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Sustainable fashion history


In the early nineties, the seeds of sustainable fashion, concepts of environmentally friendly fabrics and recycling growing. In Antwerp, the designer Martin Margiela worked outside the frames of regular style, 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 designer and brand Armani experimented with fabrics such as hemp.


The fashion lines big challenge is to become more than just a short fad

Designers and innovators always face a consumer challenge; people are often sceptical even when they claim to support a green lifestyle, many do the opposite. Environmentalism has ever suffered trend-wise as people hardly recognise organisations like Greenpeace and Earth Day as hot or trendy. Therefore, people did not see Eco-Fashion as crisp and chic. In 2002, Stella McCartney’s label released a 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.


Edun by Loomstate

The label Edun created and designed by Loomstate Rogan Gregory and perceived as a social and environmentally conscious brand; of which the fashion bible Vogue Green Style Blog highlighted Edun March 2005, Eco-fashion became more than just a short fad without content. Fashion (Fashion in French façon, fachon, fazon) means “face, appearance; construction, pattern, design; a thing done; beauty; manner or characteristic feature.” However, fashion in English means fast or fad) and exceptionally fast fashion addiction for short-lasting trends feared Eco-Fashion as just another fad by sceptical people mostly outside the industry.


Fashion has to manage to turn the view of Eco-clothes from uncool to chic

“Green is the new black” became the maxim of the moment. With the endorsement of eco-minded celebrities as Gisele Bündchen and Cameron Diaz, adopting a green lifestyle became a fresh pick. The other side to the business got a facelift because of fashionability to create coolness; organisations such as fair-trade organisations and NGO’s such as Made-by expressed words as organic, local, sustainable, environmentally friendly etc. became in-fashion.

However, the fashion business was not alone, creating a new consumer marked accepting the green and sustainable product. The Car Industry promotion of electric cars started long before the Fashion Industry advertising electric vehicles for the future; even the Food Industry promoted green business. Summed-up green marketing made people more aware of environmental issues such as global warming. A short-term trend was suddenly becoming a megatrend and now makes a huge impact, becoming a lifestyle.

Style barriers

The mainstream consumers view on sustainable garments are not fashionable or in style. The visual aspect of Eco-clothing is unattractive and not chic. The design and appearance of most Eco-clothing are unfashionable and plain-looking does not suit the consumer’s personal style, touch or look. Eco-fashion has a poor reputation, mostly looked upon as the 60s and 70s hippie style. For example, batik t-shirts, shapeless, Corduroys and anoraks.

Most consumers feel it is challenging to find Eco-fashion clothes. Sustainable fashion designers and brands are small and do not have mainstream distribution. The consumers less degree involved making clothes, therefore have little or no experience repairing. The fast-fashion culture does not attract. The rapid fashion-cycle and low prices destroy its beauty


High Street brands clothing lines lack fantasy

The clothing lines offered by large brands and retail-chains leaves hardly anything to engage most fashion consumers; retail and top street brand’s clothing lines lack originality and does not invite consumers to create an individual style (the fashion designers follow the rules from management such as fabric limitation, low-price, fast deadlines etc. and cannot be blamed for the unfortunate result) Everything is ready-made; Despite for example when trends are DIY jeans, the industry mass-customised, leaves nothing for consumer creativity. The consumer becomes passive and conformed style-wise. The prices of clothing have become less expensive in the last hundred years. The inexpensive garments look of the day, gone tomorrow, call it throw-away fashion. 

It is lead to consumer culture into a look only, not quality or practical. Today hardly any consumer repair their clothes nor see it as personal. And do not find worn-out clothes imperfect beauty. The result is hard to understand. Eco-fashion and fabrics such as hemp jeans seen dull. Combine all elements of fast-fashion ordinary look, the consumers no longer develop care or love for garments, fashion becomes un-personal, boring and consumable, the very opposite of sustainable way. Makes it difficult for consumers to interact and buy the Eco-concept. Still, Eco-fashion or the concept has not reached down to the mainstream market. The small labels and relatively high prices on sustainable clothes make celebrities wearing expensive Eco-fashion brands, and place sustainable fashion in the high-end of the market.

H&M promotes the Eco-clothing concepts heavily, however, a small line compared to their regular collections. Is H&M green-washing hiding the facts of fast fashion? A paradigm-shift need a leading company within an industry to take the first step, then others follow into mainstream acceptance.

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Is it possible to create mainstream sustainable consumerism?

A shift of fundamental values within a society can lead to a long-lasting trend or become a megatrend. For example, the ‘s1970’s focus on environmental factors inspired youth culture to a shift in the value system, suddenly new values such as peace, happiness, freedom, spirituality and alternative lifestyles became attractive. In the ‘s1980’s some of the critical benefits were to own expensive cars, designer jeans etc. earn more money, fast and easy. Movies and TV-series such as Wall Street, Falcon Crest, and Dynasty created a desire for more.


Today’s decade has many similarities to the 1970s

Happenings and attitudes in the decades between 1970-1980 show many similarities. However, we choose to do something about the issues while still being a part of society. The hippies changed the world; however, they withdrew from society and created their way of living in a smaller collective, sharing and replaced it without including everyone. To get the full picture of the megatrends towards 2020, read the twenty-first-century consumer.


Research facts sustainable fashion consumers

  • Willingness to wear more pre-owned and secondhand clothing
    •  UK consumer shows a desire to wear more pre-owned and worn clothes. Research done by wrap (working together for a world without waste) shows that 23 per cent of UK consumers would wear more pre-owned clothes if there were a better choice, and around a sixth said they would wear more pre-owned clothes if more fashionable items or a more extensive range of sizes were available.
  • I have donated clothes to charity.
    • Research shows 73 per cent of the consumers in the UK donated clothes to charity 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 person, 63 per cent less than 40 years of age and 66 per cent tells that companies should support the green business.
  • Willingness to pay higher prices to protect the environment? 
    • Research shows 26 per cent of the consumer would be willing to pay a higher price to protect the environment. Down from 43 per cent a decade ago, most probably because of the global recession.
  • Is the information on care labels good enough?  
    • 60 per cent of consumers in the UK think there is too little environmental information available on the clothes they buy according to research done by WRAP UK.
  • The carbon footprint of a household in the UK 
    • The yearly carbon footprint of the UK household wardrobe is equivalent to the weight of more than 100 pairs of jeans. The water footprint approximately 80.000 litres (1,000 bathtubs average takes 80 litres), the carbon emissions from driving an average modern car for 6,000 miles. Furthermore, the clothing value approximately; nevertheless, 30 per cent have not worn for a year because they do not fit.
  • Consumers’ willingness to recycle
    • research done by Ford trends 2013 state that 84 per cent say it is my civic duty to recover, a good indicator shows when consumers have an opportunity, they will
  • Do consumers perceive themselves as green?
    • Research by Ford’s trends, the consumer says; I consider myself to be green, 67 per cent agree

Sources and Useful Information
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