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Sustainable fashion history

In the early nineties, the seeds of sustainable fashion were sown and the concepts of environmentally 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 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 skeptical even when they claim to support a green lifestyle, many do the opposite. Environmentalism has constantly suffered trend wise as people hardly recognize organizations like Greenpeace and Earth day as hot or trendy. Therefore, people did not see Eco-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 social and environmentally conscious brand; whereof the fashion bible Vogue Green Style Blog highlighted Edun March 2005, Eco-fashion became more than just a short fad without content. Nevertheless, fashion (Fashion in French façon, fachon, fazon means “face, appearance; construction, pattern, design; thing done; beauty; manner, characteristic feature“, however, fashion in English means fast or fad) and especially fast fashion addiction for short-lasting trends feared Eco-fashion as just another fad by skeptical 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 cool pick. The other side to the business got a facelift because of fashionability to create coolness; organizations such as fair-trade organizations and NGO’s such as Made-by expressed words as organic, local, sustainable, environmentally friendly etc. became in-fashion.

However, fashion business was not alone creating a new consumer marked accepting green and sustainable product. The Car Industry promotion of electric cars started long before the Fashion Industry advertising electric cars for the future; even the Food Industry promoted green business. Summed-up the 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 seen fashionable or in style, the visual aspect of Eco-clothing is unattractive or not chic, the design and appearance of most Eco-clothing are unfashionable and plain-looking, does not suit the consumer’s personal style or wardrobe. In history, Eco-fashion has been related to the 1960’s and 70’s hippies’ batik and sloppy and shapeless second-hand garments and the environmentalist cord jeans, Anoraks etc. the form and shape hardly accepted as modern or trendy.

Most consumers feel it is difficult to find Eco-fashion clothes as most sustainable fashion designers and brands are small and do not have mainstream distribution. Today’s consumers have to a less degree been involved in making clothes, therefore have little or no experience repairing old garments. Today’s fast fashion (low quality and fast consumed garments) has been creating a culture that is the opposite of sustainable (long lasting and better quality garments) whereof a rapid fashion-cycle together with low garment prices turns fashion into entertainment.


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 high street brand’s clothing lines lack originality and does not invite consumers to create an individual style (the fashion designers follow rules from management such as fabric limitation, low-price, fast deadlines etc. and cannot be blamed for the poor result) Everything is ready-made; Despite for example when trends are customized jeans, they are ready-made and leaves nothing for consumer creativity. An Approach that leaves nothing to fantasy, the consumer becomes passive and conformed style-wise. The prices of clothing have become less expensive the last hundred years (consumer price index shows we use less of the income on clothing) the turnover of garments changes often weekly or faster even daily newness.

This has created a consumer culture that buys more clothes and for different reasons than before, today hardly any consumer repair their clothes nor see it as personal or esthetically find worn-out clothes beauty. As result, it is difficult to understand Eco-fashion and fabrics used such as hemp jeans. Combine all elements mentioned and consumers no longer develop care or love for garments, fashion becomes un-personal, boring and consumable, the very opposite of sustainable fashion. 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. Still, small labels and relatively high prices on sustainable clothes makes celebrities wearing expensive Eco-fashion brands, and place sustainable fashion in the high-end of the market.

H&M promote their Eco-clothing concepts heavily, however, a small line compared to their regular collections. Is H&M into green-washing or use marketing and advertising to hide the fact that fast fashion is unsustainable? A paradigm-shift need a leading company within an industry to take the first step, then others follow.


Is it possible to create a mainstream sustainable consumerism?

A shift of basic values within a society can lead to a long-lasting trend or become a megatrend. For example, the 1970’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 1980’s some of the important values 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 1970’s

Words used to describe happenings and attitudes in the decades between the 1970s and 1980s shows many similarities, for example, alternative thinking, environmental concerns, spiritual, togetherness, the growth of eastern religions such as Buddhism and Indian philosophies, DIY, organic food, collaborative consumption, willingness for a change etc. The most important factor is a move away from individualism and towards collective and more open towards changes. Whereof the hippies’ in the 70’s were introverted we are more extroverted meaning we want to change the world not just move away from it.

However, we choose to do something about the issues while still being a part of the society. The hippies changed the world; however, they withdraw from the society and created their way of living in a smaller collective, sharing and changed 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
    • 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 percent 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 were available.
  • I have donated clothes to charity
    • Research done in the UK shows that as much as 73 percent of the consumers in the 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 person, 63 percent less than 40 years of age and 66 percent tells that companies should support green business.
  • Willingness to pay higher prices to protect the environment?
    • Research according to tell that 26 percent percent of the consumer would be willing to pay higher prices to protect the environment.
    • down from 43 percent a decade ago, most probably because of the global recession.
  • Is the information on care labels good enough?
    • As much as 60 percent 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 household value of clothes and carbon footprint in the 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 liters (1,000 bathtubs average takes 80 liters), the carbon emissions from driving an average modern car for 6,000 miles. Furthermore, the clothing value approximately nevertheless 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 percent say it is my civic duty to recycle, a good indicator shows when consumers have an opportunity, they will
  • Do consumers perceive themselves as green?
    • In research by Ford’s trends, the consumer says; I consider myself to be green, 67 percent agree
Sources and Useful Information (Click and Open)

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