Fashions are always changing, and now how people shop for fashion is changing, too. Today’s educated consumers do not rely on department stores for all their clothing needs but check into individual brands with information and purchase options all easily accessible on their phones. Those consumers are not just savvy about product value but also about the values of the brands they patronize, including sustainability.
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The Problem of Short-Lived Fashion (and Fast Fashion)
Sustainability is not what usually springs to mind when one thinks about fashion, which is predicated on discarding what’s out and buying what’s in. For example, the teens interviewed for the New York Times article, What Do Gen Z Shoppers Want? A Cute, Cheap Outfit That Looks Great on Instagram buy and discard nearly 100 pieces each year. Though they have been educated about sustainability, they are not willing to limit themselves to responsibly sourced clothes. As Mia Grantham said, “Why would I pay more when I can get the same for less?”
The proliferation of cheap clothes favored by such shoppers contributes to our landfill problem. In 2008, Drapers, a UK-based fashion business journal, reported, “Throwaway fashion grows to 30% of landfill waste.” The percentage is smaller on the American side of the Atlantic, though it is still significant. Trusted Clothes reported that the “EPA estimates that textile waste occupies nearly 5% of all landfill space.” Americans toss out “70 pounds of clothing and other textiles” each year.
Consider the Planet
Now, consumers are starting to give some considerations to their purchases’ ramifications for the planet. Walker Sands recent report, The Future of Retail 2019, observes that consumers are paying closer attention than ever before to a brand’s sustainability practice. In fact, 79 percent of shoppers under 35 say they do give it “consideration when making a purchase,” and about two-thirds say “they are at least somewhat more likely to purchase from a brand or retailer committed to sustainability.”
A testament to this trend is the growing number of influencers who have started addressing the value of sustainability in fashion choices. While some still boast of fashion hauls, they do try to do so with environmental awareness. They promote buying “preloved” clothing or, at least, items that are made concerning the good of the planet. Some of them showcase pieces from brands built on sustainable fashion.
A New Spin on the Thrift Shop
One business capitalizing on and promoting the purchase of preloved fashion is thredUP, the retailer that brought digital transformation to the thrift shop. As it explains in the video below, “There’s a textile crisis, in fact, fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world. One of the best things we can do for our planet is to consume less new clothing. And reuse more.”
Buying preloved is on the upswing. In 2019, thredUP released its Annual Resale Report and reported that in 2018 fifty six million women bought preloved products, twelve million more than the year before. In 2020 it may be able to report even higher numbers, as thredUp partnered with another sustainable fashion brand, Amour Vert.
Sustainable by Design
Amour Vert, which means green love in French, promotes sustainability through “the full lifecycle of a garment— the fibers and production processes used, how workers are treated, how it gets to the consumer and finally, whether it can be recycled or is forced into landfill.” Additionally, it has pledged to plant a tree for every tee through its partnership with American Forests. Over 292,150 trees were planted as a result.
In addition to using the most sustainable raw materials for its fabrics, Amour Vert features innovative designs that reduce waste, like its Nour Zero Waste Sweatshirt. It incorporates every piece of cloth cut out according to the pattern, even using the scraps at the edge to bundle the cut pieces together until they are sewn. The consumer would have to really appreciate the effort here to pay over $90 for that sweatshirt. For those who can appreciate it but can’t afford it, it may be possible to buy it used at a 65 percent discount on thredUp, thanks to the partnership between the two brands.
The Quality Advantage
Another brand that can be purchased at bargain prices on thredUp is the British brand Boden. It currently devotes a page of its site to sustainability that includes a link to another page with the title Reducing our environmental impact about its initiatives to source more sustainable cotton and its devotion to recycling its packaging materials.
As for the clothes themselves, Boden’s position is that its quality production guarantees “clothes that last” and so “stay out of landfill.” It makes the point that high-quality clothes are good for the planet because they will provide years of use. It goes so far as to say that the children’s clothes have room for four names on the label because they expect them to be able to be handed down multiple times. It then offers pictures and testimonials from customers as proof that both the adult and children’s clothes have real staying power.
Different types of consumers can appreciate the sustainable advantage, whether they are also motivated by thrift or are willing to pay a premium price for the greater good. Accordingly, different types of apparel brands can define their niche while nurturing their relationship with consumers based on shared values.
And if it also helps the planet a little along the way, then we really all win.