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Sustainability and ethics: How to keep up with the fashion industry

“Fashion is not necessarily about labels. It’s not about brands. It’s about something else that comes from within you…” – Ralph Lauren

Nowadays, style is not only about the logo you are wearing but the values that it represents. With this in mind, fashion brands need to know their consumers more than ever before in order to connect emotionally with them. Here are the three values fashion companies must embrace to build brand perception and stay relevant in a demanding market.

1. Sustainable fashion

It is becoming easier to see why high end and luxury fashion brands can no longer ignore sustainability. In fact, our research (1) shows that ‘protecting the environment’ is significantly higher up on consumers’ priority list than ‘looking good’.

As fashion consumers grow more conscious, they also tend to trust brands less, and being credible becomes an issue for all labels, everywhere. Our data also indicates how informed and serious about environmental and social issues consumers have become over the past decade. This is no longer ‘fringe’ behavior but a market-wide opportunity.

2. Ethical initiatives

Indeed, we have witnessed many brands evolving and communicating their efforts in making their production more eco-friendly and respectful of fair-trade. It is an important evolution in the history of fashion, which until recently was characterized by a “fast fashion era”, resulting in too many articles of clothing produced that become obsolete within weeks.

It is the younger generations who are mainly to thank for this move, thus, we are observing a new age in which fashion consumers will tend to focus their spending on quality over quantity, piling less in their wardrobe.

As a reaction to this, fashion companies are compelled to become more transparent when it comes to how their clothes are made.

We can see how the leading fashion industry environmental group, MADE-BY, has helped make it happen. The organisation, along with major UK companies like Ted Baker, worked together on individual sustainability programmes, helping them to reduce the amount of hazardous chemicals in their production, and increase the integration of  organic materials.

3. Recycled is the new “en-vogue”

Now that the bloggers, critics and other public faces of fashion have taken to promoting what’s good for the planet, for consumers, and for the companies’ employees, the high-end and luxury fashion companies made sure to follow the trend:

  • Hermes created “Le petit h”, which consists of creative pieces and accessories only made from the left-over materials from other bags, scarves, etc.
  • Adidas has launched a collection being marketed as designed to “help to clean up the Earth’s oceans” by using the waste floating around the world to make their footwear. Whilst 7,000 pairs of the UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley were planned, the three-stripes brand says it wants to produce more.

Examples of these initiatives are numerous, and many start-ups followed their lead, creating a range of niche products, from salmon-skinned wallets to shirts of polyester from recycled drink bottles.

Conclusion

The world of fashion is powerful, and a close eye is being kept on its actions. It’s essential for brands to understand not only the role of sustainability within the decision making process of consumers, but also to explore their attitudes and behaviors. The question is, how do today’s connected consumers build brand perception and how can brands stay relevant in this demanding market?

(1) Research taken from GfK Consumer Life (Roper Reports©), global annual survey of consumer of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.

Tiphaine Nilias is a Research Manager at GfK. To share your thoughts, please email tiphaine.nilias@gfk.com or leave a comment below.

Find more about the future of the UK fashion industry Discover the fashion connected consumer 
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