Consumers are more invested in how their products are made than ever before, and the fashion industry is no exception. People want to know details about the sourcing, manufacturing, and even delivery practices of the apparel they buy, with a particular eye for sustainable best practices coming from all involved in getting a garment from factory to retail.
Here are three ways sustainable apparel practices are changing the industry, aiming for an altruistic future for the fashion industry as well as appealing to the needs of modern consumers:
Sustainable apparel practices start with doing something many businesses naturally have trouble with: embracing transparency. For modern consumers, many of the details that were once considered too mundane to be publicly mentioned at all are quite often assets with the potential to be leveraged.
Many garments are already created in positive working environments, often in the same country that end customers buy from at retail. This is a straightforward, positive concept to communicate in marketing and product descriptions. If your product is made nearby, that gives it value that in previous eras wasn't particularly relevant to customers.
Raw textile choice is a major point of contention for consumers. Previously, the concept of "100% Cotton" was enough to convince a discerning buyer; today, organic cotton is another layer of relevance. The key factor here is in how much consumers appreciate this distinction today. While overall garment costs will rise if using organic cotton, going with the ethical, sustainable choice serves to let modern consumers know that your brand pays extra attention to the most minute details.
Organic cotton uses 71% less water and 62% less energy than cheaper conventionally sourced cotton. This additional up-front expense carries with it a clear appeal to consumers, as well as an ethically sound choice for designers and manufacturers. It communicates something beyond "we use cotton," letting consumers (and even staff!) know "we care about things beyond ourselves."
Recycling as a Selling Point
While recycling in general has long been seen as a virtue among people in general, it's a more recent development that the apparel industry should pay close attention to: recycled material in actual consumer products is now seen, in most cases, as a selling point for high-end apparel.
Sourcing recycled fabric is the core practice of sustainable apparel, just in front of delivery methods in terms of the primary areas where the greatest impact in sustainable practices lies. And consumers, often, will gravitate towards a garment made of recycled fabric. It's a conversation piece for the consumer, it ties your brand to positive business practices, and it gives one piece of clothing an advantage in terms of pure features compared to one made of conventional materials.
Leverage What You Have, Change What You Can
The key to embracing sustainable apparel practices is stepping back and taking stock of what you already have. Following the above as guidance, you'll likely find your business already has some decently sustainable practices: local manufacturing, recycled materials, low-distance or low-carbon emissions transportation are all aspects that often cut costs anyway. It's a matter of letting consumers know about what you're up to.
Choosing sustainable materials, on the other hand, is a new expense. But it's an expense that quite often pays off in terms of new customers, and the potential to turn your garments into conversation pieces beyond just how nicely they're designed, or how luxurious the material is. Every dollar spent on a slightly more expensive material should also be accounted for as potential promotional dollars.
And, most importantly, sustainable materials and practices provide peace of mind. Feeling proud of your accomplishments in business is about more than a short-term profit margin. Building sustainable apparel practices is something to be proud of in itself, contributing to a better world for everyone.
Onestop Internet is dedicated to supporting our clients' goals for a more sustainable future.