Last month, the undisputable Queen Bey debuted Ivy Park, a line of high performance athletic apparel she co-produced with British fast-fashion retailer TopShop. The affordable, 200-piece line, sold in the U.S. at TopShop and Nordstrom, came under fire when a British tabloid alleged that a factory producing some of the garments was a Sri Lankan sweatshop. The story was picked up by the American media, including Women’s Wear Daily, and caused a stir of controversy. Although the claims were refuted by both the brand and factory, the fact that consumers are increasingly concerned about the effect of fast-fashion on both workers and the environment is notable.
Sustainable, or eco-conscious, fashion is not a new concept—but it is one that is gaining momentum. Just as consumers have embraced organic food and natural beauty products, they’re becoming more aware of the supply chain when it comes to clothes as well. While consumers aren’t giving up fast-fashion, there is a growing concern about fair labor practices and the effect of mass production on the water supply, chemicals used in fabric production, and mountains of discarded clothing. In response, H&M has initiated its H&M Conscious program built on seven commitments to sustainability that range from investing in responsible farming to recycling. E-tailer ModCloth also has a commitment to sustainable practices in the production of its garments. In 2013, they adopted Ethical Supply Chain Guidelines to which their suppliers must comply. Newcomers Everlane and Reformation have both put transparency at the forefront of their marketing strategy and, although their price point is significantly higher than fast-fashion retailers, consumers seem more than willing to pay for a better quality, ethically produced garments—Everlane’s revenue reportedly tripled between 2013 and 2014 and shows no sign of leveling off anytime soon.
While the majority of consumers may not be ready to choose a $50 t-shirt made of organic cotton over a $15 top from their favorite fast-fashion retailer, analysts believe we are on the cusp of change in the consumer mindset. Researchers found that three in four Millennials and 72% of Generation Z consumers are willing to pay more for products and services that come from brands who are committed to social and environmental impact. And it’s not just younger consumers who care—51% of Baby Boomers say they are willing to pay more for sustainable brands. It’s not going to happen overnight, but these statistics reveal that there is a shift on the horizon.
Today, consumers want to feel connected to brands and that includes the fashion labels they wear. Heritage, authenticity, and transparency will evolve as part of the brand’s storytelling and compel consumers to think twice about where and how their clothes are produced—and if the low price tag is worth it.
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Sources: Racked Can Everlane Become the Next J. Crew, Nielsen Green Generation