Sustainablility within the fashion industry is a hot topic right now. And I am curious to understand how many people actually understand the story as it stands, and furthermore, whether it makes a difference to future purchasing decisions. I’ll touch on a few key facts within this post, as well state a few key points from the perspective of a marketer, a consumer and a style blogger, within the intention of finding out what questions need to be answered in order for a change to occur within the industry, as well as the responsibility of the consumer.
According to the 2016 report from McKinsey and The Business of Fashion, the global fashion industry was estimated to be worth over $2.4 trillion. That is almost more than the UK GDP, which sat at around $2.6 trillion. The industry affects everyone on Earth and yet remains highly unregulated, and is almost the top contributor to the Earth’s pollution…oil being the first. So what are some of the damaging effects?
- In relation to manufacturing, it begins with fibre, which, whether it comes from a plant, animal or crude oil, is almost always an energy and pollutant-intensive process. (ABC News)
- Apparel and footwear industries currently account for 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, nearly as much as that of the whole European Union. (ABC News)
- In Australia alone, more than 500,000 tonnes of textiles and leather end up in landfill each year. (ABC News)
- The average woman wears only 40 per cent of what’s in her wardrobe, which means that 60 per cent is there ready to go to Vinnies or go to landfill. (ABC News)
- Australians are the world’s second largest consumers of textiles, buying an average of 27 kilograms of new clothing and other textiles each year. (ABC News)
- In some cases farmers can actually predict the colour of the season by looking at the colour that the rivers are running. (ABC News)
- Clothing made from polyester, which is essentially a plastic, takes up to 200 years to breakdown in landfill. (ABC News)
- Only about 15 per cent of donated clothing is actually sold again locally in opportunity shops. ABC News
Now, those facts barely touch the surface in terms of what is happening to our Planet, let alone the devastating effect it has on those working in many of the manufacturing locations.
Firstly, from a marketing perspective, customer centricity is key. This is notion that when you develop, market and/or sell a product to a specific target market, you do so with the potential customers’ need’s in mind. Therefore, the product or service on offer, should fulfil a purpose and solve a problem for the customer. So with that in mind, is it possible to change consumer behaviour around fashion sustainability when perhaps that is actually not what the consumer wants or more importably, what they act on. In marketing, there is often a disparity between what people want, what they say they want, and what they actually do. That’s why the likes of online behavioural tracking is becoming widely utilised (think the recent Facebook scandal), which develops highly sophisticated algorithms to understand consumer behaviour more in depth, and therefore can tailor programmes and product/services to the needs of the consumer.
However, in fashion, the consumer is becoming a lot more knowledgeable and demanding, yet still remaining interestingly elusive. On one hand, consumers want brands to demonstrate sustainable practices and contribute to environmental organisations, and on the other hand consumers want on-trend pieces for a fraction of the cost (why fast fashion was so successful in the first place). In the past, the industry was relatively impervious to the consumer driving trends, but it seems as if the tables have turned. The introduction of ‘buy-now’ or ‘virtual reality’ purchasing options on instagram, have demonstrated that the industry is willing to work in conjunction with the consumer.
Once upon a time, we used to contribute value to price and quality, whereas now value is purely determined by price. So the only logical movement would be to reduce supply-chain costs, facilitate further systems to allow direct to consumer selling, and eliminate trade bureaucracy to allow for brands to sell to majority of the global markets freely.
The other important factor requires the fashion industry to work with consumers to understand trends, quality, luxury, and basics. Ways in which this can be pursued is by understanding the psychology of fashion a little more in depth. Just like the food industry, the fashion industry needs to invest in educating and working with consumers to come up with feasible campaigns that allow the consumers to make educated decisions in the future. This will be a big feat from a marketing perspective, but the health of our Planet relies on it.
So what does the consumer the want? It’s hard to say. But we do know, more than ever, that consumers want to be heard. And without the likes of Instagram and Twitter, we may have never known that. The fact that Instagram allows users to actually purchase an item they see in a picture, speaks to this. Despite the accessibility of information about sustainability available, consumers still demand lower prices. They may appreciate the damage fast fashion has contributed to our environment, but budget, psyche, social trends, and peer pressure (albeit not admittedly) still play a huge part.
Due to the fact that I am currently studying my MBA, and have a keen interest in marketing, I wish to do further market research to better understand the consumer behaviour around this phenomenon. I will be conducting a survey, interviews, and other forms of market research to delve in a bit deeper. As you are a consumer, I’d love your help with this. Feel free to drop me an email, instagram message (instagram) or comment below, with your thoughts and opinions. I hope to have some materials out over the next month or so.
So that’s all well and good, but you’re probably thinking, ‘how is this style blogger concerned about fashion sustainability?’ I get it. It does seem rather contradictory, but alas I will endeavour to provide my personal insights. Sustainability to me, doesn’t translate to wearing hessian bags, only using hemp products, and wearing and eating only vegan products. It’s a lot more complex than that. I admit, I have an affinity with owning lots of beautiful garments, particularly of the leather variety. But I do always try to understand where and how the products I purchase, are made. The same goes with the food I eat, the furniture I buy, and the fitness/sport related information I digest. Coming from a scientific background I understand that there is always multiple sides to an argument (or hypothesis), therefore, I take into consideration all facets of the topic. Every bit of information I read, I read with a pinch of salt. Furthermore, I take it upon myself to understand every facet of the information provided by reading scientific, academic, and political articles, as well as opinion pieces. If there’s one piece of advice I can give, it’s don’t believe anything in full, until you yourself understand the facts FULLY! I have had many people propaganda their opinions upon me, whereby their only source of research was a bias based documentary on Netflix. That’s not good enough. As a consumer, and a member of society, take it upon yourself to understand what your consuming, and better yet, what you’re projecting.
I would never force my views on other people, as I believe everyone has the rights and the CAPABILITIES to research upon their own will. But as someone that is highly passionate and curious, I have provided myself a platform to voice my OPINION and thoughts. And I thoroughly enjoy when readers write to me telling me about their ideas, or better yet, ways in which I can improve my presence to better fulfil their requirements. After all, I do this because I value the thoughts and opinions of others’. My only hope, is that I can inspire some conversation, some passion, and some movement, within the industry that is fashion.
What have I done to contribute to sustainability? The first, and the most important thing, was that I took the time to understand what my sense of style was. I always knew to a certain extent, but this time I consciously acted on it. I only purchased items that were true to my style, as well as items that I absolutely loved. I chose to not purchase items for the sake of buying. I chose to walk into a sale with a purpose. And I chose to take charge of what items I wanted to wear, not what society wanted me to wear. From doing that, I minimised unwanted items, I maximised wardrobe usage, and I increased my self-confidence. I now take it upon myself to understand where the clothes I wear come from, what the composition of materials entails, and how it affects the Planet. I wear clothes over and over again because they’re of high quality, so they last, but also because they’re timeless. I am not a slave to trends, I am a strong-willed, educated consumer.
But, I am not perfect. I am a long way off. I would like to continue utilising this platform, as well as my studies, to better understand the link between consumer behaviour and sustainability within the fashion industry. Just like the health & food industry, it will be a relentless journey, but our Planet and future generations, rely on us.
So, there is a short introduction into the problems we face, and a little background on where I plan on taking it from a style blogger’s perspective. Please get involved, by signing up to my blog, and following me on social media. As always, I appreciate all that you contribute. This is only the beginning.
Thank you – Katrina xx
What I wore:
Sneaker Freaker t-shirt – Double Trouble Gang
White leather skirt – Aje
Sneakers – Nike
Sunglasses – Tom Ford