5 Minute Read

The Evolution of Consumer Trends in Sustainability and How Brands Like Yours Can Adapt

Written by Weavabel, published 27/09/19 19:17

Model on an escalator with her shopping bags

Between David Attenborough and the devastation in the landfills, everybody is well aware of not only their own environmental impact, but brands too.

You might think it’s just a trend to be green, but it’s actually a necessity in today’s increasingly conscious world. Here’s an insight into consumer trends in sustainability and how brands like yours can adapt:

  • The Evolution of Consumer Trends
  • Brands Already Making the Change and How You Can Adapt


The Evolution of Consumer Trends


Today, there are eco-friendly alternatives for almost everything, so it’s not always easy to recall a time where climate change wasn’t a concern. However, there was such a time when sustainability was once unheard of, especially in the decade of “Throwaway Living.”


The Early Days of Sustainability 

During the latter part of the Industrial Revolution, department stores began to emerge in the United States, making clothing more accessible than ever before. The end of World War II saw a different mindset, opposite to the earlier years of rationing and frugality. Post-war consumerism boomed and thus did the pollution caused by the factories mass producing.

Fast forward to the ‘50s. With polypropylene and polyester on the rise, they celebrated the convenience of plastic. It was easily cleaned, accessible and surprisingly cheap for an innovative material. Almost all of the plastic from that era is still sitting in landfills and the equivalent of a truckload of plastic continues to enter the ocean every minute.

In the ‘60s and ‘70s, the time of lead paint and asbestos, Rachel Carson published ‘Silent Spring’ which documented the effects of pesticide pollution. It’s often credited as the catalyst for the environmental movement in the US. Despite the increasing environmental awareness, not many products were marketed in a way that we would consider green today.

Despite being turbulent decades, these times sowed the seeds of consumer sustainability. It also pioneered Earth Day, which played an important role in sustainable fashion. It was the time when paisley patterns were a hit and featured on patchwork bell-bottom jeans. The interest continued to grow over the next 10 years. 

In fact, many of the well-known sustainability brands of today can trace their roots back to the ‘80s. Skincare brand Burt’s Bees and The Body Shop debuted their greener, natural products. Fashion retailers Esprit and Patagonia weren’t just clothing brands that debuted. They were also two of the first industry leaders to research the environmental impact of fibres used to manufacture clothing. 

The 2000s was ultimately the tipping point for sustainability. Green products and processes that previously seemed like a niche market were everywhere in this decade. 


The Sustainable Movement’s Place in Present Day  

Recently, the sustainable clothing industry has increased in popularity thanks to ongoing public awareness around the environmental impacts of fast fashion. Brands are being forced to adopt different mindsets and listen to their consumers or face their brand value being impacted.

Brands like H&M and Madewell have launched clothing recycling programmes. Even high-end designers like Gucci and Stella McCartney are committed to sustainable manufacturing practices. 

The sustainable clothing movement has come a long way over the last 20 years. Studies have shown that 65-70% of consumers under 35 around the world will choose brands based on their ethical practices. A Morgan Stanley Research study in the UK also found that when choosing between retailers, more than half find ethical credentials somewhat or very important.

Consumers are willing to pay more for something eco-friendly, so it's up to your brand to create something for them.


How Does the Future Look for Sustainability?  

The window of opportunity to create a sustainable world seems smaller than ever before - especially in this era of fast fashion. However, we can almost guarantee brands will be scrutinised and held accountable if they don’t get on board. Even though consumers want quick and easy access to the latest fashion trends, they also want to know that they're paying towards a more sustainable future.

Your strides towards sustainability can be as simple as using eco-friendly alternative materials to ensure your garments and trims aren’t harmless to the environment. Other ways can be offering detailed care instructions and choosing to work with factories that have certifications like FSC and OEKO-Tex. There are lots of branding specialists that are investing time, money and effort into biodegradable and kinder alternatives.

If brands don’t engage and make this change, their consumers may be forced to purchase with companies that offer the same services - but in a way that’s more sustainable. It’s an effective strategy to increase trust and sustain loyalty with your target market, all whilst being kind to the environment. 


Brands That Have Already Made the Change


The consumer demand is forcing the fashion industry to find more environmentally friendly ways to produce garments. Brands are converting every day, ditching their harmful manufacturing processes and taking a stance for a more sustainable future.

Here are just a few fashion retailers that are paving the way: 

    1. Alternative Apparel - For over 20 years, this popular brand has provided consumers with fashionable alternatives. They create all their garments using sustainable processes and use biodegradable shipping materials to cut down on waste.
    2. Bibico - Using natural and GOTS certified fabrics, this UK brand features timeless designs. They’re also committed to using only the highest quality fabrics that are ethically-made for their clothing.
    3. BYEM - This brand takes time to evaluate the suitability of each design to make sure they produce garments and accessories that are kind to the earth. They evaluate textiles are available and design consciously. 
    4. Know The Origin - An organic and ethical fashion brand that has a completely transparent production process. They reuse offcuts during the manufacturing process to reduce the carbon footprint.  
    5. Citizen Wolf - They have a custom-built factory that was created with a more eco-friendly manufacturing process in mind. You can even book a factory tour to see their values in action.

You can be one of these brands by taking a look at your own garment manufacturing processes. Everything from your swing tags to your packaging can be produced in a way that’s kinder to the environment. It’s what the consumers of today are demanding and it starts with your garments.


Adapt to the Evolving Consumer Trends by Making Strides Towards Sustainability

Start small by sourcing your garment trims, swing tags and labels responsibly. It’s something that will appeal to an increasing amount of eco-conscious consumers. It can seem overwhelming to get started as you might not know exactly where to begin.

That’s why we’ve created an eco-friendly product guide, so you can take a look at the most innovative sustainable products in the garment business. We’re devoted to sustainable alternatives so you can invest in a better future. Start getting inspiration for your own range.

Make Fashion Sustainable