How do the new Eco and sustainable consumer look like?

Sustainable fashion history

In the early nineties, the seeds of sustainable fashion were sown and the concepts of environmental friendly fabrics and recycling growing. In Antwerp, the designer Martin Margiela worked outside the frames of regular fashion, deconstructed and reconstructing bits and pieces of artful ideas. The Italian designer Lamine Kouyatè (label Xuly-Bet) scanned flea markets in Paris reconstructing plaids, dresses and old undergarments into brand new concepts. Another Italian Armani experimented with fabrics as hemp, weaving it into lines.

Sustainable fashion challenges to become more than just a short fad

Designers and innovators always face a challenge from consumers; people are often skeptical even when they claim to have a green lifestyle. Environmentalism has constantly suffered trend wise as people hardly connect organizations as Greenpeace andEarth day as stylish or trendy. Therefore, people did not connect eco or green fashion as cool and chic. In 2002, Stella McCartney’s label released rock chic collection, with animal-friendly designs; focus on healthy living dimensions that attracted cognoscenti’ people across fashion, rock and art. Around 2005 Bono the lead singer of U2 and his wife Ali Hewson, the idea to make people label-aware; how it was made, who made it, and how. The label Edun created and designed by Loomstate Rogan Gregory and perceived as a socially and environmental conscious  brand; whereof Vogue highlighted the label in March 2005. This was the start to a new world of fashion design with something more than just a short fad without content. Nevertheless, fashion well-known addiction for short lasting trends  feared as just another fad by skeptical people outside the business.

Sustainable fashion have manage to turn the view of eco clothes from uncool to chic

Green is the new black” became the maxim of the moment. With endorsement of eco-minded celebrities as Gisele Bündchenand Cameron Diaz adapting a green lifestyle became a cool pick. The other side to the business got a facelift because of fashion ability to create coolness; organizations as fair-trade, made by and expressions as organic, local, environmental friendly became words with a positive attitude. However, fashion business was not alone creating a new consumer marked accepting green and sustainable product. The car industry promoting electric cars started long before fashion to advertise for green living and cars for the future; even to food business was long before fashion to take actions. These actions together with people understanding of global warming created a marked need. A short-term trend was suddenly becoming a mega trend, and today this huge impact has even moved the mega trend into a new way of living.

Style barriers

The common consumer views on sustainable garments are not seen fashionable or in style, the visual aspect of Eco clothing is unattractive or does not chic, the design and  appearance of eco-clothing is unfashionable and plain-looking, or does suit the consumer’s personal style or wardrobe. In history Eco fashion has in history been related 1970 hippie’s fashion, clothes in batik, shapeless secondhand are not in line of a modern trend based on a bodily shape of garment.  For most consumers, it is difficult to find Eco and sustainable fashion design as most fashion designers and brands are small and does not have the wide distribution. Today’s consumers have to a less degree been involved making clothes and therefore, have little or no experience to repair. Today’s fast fashion has been a part of creating a culture that is the opposite of sustainable thinking whereof a rapid fashion cycle together with low garment prices makes clothes more of entertainment than real need.

The clothing line offered by large retail chains leaves hardly anything to engage most fashion consumers today; brand’s lines of clothing on high street lack of originality or invite consumers to create an individual style. Everything is ready-made; in spite of when the trend is to customize jeans, they are already done so by designers. Approaches that leave nothing to fantasy and the consumer become even more passive. The prices of fashion garments have become cheaper over the last year and turnover of garments in store changes faster than most people shift underwear. These factors have created a consumer culture that bought more clothes, do not repair them and even does not create relation and happiness to own and wear. As a result it is hard in spite of to understand that a garment is sustainable or Eco friendly. Combined are all these elements the opposite of what sustainable fashion stand for and therefore, makes it more difficult for consumers to interact and buy the concept. Still the concept has not reached the mass market, small labels, high prices on sustainable clothes and celebrities wearing have created fashion in the high-end of the market for a relative small consumer group.

H&M does sell and promote the sustainable and Eco clothing concept; however, a very small range compared to their massive choice of clothing in store; still it is greatly good that H&M sell and promote affordable eco-friendly fashion in the mainstream market. In most other industries, a paradigm shift happens when a large company decides to do a thing differently (when Toyota decided to go for electric cars all other car makers did the same and oil business had to give up their vision of cars that still depended on gasoline).

Is it possible to create a mainstream sustainable consumerism in 2010s?

A foundation on basic values within a society can decide if a trend can become a mega trend, movement and at last develop a new way of living. For example, in the start of 1970’s elements in youth culture as TV communication created a bigger view, values as peace & happiness, freedom, spirituality and alternative lifestyle became important in society. In the 1980’s one of the main values was to earn a lot of money, become rich and to own status symbols. Therefore, films as Wall Street and series asFalcon Crest and Dynasty became very popular. Thereby actions that required a lifestyle build on less became more difficult to happen.

2010s has many similarities to the 1970s-1980s

Words used to describe the decade between 1970s and 1980s has many common in the time we live in today; alternative thinking, environment, spiritual life togetherness, admiration for eastern religions and philosophies, DIY, organic, Collaborative consumption (1970s sharing, communally) and willingness for a change. The most important factor is a move away from individualism and willingness for a change. Whereof the hippies in the 70’s were introverted we  extroverted today; meaning that we want to change the world. However, choose to do so while still being a part to the society. The hippies changed the world; however, they withdraw from the society and created their own way of living collective, sharing and changed it this way. To get the full picture of the mega trends towards 2020, read the twenty-first century consumer.

New research regarding the sustainable fashion consumers. The figures below taken from the slides in the post

Willingness to wear more pre-owned and secondhand clothing
The UK consumer shows a willingness to wear more pre-owned and secondhand clothes. Research done by wrap (working together for a world without waste) show that 23% of UK consumers would wear more pre-owned clothes if there was a better choice; and around a sixth said, they would wear more pre-owned clothes if more fashionable items or a wider range of sizes was available.

I have donated clothes to charity.
Research done in UK shows that as much as 73% of the consumers in UK have donated some items to charity during the past year, nevertheless, the interesting issue is to know how much and the percentage ending as landfill.

Who is the global socially conscious consumer?
Research from Nielsen shows the conscious consumer is a younger, 63 percent of the age less than 40 and 66 percent think that companies should support green.

Willingness to pay a higher prices to protect the environment
Research done according to tell that 26% percent of the consumer would be willing to pay higher prices to protect the environment. This is down from 43% a decade ago; the reasons most probable are the global recession.

Is the information on care labels good enough?
As much as 60 percent of consumers in UK think there is too little environmental information available on the clothes they buy according to research done by wrap, UK.
The household value of clothes and carbon footprint in UK

Carbon footprint of a household in UK
The yearly carbon footprints of a UK household’s wardrobe are equivalent to the weight of over 100 pairs of jeans, the water needed to fill 1,000 bathtubs, and the carbon emissions from driving an average modern car for 6,000 miles, furthermore the value are approximately £4,000 however 30 percent has not been worn for a year or more, mostly because they do not fit.

Consumers’ willingness to recycle
Research done by Ford trends 2013 state that 84 % say it is my civic duty to recycle. This is a good indicator that when the consumer has  opportunity to do it, they will.

Do consumers perceive themselves as green?
In research by Ford’s trends the consumer says; I consider myself to be green, 67% agree.
This entire figure tells a lot about an aware and sustainable conscious consumer; however, what are barriers related to caring for fashion goods and the challenges head? The next post on how does the new sustainable consumer look like will focus on these barriers and challenges ahead. The complete research slideshow Research, the sustainable fashion consumer, yesterday, today and tomorrow is posted:


POST AND RESEARCH Kenneth buddha jeans

Wrap research, working together for a world without waste. Valuing our clothes. The true cost of how we design, use and dispose of clothing in the UK
Ford trends 2013. Looking further with Ford, 13 trends for 2013
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Kenneth Lyngaas
Sustainable fashion designer & eco-philosopher Sustainable fashion dedicated the twenty-first century green living, design for change through system thinking, eco philosophy, spirituality and sustainability. Site made with passion for people who loves fashion and care for the environment.
Kenneth Lyngaas
Kenneth Lyngaas
Kenneth Lyngaas
sustainableFASHION// dedicated the twenty-first century sustainable community and living. Every day, I deliver selected news on Eco design across the Internet. Most people appreciate an update without searching latest news themselves. Therefore, it’s already served. Don’t miss it, subscribe!
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