As more and more Australian shoppers choose ethical clothing, we examine the emerging trend for sustainability in the fashion industry.
From pesticide-hungry cotton and sweatshop labour to the growing problem of textile waste, change is on the horizon. The recent years have seen increasing global awareness of the ethical and environmental impact of fast fashion. And this awareness is driving a new trend for sustainable and ethical clothing, with more consumers thinking ethically about their purchases.
Fashion search engine, Lyst, reports a 37% increase in global searches for keywords relating to sustainability in 2020. Australian shoppers are leading the way, with a 110% increase in searches for ethical clothing in 2020 compared with 2019.
It isn’t just online searches that are revealing the Australian consumer’s preferences for sustainability either. When the parcel delivery service company CourierPlease commissioned an independent survey of 1000 Australian consumers, they found that 87% of us are more likely to purchase products that are produced ethically and sustainably.
While value for money remains a key deciding factor, 53% of Australian shoppers would also be prepared to pay more for ethical clothing, according to 2019 research by PWC. This is especially the case for younger customers, according to McKinsey, who note that Millennial and Gen Z shoppers are especially driven by ethical and environmental concerns when choosing which brands to shop with.
With this clear growth in preference for ethical clothing, sustainable fashion is an important new trend for the fashion industry.
What is sustainable fashion?
The complexity of the fashion industry’s supply chains and environmental impact means there is no single consensus for what constitutes sustainable fashion. A broad term, it is often used interchangeably with ethical clothing, slow fashion, or conscious consumerism to describe clothing that has been made with people and planet in mind.
This might include:
- Clothing made from organic, sustainable, or vegan textiles
- Schemes that ensure a fair wage and safe conditions for workers
- More transparent supply chains
- Manufacturing clothes in factories that work to reduce their environmental impact
- Circular fashion that uses recycled materials or allows consumers to send clothes back to be recycled
- Upcycled fashion
- Pre-loved clothes
- Clothing that is made to last, rather than replaced every season
- At the consumer level, a trend for repairing, buying less, and swapping items over buying new clothes
How is the fashion industry responding?
Ever sensitive to the tastes of their customers, fashion brands are taking notice of the increasing importance of producing sustainable clothing that fits the values of their target audience.
Despite the impact of Covid 19 on fashion brands in 2020, the global market for ethical fashion is predicted to continue to rise – The Business Research Company expect to see it increase from 6.3 billion US dollars in 2019 to 8.2 billion US dollars in 2023. Banking and investment experts Barclays agree, flagging sustainable fashion as a trend to watch in the next 10 years.
Second-hand clothing is also seeing a rise in popularity as consumers look to tackle issues around textile waste and the carbon footprint of their clothing. ThredUP’s 2020 report on the second-hand market predicts that the resold clothing market will be worth double the fast fashion market by 2029.
It is always good to see a trend emerging that can benefit both the environment and the brands who are quick to embrace it. The movement towards ethical clothing only looks set to continue to rise in the decade to come.
https://www.lyst.com/data/2020-conscious-fashion-report/, consulted 07/01/2020
https://www.couriersplease.com.au/about/media-release, consulted 07/01/2020
https://www.pwc.com.au/publications/retail-consumer-market-insights/quarter-1-2019.html, consulted 07/01/2020
https://www.thebusinessresearchcompany.com/report/ethical-fashion-market, consulted 07/01/2020
https://www.investmentbank.barclays.com/our-insights/150-trends-for-investors-to-watch-in-2020s.html, consulted 07/01/2020
https://www.thredup.com/resale/#resale-growth, consulted 07/01/2020