Many businesses have come under criticism for their approach on environmental issues, with some consumers even switching their most loyal brands to competitors as a result. But innovative businesses are now quickly realising that deploying an eco-conscious tangential change in their material sourcing is what the consumers of 2019 want.
Sustainability within retail refers to the sourcing of eco-friendly materials that make up the fabrics used in clothing. Other factors include the working conditions of the people producing the materials, the materials total carbon footprint as well as what happens to it once it’s discarded by its owner. Other means of late come in the form of upcycling, which refers to the creative re-use of clothing into newer materials. This could be anywhere from turning old jumpers into cushion covers or simply turning dresses into crop tops.
Fast Fashion is one of the main causes of the huge amount of unnecessary waste in the clothing industry. It’s a contemporary term used by retailers to express the rapid process of the mass-production of clothes in order to keep up with the latest trends at a much lower cost.
Made quickly and inexpensively, the concept allows fashion enthusiasts to look similar to their chosen trends at a much more affordable cost, which, on the face of it, allows for a certain equality no matter the individuals financial income.
But it’s the scenes in the background of this fashion movement that have angered the environmentalists among us and rightly so – with researchers believing that throwaway disposable clothing such as the types fast fashion churns out, is contributing more towards climate change than that of air and sea travel. How can anyone justify paying £3 for a t shirt?
The stubborn, adamant campaigners have once again influenced the stratagem of a retailing powerhouse. Despite Burberry burning all their unwanted stock a few years ago, they did announce towards the end of last year that going forward, not only would they be stopping this practice, they would also be stopping the use of real fur.
Massive brands with large consumer followings such as H&M are starting to roll out their efforts to a more sustainable planet. They announced last year that they aim to use only recycled materials by 2030 and by 2040 it wants to be 100% climate positive. Of course, it’s one thing making a bold statement but it’s another to follow up on it by implementing changes straight away. As the world’s second largest clothing retailer, they currently source 35% of materials from recycled or sustainably sourced materials, although their goal is in years to come, they still have a long way to go in order to achieve it.
Going ‘eco’ shouldn’t mean a change of desirability of the clothing. People buy clothes because they like the aesthetics of them, and going green shouldn’t mean beige, “oatmeal-coloured fashion that are oversized or lacking in any sort of luxury” as Stella McCartney puts it, it’s a nod in the direction of the way fashion brands are being experimental when it comes to how they continuously mould their strategies.
What contributes towards a bad footprint?
Although efforts are being made to reduce the massive carbon footprint caused by the retail sector, including sustainable cotton initiatives to reduce the amount of water used, as well as monitoring energy and chemical use, the balance has actually tilted in the direction of the consumer.
With growing demands to stay on top of the latest fashion, the unquenchable desire means people are buying more and more clothes, in fact, since 2012, the amount of clothes we have purchased has risen 10%. Not only are we buying more, the rate at which they’re getting discarded is also increasing.
To the future
The younger generation have really taken to the rehoming of certain brands and rare items of clothing. Although vintage shops have been around for some time, the collection of certain brands such as Ralph Lauren and Fred Perry have gained somewhat of a cult following amongst Generation Z.
The celebration and attraction to such brands has allowed huge amounts of clothes to find homes instead of being thrown away by disinterested owners, which begs the question are branded, higher-quality clothes and uniforms built for longevity and second owners rather than the fast-fashion clothing of today.