to hang an item up (64%), remove a spill or stain (62%), or carry out a repair (54%).

That’s why we commissioned research by The School of Design at the University of Leeds to understand if there is a link between price and durability. The University examined how durable different wardrobe staples such as t-shirts, hoodies and denim at different price points really were.

The results were mixed across the different categories. In some cases, the more expensive clothes performed well, in others the more affordable items performed the best. There were also examples of both higher and lower price items not being very durable. In some cases, there was little between the two, despite there being £100+ difference in price. The academics carrying out the research concluded that there isn’t a correlation between price and durability and more expensive items don’t necessarily perform better than lower priced items. You can read the report and findings and learn more about the methodology and testing here.

As well as showing there wasn’t a link between price and durability in the products tested, the findings show the need for a durability standard because the results are so varied. It also acts as an important reminder that whether you spend £5 or £50 all clothing deserves to be treated with the same care.

We know that this just tells us one part of the story, and we want to learn more. This is why we’ll continue working with Hubbub to explore some of the other factors that impact durability, including how people care for their clothes in the real world, and if how we care for our clothes determines how long they’ll last.

To find out more about our Primark Cares commitments to durability here.

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