Ethical Apparel on the Rise
Up to 15% more – that’s what Generation Z is willing to pay for ethically manufactured and environmentally friendly fashion. This, according to the Sourcing Journal, is a product of the generation’s social outlook. Gen Z and Millennials alike are buying less. They are interested in products that meet their values, while also being durable, and because of this, they are willing to spend more on a product than previous generations.
What is Sustainable Apparel?
Simply put – it is apparel that has a minimal impact on the environment. Made from recycled fibers, fair trade cotton, and organic dyes; apparel that offers healthier work environments and fewer chemicals are considered sustainable.
Apparel manufacturers and retailers like econscious (apparel pictured above), reports ASI, have focused their business on organic production. Using organically sourced natural fibers reduces carbon dioxide in the air, and releases fewer greenhouse gasses by removing chemical fertilizers and herbicides.
Other companies are choosing to reduce their environmental impact by utilizing recycled polyesters. Relying on PET materials (like those found in water bottles), this type of sourcing removes excess plastics from landfills – and oceans.
Recycling materials also includes taking discarded clothing and upcycling. Renewal Workshop believes that not everything belongs in the trash. Diverting tons of clothing and textiles from landfills, this method of sustainable clothing involves recovering value while reducing waste.
What is Ethical Apparel?
While environmentalism is a part of ethical apparel production, it is only a part of the whole. Buyers are not only concerned with materials – but with how it’s made. Avoiding unethical producers that employ manufacturing practices including; the use of sweat shops, child labor, or animal testing, is a priority.
Producers like Dov Charney of L.A. Apparel seek to bring manufacturing back to the US. Priding his business on providing a safe work environment that pays fair wages, Charney is not alone in his goal of creating apparel that feels good.
Consumers want to know that what their buying is having a positive impact on society.
This has retailers looking to purchase their stock from manufacturers that meet workplace standards and offer a decent living wage to employees. Companies filling their shelves with unethically produced clothing have found themselves at the center of scrutiny – especially on social media.
Who Sells Environmentally-friendly apparel?
Aside from companies that produce and sell their apparel themselves, ethically minded third party retailers want to reach their target audience.
From non-profits to outdoors outfitters, vineyards to band tees there is a market for ethically produced and environmentally friendly apparel everywhere. In fact, there is a growing number of companies, including Target, that publically list their sources, including tier 2 apparel manufacturers.
Reaching the environmentally-minded customer:
Essentially, the sustainable consumer wants to know that the people who can really make a difference – are doing it. Conscious of their spending habits, they want to ensure their dollar is going towards something that’s good for the world.
With a commonly higher price-tag, retailers will need to highlight the eco-friendliness and ethical aspects of the apparel to reach consumers. Letting them know that the product will not only meet their needs, but also offer a connection to their values is key for any company marketing sustainable products.
Are consumers interested in sustainable apparel? Really?
The short answer is: Yes.
A 2016 study by ASI Ad Impressions showed that while only 38% of consumers aged 45 – 54 looked favorably at sustainable products, 58% of those 18 – 21 cared whether marketers offered environmentally friendly products.
Sustainable companies are a beacon to the Gen Z consumer who is dedicated to researching a product or company before filling their cart. If they are aware that a piece is comparable in both cost and quality, they will choose the ethical option every time – because they feel it is the right thing to do.