What’s driving demand for ethical fashion?

The trend for fast fashion has reshaped the apparel industry in recent years. Designers produce on average six collections a year and fast fashion brands rotate new stock on a monthly basis making consumers accustomed to buying cheap, swiftly produced clothes. Frequent purchase of products that only last for a season has led to the concept of disposable clothing and in the UK alone, £140 million worth of used clothing is disposed of every year. However as society becomes more ethically conscious, how is the apparel industry responding?

In Euromonitor International’s 2017 global consumer trends survey, 65% of respondents state they try to have a positive impact on the environment through everyday actions, and over 60% are very or extremely influenced by friends and peer-to-peer opinions on social media. Sustainability is a critical source of inspiration for brands nowadays and helps companies engage with their consumers and gain their loyalty, especially via social media.

 

Social media as a booster for change

Social media platforms can act as a double-edged sword for brands. On the one hand, they are instrumental for brands to engage with consumers, particularly with Millennials, but are also a powerful tool for angry consumers to damage a brand’s reputation. The fashion industry is becoming extremely creative when working on social media platforms to build a more eco-friendly and ethical brand image from the manufacturing phase to the post-sale treatment of unwanted clothes.

 

How can the fashion industry embrace ethical?

In this hyper-transparency age, better-informed consumers want to know how materials used in their garments and footwear are sourced and disposed of. They are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of human activities on the planet which has led to companies being exposed to greater reputational risks if they are found to have unfair practices.

Large corporations have more money to invest into their Corporate Social Responsibility programme than smaller players however one can argue it is harder to turn things around and map out one’s complex supply chain while new starters have an opportunity to start things right from scratch but might struggle with the minimum order quantities. Big or small, businesses need to contribute to the new market needs and demands in terms of ‘ethicability’.

From Clarks and UGGS using vegetable leather tanning, to the more eco-friendly denim dying process by Reformation, the Fashion Industry is being extremely creative in developing new textiles and reimagining its production processes to reduce its water consumption and impact on the environment.

 

Becoming a fully social champion

Valued at around US$ 1.7 trillion in 2017, the apparel and footwear industry has tremendous responsibilities to provide for the livelihood and well-being of the 60 million people it employs worldwide and their families. As well as becoming more ethical in the manufacturing process, businesses are also becoming more ethical within their own organisation. Businesses can take steps to not only comply with their legal obligations but also go beyond and champion social responsibilities, from the Modern Slavery Act to Sedex certification.

 

Further insights will be discussed in the webinar ‘Ethical Fashion: How to Meet Industry Needs and Demands’, hosted by Euromonitor and WWD on Thursday, May 10th at 3.00pm BST. Watch it live or receive the recording.

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