Welcome to this monthly column within our broader sustainability section which focuses on what retail is doing to address the issues in its industry.
The number of fashion retailers now offering sustainable edits across their range is steadily rising but the scope and remit varies considerably. In this month’s Sustainability column we assess who is guiding their consumers towards sustainability in fashion, how well are they doing it and which edits are expanding?
All the stats and research to date seem to show that first the Millennials and now Generation Z are both willing to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to sustainability and what it means to them.
A 2019 report from US company First Insight ‘The State of Consumer Spending: Gen Z shoppers demand sustainable retail’ surveyed that demographic and found 62% of them at least claimed to prefer goods produced by brands with good green credentials. Importantly a slim majority of them, 54%, will also part with the cash to prove it, saying they would spend up to 10% more for something produced in line with their eco-ideals – a percentage largely mirrored by Millennials.
This figure was a lot less for older generations who were questioned and it was no doubt very welcome news for a large swathe of anxious fast fashion retailers. They have been under great pressure to eschew the ethics of fast fashion but may have been less than convinced their customers would support this brave new world of organic cotton and recycled plastics with its associated price implications.
We now have a myriad of differently structured CSR-focused ranges – to name just a few: ‘For the Future’ from Boohoo; ‘Considered’ from Global Fashion Group; ‘Wellness Collection’ from Primark; ‘The Conscious Edit’ from FarFetch; ‘Net Sustain’ from Net A Porter; ‘Responsible Edit’ from Asos; and ‘Conscious’ from H&M.
Global Fashion Group’s e-commerce feature uses five sustainability categories to allow customers to filter and find sustainable products, with categories including animal-friendly, community engagement, eco-production, fair production and sustainable materials.
At its launch GBG included 300 brands and over 6,400 products and planned to expand its Considered edit in time to include over 10,000 products. Items that fall into the edit include those made using at least one material or process that is better for humans, animals or the environment than conventional alternatives, or from a brand that is making contributions to the community.
Over at Net a Porter its Net Sustain range was launched in June of last year on a much smaller scale. Products needed to fall into at least one of eight categories: vegan; animal welfare; reducing waste; considered ingredients; considered processes; considered materials; crafted community; or locally made. Twenty six brands and 500 products formed the core of the original collection, which was enlarged in January 2020 with the addition of 27 beauty brands and complemented by 45 additional fashion brands, taking the total up to 100.
Net A Porter global buying director Elizabeth von der Goltz said at the time that the aim was to “give a voice to the brands that are truly making positive changes by providing them with a platform to highlight their best practice.”
The company has now taken the idea one stage further still with the associated launch of 17 capsule sustainable wardrobes allowing consumers to buy a whole sustainable look at one time. Rigorous assessment interviews happen for each supplier and every product is vetted. Anything in the Net Sustain range is marked with a special badge so that customers shopping in the usual categories can also spot the products.
For those who prefer shopping in store, there was welcome news from Primark earlier this year as a dedicated pop-up opened in Shoreditch, East London, to showcase its new ‘Wellness Collection’. Everything in the 75-item collection is either made from sustainable, recycled or organic material and the unit fit-out came complete with cardboard coat hangers (the plastic straw of the fashion industry).
In short, armed with the positive news that people will fork out more for ethically produced clothes many companies have now fulfilled their part of the bargain and launched sustainable edits. It’s now up to the consumers to prove that promises to pay for sustainability are not just hot air.