How Younger Consumers Are Shopping for Fashion

In this report Drapers took an in-depth look at the Gen Z and Millennials groups. How they feel about the fashion industry and where are the opportunities for brands designing and making clothes for these groups?

One thing is clear, and that is the emergence of a more values-led, purpose-driven approach to fashion. Younger shoppers may not want to or are not yet able to pay more for ethically made items, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want them. In addition, the digital and multichannel shifts of the past two decades are not over yet. There is still plenty of work to do to meet those expectations.  (…)

Environmental sustainability is important to these shoppers. More than three-quarters (76.7%) say it is either very or quite important. This is pretty consistent for every age range, although slightly more men rate it as very important (39.6%) than women (32.8%). 

Nearly half of the respondents say they have at some point decided against a purchase because of a brand’s lack of sustainability efforts. Retailers often report that customers do not appear to be willing to pay more for more ethically produced items, which makes it challenging to build a business case internally for investment in sustainable practices.

However, this suggests brands are losing sales to other, more sustainably driven retailers, which is a trend that will not be immediately visible in sales figures. The evidence was strongest among the 18-to-24-year-olds, of whom 55% say they had abandoned purchases. Men are also more likely to fail to complete purchases than women (54% versus 44%). There are also regional variations in how shoppers are approaching sustainability, with shoppers in the South East and London more likely to rate it as important. In London, 63% of shoppers reported having abandoned a purchase.

While there may well be a gap between what people say they are doing, and what they are actually doing, this is nonetheless a trend to take seriously. The fact it is not always showing in sales figures yet could relate partly to the fact that shopping ethically and sustainably takes a significant amount of work and research on the part of the consumer. With comparatively few sustainable options available, it is also still hard for a customer to make sure their purchasing behaviour reflects their values – they may still be shopping unsustainably because choice is limited. Plus, retailers have an uphill battle when it comes to communicating their efforts. Few customers will know, for instance, that Primark’s jeans are among the most sustainable available on the high street, and H&M is often accused of greenwashing, despite a 20 year effort to improve its sustainability credentials that significantly pre-dates the topic’s current fashionable status. In addition, sustainability is not easy for retailers – it is a labyrinthine project that takes years to build expertise in, and is expensive to develop properly. 

Shoppers’ interest in sustainability is a trend that is backed up by search data. Over the last five years Google searches for the term “sustainable fashion” have been on a steady upward trend worldwide, with the biggest rises occuring in Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, Denmark and Singapore. Searches for the term “sustainable fashion brands” in the UK have rocketed by 450% since January 2016. Retailers such as US brands Everlane and Reformation are popular related terms, and both have experienced large rises in search volumes over a similar period.

However, while consumer interest in sustainable fashion is increasing, the retailers leading the way are not necessarily being driven by consumer demand. 

Giorgina Waltier, sustainability manager at H&M UK and IE, says: “While it is truly brilliant that sustainability awareness has increased so significantly with consumers over the last couple of years, our commitment to and communication around sustainability is not consumer led.”

“We started talking to our customers about sustainable materials back in 2011 when we launched our H&M Conscious line, about the importance of recycling clothes in 2013, when we launched our global in-store garment-recycling scheme, and about supply-chain transparency in 2013 when we were one of the first brands to publicly share our supplier list.”

“So, communicating to customers about the importance of sustainability is not new for us. What is new is the increase in appetite for this information, and what we are still yet to master is a balance in the level and detail of information that we share with the consumer.” (…)

Gen Z and Millennials

Produced by Rebecca Thomson
Contributor Kirsty McGregor
Sub editing by Samantha Warrington
Account manager Johnnie Norton
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European Clothing Action Plan – Circular Textiles Event

On 15th February 2019 the European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP) held a Circular Textiles – Ready to Market event in Amsterdam.  It was attended by over 120 participants across the textiles industry.

Participants from our 9 fibre to fibre trials presented their experience from the project, their learnings and their plans for the future.

“The future of circularity in textiles is incredibly important and needs everyone to be involved and play their part. Of course we need to make our business profitable but we also need to consider the impact we are having on the planet and it’s the responsibility of us all.”

ECAP is contributing to these goals and has made some great progress, learnings and results but there is much more work to be done in the transition towards a circular textiles economy.

ECAP: What is Circular Fashion and Textiles?
Source: ECAP

Government Reforms Taxation to Reward Sustainable Fashion Companies

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) in the UK investigates the social and environmental impact of disposable ‘fast fashion’ and the wider clothing industry.

Environmental impact of clothing production

Clothing production consumes resources and contributes to climate change. The raw materials used to manufacture clothes require land and water, or extraction of fossil fuels. Clothing production involves processes which require water and energy and use chemical dyes, finishes and coatings – some of which are toxic.  Carbon dioxide is emitted throughout the clothing supply chain. In 2017 a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on ‘redesigning fashion’s future’ found that if the global fashion industry continues on its current growth path, it could use more than a quarter of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050.

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

“Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth. But the way we design, make and discard clothes has a huge environmental impact. Producing clothes requires toxic chemicals and produces climate-changing emissions. Every time we put on a wash, thousands of plastic fibres wash down the drain and into the oceans. We don’t know where or how to recycle end of life clothing.”

Conclusions and recommendations

The parliament recognises that fast fashion has made it affordable for everyone to experience the pleasure of style, design and the latest trends. However most sustainable garment is the one we already own and that repairing, rewearing, reusing, and renting are preferable to recycling or discarding clothes.

The Government must change the system to end the throwaway society. Often it is more expensive to repair an item than buy a new one. Many of us also lack the skills to perform more than basic clothing repairs.

The Government should make fashion retailers take responsibility for the waste they create and reward companies that take positive action to reduce waste. A charge of one penny per garment on producers could raise £35 million to invest in better clothing collection and sorting in the UK.

The Government’s recent pledge to review and consult on extended producer responsibility for the textile industry by 2025 is too slow.

The Committee is recommending:

  • the Government should publish a publicly accessible list of all those retailers required to release a modern slavery statement. This should be supported by an appropriate penalty for those companies who fail to report and comply with the Modern Slavery Act.
  • that the Companies Act 2006 be updated to include explicit reference to ‘modern slavery’ and ‘supply chains’. Statements on a business’ approach to human rights in its supply chain should be mandatory as part of the Annual Report. The Financial Reporting Council’s (FRC) Corporate Governance Code and UK Stewardship Code, and the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) listing rules should likewise be amended to require modern slavery disclosures on a comply or explain basis by 2022. If this is not possible then a Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law, as in France, should be considered.
  • that the Government strengthen the Modern Slavery Act to require large companies to perform due diligence checks across their supply chains to ensure their materials and products are being produced without forced or child labour. We also recommend that Government procurement should be covered by the Modern Slavery Act.
  • that the Government works with industry to trace the source of raw material in garments to tackle social and environmental abuses in their supply chains.
  • the Government should facilitate collaboration between fashion retailers, water companies and washing machine manufacturers and take a lead on solving the problem of microfibre pollution.
  • the Government should ask the Health and Safety Executive to review the evidence and take action accordingly.
  • manufacturers must be mindful of potential risks now and should seek to reduce the exposure of garment workers to airborne synthetic fibres.
  • post 2020 SCAP should include new targets following the Ecodesign Directive, including reducing microplastic shedding.
  • that the Government reforms taxation to reward fashion companies that design products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not.
  • the Government should investigate whether its proposed tax on virgin plastics, which comes into force in 2022, should be applied to textile products that contain less than 50% recycled PET to stimulate the market for recycled fibres in the UK.
  • as part of the new EPR scheme, Government and industry should accelerate research into the relative environmental performance of different materials, particularly with respect to measures to reduce microfibre pollution.
  • the Government should ban incinerating or landfilling unsold stock that can be reused or recycled.
  • that lessons on designing, creating, mending and repairing clothes be included in schools at Key stage 2 and 3.
  • the Government must end the era of throwaway fashion. It should make fashion retailers take responsibility for the waste they create by introducing an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme for textiles and reward companies that take positive action to reduce waste.
  • the Resources and Waste strategy should incorporate eco-design principles and offer incentives for design for recycling, design for disassembly and design for durability. It should also set up a new investment fund to stimulate markets for recycled fibres.
  • that the Chancellor should use the tax system to shift the balance of incentives in favour of reuse, repair and recycling to support responsible companies. The Government should follow Sweden’s lead and reduce VAT on repair services.
Source: Environmental Audit Committee

Sales of Organic Certified Textiles Increased by 18% in the UK in 2018

The UK market for Soil Association certified textiles is worth GBP 41.3 million. Spending on ethical clothing increased by 19.9% and Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) certified facilities and retailers grew by 10% in 2018.

Sales of Soil Association Certification organic textiles

The Textile Exchange research found that, in comparison to the production of conventional cotton, organic cotton reduces the: amount of bluewater (water taken from groundwater or surface water bodies via irrigation) involved in production by 91%; potential for global warming by 46%; and demand for primary energy by 62%. Social benefits of organic cotton farming include: increased income from organic premiums; food security through crop rotation; increased independence from seed companies; improved health thanks to the elimination of toxic agrochemicals; and better local infrastructure.


Soil Association Organic Market 2019

Sustainable Fashion Searches On The Rise In 2018

The fashion search engine Lyst found a 47% increase in the number of searches made for sustainable fashion; terms included ‘organic cotton’ and ‘vegan leather.’ Lyst tracked over 100 million searches on their site to discover the biggest trends and brands over the past 12 months. They found several brands with a strong belief in sustainability were for the first time in the ‘most searched for’ list.

This rising trend in sustainable fashion has been helped along by celebrities and influencers like Meghan Markle. Lyst has reported if Markle wears a brand it receives on average 200% increase in search activity over the following week.

Search engines and social media show us an increasing amount of people are interested in sustainably sourced clothing and is fast becoming a trend to watch. With a massive 47% spike in search engine activity and eco-friendly brands making it to the Insta Brand list it is exciting to see what 2019 has in store for the fashion industry and how celebrities’ will continue to influence the scene.

If you would like to increase your visibility on search engines by increasing your ranges with sustainable products, please contact us.

Environmental Audit Committee Investigates UK’s Fashion Industry

The MP Mary Creagh Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, has taken the issue to the UK’s ten leading fashion retailers investigating how the UK’s fashion industry can reduce its environmental footprint.


Mary Creagh has said,

“The way we design, produce and discard our clothes has a huge impact on our planet. Fashion and footwear retailers have a responsibility to minimise their environmental footprint and make sure the workers in their supply chains are paid a living wage. We want to hear what they are doing to make their industry more sustainable.”

Some of the questions being put forward by the Environmental Audit Committee to the fashion retailers are,

  • Do they use recycled materials?
  • Whether they pay the living wage and how they make sure child labour is not being used in their supply chains.
  • What steps do they take to encourage recycling?
  • How they reduce the risk of microplastics contaminating the ocean.


The deadline for the retailers’ reply was 12th October 2018 with hearings for the inquiry due to take place soon after. The answers provided will be used by the Committee to gather recommendations which will be put forward to the Government as a basis to how these problems can be solved. It could include a call for less pollution, longer life garments or a ban on dumping clothes in a landfill.


Companies the committee has written to are:

Arcadia Group, Asda, Debenhams, JD Sports Fashion, Marks & Spencers Group, Next Retail, Primark Stores, Sports Direct International, Tesco, Tk Maxx and HomeSense


Going Forward

The Committee’s first session in the sustainable fashion inquiry took place on 30th October 2018 with MPs such as John McNally and Zac Goldsmith putting forward essential questions to the panel such as solving the problem of synthetic fibres from our clothes entering the oceans and what percentage of our clothes end up in the landfills.

On Tuesday 13th November 2018 the public hearing will take place at the Victoria and Albert Museum coinciding with their Fashioned from Nature exhibition.

Fashioned from Nature elements of the fashion lifecycle

V&A exhibition Fashioned from Nature

The public hearing will help the Committee to bring forward recommendations to the Government how the UK’s fashion industry can reduce its environmental footprint.

Watch the Committee’s first inquiry from 30th October 2018 here.


It’s Not All About Fashion

We are in Delhi. With Saurabh and Johanna we are visiting the nearby school. Johanna and Saurabh have asked the factory employees what they are missing in their lives and how they could be supported. The employees replied: “At the end of the month, the money is often too short to buy school books for our children”.

Saurabh and Johanna decided to help. Both are giving school books, pens and pencils with erasers to the local school where most of the children of Saurabh’s employees are going to. Johanna and Saurabh share the money.

School Books Project (3)

We are in the rickshaw to the school. The roads are so narrow that not even a car could pass through. Arriving at the school we pass by a small corridor. On the left a dark class room. Children of the second grade are sitting on the floor very close to each other. It is so dark, you hardly see the children.

We are climbing up the stairs to the roof of the school. For each child, the teachers and Saurabh’s staff have packed a colorful gift. 301 packages of books, pencils, pens and erasers.

At the roof of the school Saurabh is calling to start. Johanna and Saurabh explain to the children why they are getting the books. How important the school is and encourage the children to study and to be diligent.

Each child is coming to the front. Saurabh and Johanna are giving each child in each class from nursery to the 10th grade their individual present. Than the whole class, each child is holding up their books.

School Books Project (2)

We go to the next class. The children are looking at us with big eyes, serious eyes, curious, happy, shy, mischievous…. Each child is unique, worldwide. Every child has the right to education but it needs books, light in the classroom, a chair, water to drink ….

As we drive back, Johanna and Saurabh are already talking about their next plans to help the students and school. They have many ideas. “We will do it, step by step.” It sounds like a promise.


School Books Project (4)


Sustainabile Textiles: Oeko-Tex Worldwide Consumer Study

The Oeko-Tex Association presented findings of a new research study “The Key to Confidence: Consumers and Textile Sustainability—Attitudes, Changing Behaviors and Outlooks“, focusing on global consumers rather than the textile trade.

The more than 11,000 participating consumers completed an online survey with a full spectrum of questions designed to gauge their attitudes about sustainability, harmful substances, environmental responsibility and the social welfare of textile workers.

The study found that consumers do want to live more sustainably and that their concerns about the textile industry are growing. Consumers who learn about the textile industry think differently about their purchases and they want to make sure to “buy the right products”. In addition, Oeko-Tex certification raises confidence and climate change is a serious issue for people worldwide.

Consumers prefer sustainable lifestyle

However, though a significant 70 percent of those surveyed indicated that they are “committed to a sustainable, environmentally friendly lifestyle”, their actual behaviour does not – yet – reflect this. As the study puts it: “Many are indeed making changes…. However, the gap between the 70 percent who want to live sustainably and the percentages reporting changes show that this desire is aspirational: people may be on their way but they aren’t quite ‘there’ yet.”

In terms of knowledge and concerns about the textile industry, 4 in 10 consumers globally admitted that they “don’t know much about the way textiles or clothes are produced”. In fact, most do not consider the textile industry to be a major polluter at this time (it is perceived to rank sixth after the following industries: energy, car, home care products, airline and food). However, twice as many people (41 percent) who live in manufacturing regions consider the textile industry a major polluter and rank it as the third most polluting industry after the energy and car industries.

Consumers worry about harmful substances in clothes

What the researchers found surprising, however, is that a higher percentage of consumers than thought – 4 in 10 people – are concerned about harmful substances in clothing or home textiles. In fact, there is only a 20 point difference between concerns about harmful substances in food (where the consumer sustainability movement started) and in clothing: the gap appears to be closing. For the researchers, this is an indicator that impressions of the textile industry might be changing.

Concerns about health

Source: Oeko-Tex

The study found that most of those surveyed – 80 to 90 percent – are aware of “eco-friendly” clothing and home textiles and that there is a positive perception of the label among those who have purchased eco-friendly clothing (36 percent), which they describe as “high quality”, “soft”, “innovative”, “unique” and“durable” or “long-lasting”. Those less likely to purchase also describe these items positively but perceive them to be “expensive” and “hard to find.” Parenthood seems to be a portal to a more sustainable, healthy lifestyle as parents start to eat better and use less toxic personal care or home cleaning products and purchase is higher (54 percnt) for “clothing or home textiles for babies or young children made with organic or other sustainable fibers.”

Brands play an important role for consumers

However, today’s educated consumers are often skeptical of claims like “eco-friendly” or “sustainable” and two-thirds (64-65 percent) admit to checking those claims, i.e. by looking for a certification label (52 percent), checking fibre content (49 percent) or the brand’s sustainability practices (33 percent). The latter should note that they play an important role for consumers who hold them accountable, count on them for assurances of responsible production and look to them as role models to sustainable living.

Specifically, 4 in 10 consumers (42 percent) “like to know the values and principles of brands of clothing they buy”, 38 percent “like to know what small steps brands have taken to be more sustainable – even if they’re not fully ‘green’” and many consumers commented spontaneously that a certification label helps (or would help) them know which brands to trust and which to avoid.

checking sustainability claims

Source: Oeko-Tex

“I want to know if the brands or manufacturers I buy cause less pollution than others”, said one Chinese consumers, while another one from Spain said: “Certified clothing proves to us that a company is committed to making clothes in the most environmentally responsible way.” “As a mother, I’m very interested in making sure that our clothes and home textiles are safe from harmful substances and environmentally and socially sustainable,” declared a respondent from Germany.

A brand’s sustainability story is key in winning consumer confidence

In terms of consumer education, although most consumers confessed that they know little about how clothing is produced, “it is clear that there is growing awareness of ‘facts’ about the impact of the textile industry” according to the study. For example, almost one in two consumers (45 percent) indicated that they would favour responsible clothing and textile brands. “This suggests that there is a need for brands to tell their sustainability story across a variety of communication vehicles so consumers would be able to get the information they want easily”, concludes the study.

interest in purchasing certified textiles

Source: Oeko-Tex




UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in the Fashion Industry

Fashion is not a sector that exists by itself. The fact is that the fashion industry is not unlike any other key economic drivers; it is a key component of a global economy and certainly an important sector.

On 25 September 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a ‘plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity’. The agenda includes 17 sustainable development goals (SDG’s) for 169 targets, which should inspire action at the national, regional, and international level over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the Earth. Goals span from ending poverty to ensuring healthy lives, achieving gender equality, promoting sustainable economic growth and decent work, reducing inequalities, and taking action to combat climate change.

17 sustainable development goals



Why Fashion?

Considering that the fashion industry is one of the largest employers in the world, especially of women, with some estimates that women make up roughly 80% of the supply chain, it makes sense that fashion and apparel are involved in not only sustainability discussion– but development- where the sector is a powerful driver of job creation.

And not for nothing, fashion is a $2.5 trillion-dollar industry and considered a top user of natural resources and polluter of the communities in which it operates. It’s not surprising then that fashion as an industry is now having a moment, especially in the sustainability dialogue.


Fashion and the UN

Looking ahead, the United Nations is increasingly interested in engaging new and dynamic sectors to play a part in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Changing the production and consumption patterns of the fashion industry would have a domino effect on many aspects of development and provide a visible and meaningful contribution to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The fashion industry in particular offers two entry points for action: top down (as governments and business corporations have the power to foster change), and bottom up – as we as consumers do have a choice to make when buying a garment and can therefore influence the production and market.

However, to make a real change both approaches need to be combined, and at the moment government- and business-led initiatives to make the sector more sustainable are scattered, unco-ordinated, and often address only one side of the problem. Similarly, the market of sustainable fashion is limited to small businesses, is not well-marketed and remains mostly unknown.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development thus offers a unique opportunity to bring sustainable fashion to the forefront of the international debate and to demonstrate the contribution it could make to the achievement of many of the sustainable development goals.


Brands missing out on £820bn opportunity by not pushing sustainability

New research from Unilever shows a third of consumers want to buy sustainable products and would purchase more if their benefits were made clearer.

The FMCG giant questioned 20,000 adults across five countries about how sustainability impacts their purchasing choices. It then backed up their claims using information on real purchasing decisions.

It found that 33% buy a product because they believe it is doing social or environmental good. Plus one in five say they would choose a brand if its sustainability credentials were made clearer on packaging or in marketing. That equates to a €966bn (£817bn) untapped opportunity, according to Unilever, given that the size of the marketing for sustainable goods is €2.5tr (£2.1tr).

The research backs up previous claims from Unilever that sustainability is becoming an increasingly important part of consumers’ purchasing decision. Chief communications and marketing officer Keith Weed has previously admitted there is a “say-do gap” but the survey suggests this is closing.

And separate research from Harvard Business Review and Ernst and Young showed that companies with a strong sense of purpose are able to transform and innovate better, while it also helps to improve employee satisfaction.

Brand must act quickly to prove their social and environmental credentials and show consumers they can be trusted with the future of the planet and communities, as well as their own bottom lines.

Despite the findings, the trend for purpose-led purchasing is greater among consumers in emerging markets rather than those in developed. Some 53% of shoppers in the UK and US said they feel better when they buy sustainable products, compared to 88% in India and 85% in both Brazil and Turkey.

There are a couple of reasons for this; firstly consumers in emerging markets are more likely to be exposed to the negative impacts of unsustainable business practices such as poor air quality or water shortages. And secondly there is more societal pressure to buy sustainable products in emerging markets than there is in the UK and US.

Weed says: “This research confirms that sustainability isn’t a nice-to-have for businesses. In fact, the very opposite is true. To succeed globally, and especially in emerging economies across Asia, Africa and Latin America, brands should go beyond traditional focus areas like product performance and affordability.

“They must act quickly to prove their social and environmental credentials and show consumers they can be trusted with the future of the planet and communities, as well as their own bottom lines.”

Marketingweek 01/2017

ASOS, H&M, Levi Strauss & Co, Marks & Spencer set 2025 deadline to source 100% sustainable cotton

More than a dozen of the world’s biggest clothing and textile companies have signed a pledge to source 100% sustainable cotton by 2025 in a deal brokered by the Prince of Wales.

The pledge is supported by the Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit and aims to reduce the environmental and social impacts of cotton farming.

Organic Cotton farmers before ginning

Chetna Organics

All 13 brands must publish information by 2018 on their progress toward reaching their target.

The global cotton market is currently valued at £12 billion, according to Soil Association.

Aiming to reduce social and environmental implications of cotton farming will produce a whole plethora of benefits.

Collaboration across the sector is needed to bring about transformative change, said Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer at Kering: “Working together with other companies who are also committed to using 100% sustainable cotton will help create a strong market signal to improve the methods for cotton cultivation and contribute to reducing the overall impact of the sector.”