Not just clothes
What do you expect from your clothes: the right fit, high-quality fabric, trendy design?
In recent years, an increasing number of young consumers are demanding not only stylish clothing, but products that have been made in an ethical and environmentally-conscious way.
Millennials are more committed than any previous generation to considering the environmental and societal impacts of their purchases. Studies suggest that approximately 65-70% of consumers under 35 around the world will choose brands based on their ethical practices.
A major reason for this shift in fashion is consumers’ increased awareness about the wastefulness and human rights impacts of the industry. In 2016, McKinsey reported that nearly three-fifths of all clothes will end up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being produced. Increased awareness of such wastefulness, high carbon emission rates from factories, and human rights concerns have led consumers to demand more from their brands.
The demand for corporate responsibility and awareness of fashion’s wastefulness means that millennials are increasingly drawn to fashion brands that serve an ethical purpose, or emphasize their commitment to ethical production and sustainability.
Fashion companies around the world have been utilizing ethics and sustainability as a marketing tactic to draw in young consumers, such as H&M with their “Conscious” campaign. Many young consumers, however, were not convinced, and feel that the brand has not been transparent about the manufacturing partners and sustainability claims. In fact, Norway’s Forbrukertilsynet (Consumer Authority) revealed in June that they were conducting an investigation into the truth of H&M’s sustainability claims due to concerns about how they were disposing of unpurchased inventory.
Some brands go beyond utilizing sustainability as an ad campaign or a marketing tool. For some fashion e-commerce sites like Reformation and Everlane, sustainability is the very essence of their brand. These two direct-to-consumer sites use their mission of sustainable and ethical practices to define everything about their brand.
Reformation’s founder, Yael Aflalo, chose the brand’s name because their mission is “to create a reformation in fashion”, reducing waste and redefining consumer expectations from their favorite fashion brands. Reformation is known for its “vintage renewal” collections, making products using deadstock fabrics or repurposed vintage clothing in order to reduce waste. This also allows them to create a sense of urgency for online shoppers, as the items are made in limited quantities according to fabric availability.
Reformation goes to great lengths to describe their production process and unique fabric rating system on their website, as well as publishing quarterly sustainability reports. The brand is very proud to have achieved a carbon neutral status on 2015, and has a whole page describing how this benefits the environment.
Everlane has committed themselves to “Exceptional quality. Ethical factories. Radical Transparency.” Their website, similar to Reformation, features an entire page detailing the conditions of their factories ad boasting the tag #KnowYourFactories. They have also announced their commitment to “break up with plastic”, hoping to make their entire supply chain virgin plastic free by 2021.
Fashion brands who have built their image and product development on sustainability have found major success with their target market. Reformation has an achieved an average of 60 percent year-over-year since 2014, and is looking to further expand into brick-and-mortar retail.
Fashion brands who have made sustainability their mission, not just an ad campaign, are changing the way consumers interact with online fashion retailers. This shift indicates how much young shoppers value purpose-driven companies, and raises a challenge for every fashion retailer seeking to attract millennial shoppers.
As consumers become increasingly socially conscious, any fashion brand looking to appeal to the millennial market will need to consider how to incorporate sustainability and ethics into their manufacturing and their brand messaging.
Written by: Brianna Wren
Edited by: Nicola Curci