Within fashion, the topic of sustainability is rife with contradictions. Although fashion and style are constantly evolving, fashion industry practices often aren’t so quick to adapt to change. Brands are under increasing pressure to share their ethical commitments, and to back up their words with actions. Weary of marketing greenwash, consumers are now more sceptical than ever – with some deciding not to purchase anything new at all. Many brands say they doubt consumers are willing to invest in a higher price point required for sustainable options, which can hinder progress in changing their practices. In spite of these tensions, the question remains: how do we move forward? We’ve selected three trends that we want to see more of in fashion and sustainability today:
Recent years have seen a rise in resale as people turn to second-hand and vintage as a way to shop more sustainably and give a second life to their old clothes. The initial boom was driven predominately by young consumers, but now attracts a wider demographic. The RealReal, the world's largest online marketplace for authenticated, resale luxury goods has seen a significant increase in sellers across generations, according to their 2022 Luxury Consignment Report (1).
With increasing awareness of the climate crisis, as well as rising economic pressures, more people are choosing to shop at second-hand stores or resale websites like thredUP or Vestiaire Collective. In fact, thredUP predicts online thrifting (2) will grow rapidly with second-hand expected to be two timesbigger than fast fashion by 2030.
‘Selling it forward' is gaining momentum – during the past year, Gen X has sold 37 % more '90s pieces, while Gen Z has invested in 61% more '90s pieces on The RealReal, according to Vogue (3). Business Insider reports on the so called ‘throwback economy’ (4) in which nostalgic fashion is driving much of today's consumer culture (5). With Gen Z searching for ‘vintage’ treasures, thrifting and re-sale (6) is clearly on the rise!
Shopping local is nothing new, though following the rise of e-commerce and big business taking over the high street, it’s become increasingly easy to forget what’s on our doorsteps. A survey led by Tech.co found that 80% of small business owners say COVID-19 has hurt their businesses(7), and in response to this, many of us felt we needed to help our local communities and businesses alike. With the ability to shop online when in person shopping wasn't possible, the internet provided an opportunity for local businesses to flourish. Consumers are noted to be spending 76% more on online shopping since the pandemic (7).
A growing number of consumers now want to know where a company is located, and how it works as part of its surrounding community – utilising e-commerce channels, customers can often learn more about the brands and shop within their neighbourhood digitally. A small win for local business post COVID-19? 72% of members at Nextdoor believe they will frequent local businesses more often after this crisis (7).
Many consumers now shop with a values-first approach, ensuring their money is going to businesses who align with their beliefs. In a bid to address the disproportionate impact the pandemic had on communities, more consumers are choosing to invest in small business and selecting brands that respond to injustice, such as those owned and operated by BIPOCs.
A 'product passport' can help brands explain and evidence their supply chain transparency and sustainable standards, making production details more readily available. As consumers become more aware of the impact of fashion, many companies who have had a reputation for polluting the environment or violating human rights are no longer so easily excused.
As the climate crisis continues, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for brands to justify their supply chain ignorance. Listed by McKinsey as one of the ten themes critical to the fashion industry in 2022 (8),‘Product Passports’ are set to be a key development for the industry. The European Commission is set to introduce a digital passport (9) for products, that would serve as a record of all components, and raw materials used in products or buildings, along with information about where they are located.
What materials have been used, how products are made, and whether people involved in the process are treated fairly – these are all questions consumers want answered. Whether businesses create a 'product passport' for their products, it’s advisable for business owners to make sure they have a clear understanding of their supply chain and can share access to this information easily. As consumers – we also need to carry on asking these key questions!
With consumer demand for change growing, and the industry slowly showing progress toward more sustainable practices – it’s a moment to keep the pressure on for change in fashion. These three trends only touch the surface of action happening both in the industry, within policy and within communities worldwide. The shifts seen since COVID-19 seem to showcase a slower, more values-centric approach for consumers, which can only be promising for the future of fashion.
1) Therealreal.com. 2022. 2022 Luxury Consignment Report. [online] Available at: <https://www.therealreal.com/trr/luxury-consignment-report-2022> [Accessed 16 May 2022].
2) Stoppard, L., 2021. Gen Z Channels the 1990s. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/23/style/gen-z-fashion-1990s.html> [Accessed 16 May 2022].
3) Chan, E., 2022. Why “Selling It Forward” Is The Biggest Trend In Resale Right Now. [online] British Vogue. Available at: <https://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/article/the-real-real-report-selling-it-forward> [Accessed 15 May 2022].
4) Hoffower, H., 2021. Y2K, Abercrombie, and 'old money' prep: Gen Z's love for the millennium is creating a 'throwback economy'. [online] Business Insider. Available at: <https://www.businessinsider.com/gen-z-trends-old-money-millennium-y2k-throwback-economy-2021-10> [Accessed 16 May 2022].
5) Davis, D., 2020. Gen Zers have a spending power of over $140 billion, and it's driving the frenzy of retailers and brands trying to win their dollars. [online] Business Insider. Available at: <https://www.businessinsider.com/retail-courts-gen-z-spending-power-over-140-billion-2020-1> [Accessed 16 May 2022].
6) Hoffower, H., 2021. Wealthy teens are ruining thrifting for the rest of Gen Z. [online] Business Insider. Available at: <https://www.businessinsider.com/wealthy-gen-z-thrifting-vintage-clothing-boom-y2k-fashion-2021-10> [Accessed 16 May 2022].
7) Team, N., 2020. How COVID-19 Has Changed the Way We Shop Locally. [online] Business.nextdoor.com. Available at: <https://business.nextdoor.com/local/resources/how-covid-19-has-changed-the-way-we-shop-locally> [Accessed 16 May 2022].
8) Amed, I., Balchandani, A., Berg, A., Hedrich, S., Ekeløf Jensen, J., Le Merle, L. and Rölkens, F., 2022. State of Fashion 2022: An uneven recovery and new frontiers. [online] McKinsey & Company. Available at: <https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/state-of-fashion#:~:text=We%20expect%20in%202022%20that,edging%20closer%20to%20the%20mainstream.> [Accessed 16 May 2022].
9) Commission, E., 2022. Green Deal: New proposals to make sustainable products the norm and boost Europe's resource independence. [online] European Commission. Available at: <https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_22_2013> [Accessed 16 May 2022].
10) Stoppard, L., 2021. Gen Z Channels the 1990s. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/23/style/gen-z-fashion-1990s.html> [Accessed 16 May 2022].