The State Of Sustainability In The Fashion Industry (And What It Means For Brands)

Launchmetrics is a brand performance cloud for fashion, luxury, and beauty.

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The fashion industry has the ability to implement trends that have the power to shape society and affect the buying habits of consumers.

The impact everyday consumers have on the industry is often forgotten. Right now the demand for sustainable practices appears to be high, and the industry is largely dictated by consumer demand. According to a survey conducted by McKinsey during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, 67 percent of respondents consider the use of sustainable materials to be an important purchasing factor. Consumers could make the fashion industry think about its impact on the environment.

The demand for sustainable fashion living is high and the discussion surrounding it is also high.

The data provided by Launchmetrics shows that the Media Impact Value grew by over a billion dollars in the first semester of the year. MIV is a monetary representation for my company. The data looked into how many placements the term "sustainability" generated across sectors. 

Consumers are starting to make changes when compared to the placements that the industry creates. The shift means brands need to reexamine their operations. To achieve this, fashion brands should look to take more concrete steps to embrace sustainable practices.

We need to understand what sustainable means in the fashion industry before we look into it. Creating and consuming clothes in a sustainable way protects the environment and those who produce them. It is important that the creation process is sustainable, from materials to manufacturing all the way to workers' conditions and pay. This is a big change for an industry that has struggled with wasteful operations and negative environmental consequences for a long time. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the global carbon dioxide output and 20% of the plastic produced globally each year. It's a challenge for the industry to embrace sustainable practices. This doesn't mean that the industry isn't willing to change.

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The fashion industry has become more aware of its issues in the past few years. 

According to a report produced in partnership with the Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana, fashion accounted for $618 million in MIV when it came to sustainable practices. Data from multiple platforms were analyzed in the report. The fashion industry made up one-third of the conversations. This shows how open it is to be changed.

By taking a closer look at the conversation and consumer demand surrounding sustainable living, we can see that there are many areas of focus. Awareness, materials and processes are included in this area. Consumers from all generations are willing to spend more on sustainable products now than they were two years ago according to a survey by First Insight and the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. More than a third of respondents said they chose a brand that demonstrated sustainable practices or values. 28% of people said they had stopped buying from brands with poor ethics.

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The brands in the fashion industry have done their best to incorporate sustainable practices into their operations. 

This is an example of what a driving force of global awareness is when it comes to sustainable development. Positive results are likely to be seen in the communities of brands that focus on sustainable living. Levi's has done well with its campaign "Buy Better, Wear Longer" The global campaign raised awareness and encouraged consumers to be more intentional about their apparel choices while affirming Levi's longstanding commitment to make quality clothing that can last for generations. Levi's was involved in another campaign earlier this year. The clothing featured in the campaign was made with natural dyes, water-saving techniques and other sustainable practices. The company appealed to the younger generation by having a YouTube star at the forefront of the campaign. 

The impact their voice can have in the media is one of the benefits of using an influencer as the centerpiece of a campaign. Forty-nine percent of consumers in a 2016 survey said they relied on influencer marketing to find products.

Another example is the company Patagonia. The company uses sustainable materials in its clothing and also helps customers repair their clothing. Customers could be encouraged to wear clothes for a long time.

As the sustainable movement continues to drive change in the fashion industry, what we used to dismiss as a fleeting trend is proving to be anything but. In order to remain profitable, brands should learn that surface-level actions to appear sustainable are unlikely to work and that they should initiate real change. The good news is that the fashion industry appears to be open to change, and for this to continue, there has to be complete transparency from samples to the sales rack. The consumer could benefit from this. New sustainable solutions could fuel the growth of the industry.

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Keywords: Chief Marketing Officer, Luxury and Beauty, Officer at Launchmetrics, fashion industry


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Low carbon footprint fashion – how far is your collection traveling?

As a rule, fashion that has a low carbon footprint tends to have a short supply chain, and collections are manufactured using non-polluting means. Collections that are designed, sourced, manufactured, and sold within a shorter distance naturally have a lower carbon footprint than collections that have traveled between cities or countries.

Sustainable materials – because plastic isn’t fantastic…

Perhaps the most common element we think of when establishing the sustainability of a brand is the materials they use. And there are plenty of exciting developments to talk about in this sphere.

Natural materials are an obvious choice when looking for sustainable alternatives. Natural and untreated materials, like cotton, linen, and silk don’t release harmful chemicals or microfibres into the environment.

Perhaps less expected are sustainable synthetics. Whilst this sounds like a contradiction, the “synthetic” element of these materials is misleading. This is because, whilst they might be manmade, sustainable synthetics often have their roots in natural materials. Piñatex has become a well-known sustainable synthetic. This is a natural leather alternative made from the fibers contained in pineapple leaves. Again, this makes use of the inedible part of the fruit, preventing waste and offering a bio-degradable alternative to leather and plastic-based synthetics.

Slow fashion –  clothes that are made to last…

Slow fashion is the industry’s answer to clothes that are produced quickly and disposed of even more quicker. Slow fashion is based on the concept that fashion should be made with care and last a lifetime. This approach is designed to create high-quality, durable clothes that won’t end up in landfill or the ocean.

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Upcycled, recycled and recyclable fashion

Three concepts for the price of one, upcycled, recycled, and recyclable fashion is another way to ensure fashion doesn’t contribute to landfill. Upcycling encourages people to make use of old garments in new ways, whilst recycling takes old pieces and makes new ones out of them. Recyclable fabrics lend themselves to be used again, helping to cut down the number of raw resources that the fashion industry consumes.

Long story short(ish), sustainable fashion is a broad category and we’re only scratching the surface of the possibilities. It boils down to making conscious decisions that will benefit either people, the planet, or both.