Sustainability, green, eco-friendly – all buzzwords that are batted around the clothing industry daily, whether it’s to do with new product launches, improving the impact to workers in supply chains or on the environment. But in recent years, many of these claims have been met with increasing scepticism – often from consumers.
The “woke” consumer is incredibly aware of fashion’s actual planetary and people impact. It won’t necessarily stop him or her buying clothing. But it will make him or her think more consciously when purchasing. Key questions include: Is this good-quality? Is it built-to last? Has it been made in an environmentally friendly way? Were the people that made it treated and paid fairly?
Gone are the days where a fashion brand could simply stamp a sustainability claim on a product because it used recycled water in the production processes, or the jeans were made using sustainable cotton. Consumers are voting with their feet and demanding brands take steps towards a circular approach.
Until now, brands have acquiesced and there has been visible goals to become greener. At the end of last summer for example, Lyst published research demonstrating sustainability is driving fashion innovation.
But concerns are growing that recent events could set the needle back on sustainability. In October a study from Edited pointed out that while the Covid pandemic “reduced the sheer volume of newness flooding the market at hyper-speed,” big-drops are now back in a big way. For 2021 it noted new arrivals in fast fashion are up 19% and retailers were looking to capitalise on “the revenge dressing phenomenon” as consumers emerged from lockdown.
Of course, that was prior to the Russia-Ukraine war which industry expert Robert Antoshak says could in fact swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. With unpredictability and pressure on commodity markets resulting in inflation, inflated oil and natural gas prices could in fact serve to make sustainable alternatives more cost-competitive.
So, in an unpredictable turn of events, environmentalists may win out in the end.
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