As new developments and trends arise all the time, it is difficult to keep up with what is important when addressing the environmental changes that the fashion sector needs to make. Every brand talks about “sustainability” with many making significant changes. Although there are a lot of new trends, integrated with current technologies, such as metaverse fashion, smart fabrics, and on-demand fashion revolving around the ecosystem of the fashion industry, only a very few sustainable trends tend to create a greater impact on society.
Fashion Sustainability – Current Market Scenario and evolving trends:
Fashion brands tend to show interest and focus more on sustainable trends such as thrift wear (fashion resale), rental market, and regenerative fashion due to their reduced carbon footprint and limited packaging waste. 2021 saw an increasing number of brands take ownership of resale where Gucci, Valentino, and Oscar de la Renta embarked as recent entrants. Luxury Fashion brands such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Burberry also entered the rental market for the first time to showcase their responsibility toward fashion sustainability. Likewise, Levi’s is working towards using 100% sustainably sourced cotton, having 100% renewable energy in Levi’s owned and operated facilities, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% across its entire value chain by 2025.
According to the most recent Thredup Resale Report, the most reliable study on fashion resale, the apparel resale market is predicted to grow more than three times faster than the primary market over the next five years ($96 billion in 2021 to $218 billion by 2026). The fastest-growing segment of the resale clothing business is online resale, which is projected to account for over 50% of the market by 2024 and nearly quadruple in size by 2026. We also have certain new brands that are actively contributing to sustainable fashion and resale fashion space. Brands such as Poshmark, Vestiaire Collective, Depop, Vinted, and RealReal have already established their footprint in the resale market and they are extensively gaining popularity among sustainability-conscious Gen Z customers, for their price and environmental impact.
Although resale and rental initiatives have both been on the rise in recent years, one aspect that often gets left out of the conversation is the importance of repair, alteration, and restoration. When it comes to extending the life cycle of products – and preventing them from unnecessarily ending up in landfill should be considered a fundamental objective. Interestingly, this trend is slowly changing now, and a designer fashion brand “Ganni” paired up with an on-demand fashion repair service provider “Sojo” to provide apparel aftercare services to its customers. The CEO of Ganni, Andrea Baldo stated that “prolonging the life of a garment through repairs and alterations reduces the need for buying new, and we need to understand responsibility in a circular context that goes beyond the point of sale and the partnership with Sojo is an opportunity to help reduce a significant amount of environmental impact”, which in turn necessitates the need of sustainability through fashion repair.
Fashion Sustainability – What’s there in Consumer’s mind?
A recent survey by Retail Week and Infor identified that consumers are more likely to shop (54.6%) from a sustainability-focused and responsible retailer and more than a third (35%) of consumers said they either didn’t know, couldn’t think of one or not sure which retailer was the most sustainable. Interestingly, men are more likely to be influenced by eco-credentials than women (59% compared with 50%), while Gen Z (consumers in the survey aged 18-24) are more likely to be sustainability-conscious and Baby Boomers (65 and over) the least.
High-street fashion retailers have sensed these sustainability needs of their consumers at the right time and are moving in a positive phase in addressing the sustainability issues, making efforts to be greener and this is capturing customer attention. Leading fast-fashion retailer H&M was identified as a top sustainable brand among UK consumers. Other fashion retail brands like Primark, M&S, Next, and John Lewis were ranked in the top 10 sustainable retailers. One interesting fact that made H&M secure the top position in the sustainability leaderboard is that H&M is trialing a clothing-to-clothing recycling scheme in its home country of Sweden and offers clothing take-back schemes in its stores globally, but perhaps the biggest sign of its commitment to be a greener business is engraved in its leadership strategy.
Also, Primark as a fast-fashion retailer, announced in 2021 that it would ensure all its clothes were made using recycled and/or more sustainably sourced materials thereby establishing a commitment to halve carbon emissions across its value chain, and ensuring that it will continue to practice circular business practices, collaborating with the MacArthur Foundation. All these data make it clear that fashion retailers, particularly fast-fashion brands tend to be more conscious of their business practices and being more sustainable, making the old-fashioned fact that fast fashion leads to more cloth and apparel wastage untrue.
Fashion Sustainability – Some interesting facts
According to the research by the JewelleryBox, the US was ranked at the top in terms of consumer interest in sustainable fashion, clocking 462,990 annual searches (138.29 per 100,000 people), closely followed by the UK with 341,730 annual searches (498.89 per 100,000 people). The facts also reveal that the European population, especially the UK, is generally considering sustainable fashion as a mandatory part of their lifestyle. Interestingly, the study also reveals that with 379,490,752kg of clothing discarded each year, where the UK ranks 7th for the most textile waste exports. Therefore, even if the UK looks to be one of the most intriguing countries when looking up sustainable fashion on the internet, it still does very poorly when it comes to recycling and reuse.
Although it’s observed that leading fashion, apparel, and luxury brands show a lot of interest and initiate projects towards sustainability, there’s no clear visibility and transparency of their activities. A recent report from the Fashion transparency index (2022) stated that “Almost half of the major brands (46%) publish targets on sustainable materials yet only (37%) provide information on what constitutes a sustainable material, and 85% of major brands still do not disclose their annual production volumes despite mounting evidence of overproduction and clothing waste”. This is an alarming situation that needs to be addressed immediately by these brands to showcase and track the progress toward creating a fully sustainable fashion industry.
As we explored the current trends in fashion sustainability, we noticed several interesting facts and a set of key challenges for the future. However, one key challenge that is demanding the retailer’s focus is to address the sustainable fashion transparency concerns of the community. Based on expert views across the industry, it is identified that the retailers haven’t developed the right capability to deal with the end-to-end visibility of sustainability operations.
Understanding the demanding concerns, at Infosys Consulting, we crafted an approach working with leading fashion brands and high-street retailers to help them align business strategy value drivers to sustainability operations with the support of our state-of-art Live Enterprise Platform. With the help of AI and ML integrated into a cloud-native architecture, we can help retailers and fashion brands to measure their sustainability activities across their value chain, by building visibility platforms and integrating with the existing control tower ecosystem. We aid the business in developing a set of well-defined sustainability traceability metrics to enhance visibility and operations. We also help them in drafting the waste reduction strategy, change management, and cost reduction measures across the sustainability transformation standpoint, thereby helping them deliver value to their customers, and drive efficiencies, resilience, and adaptability across the value chain.
Partner & EMEA CRL Practice Lead
Sachin is the leader of our Consumer Goods, Retail and Logistics practice across the European region, delivering business transformation for leading CRL organizations. He manages a highly diverse group of management consultants that cover a range of European markets and plays a key leadership role in broadening the IC go-to-market agenda, especially in Digital M&A Strategy and Large-scale business transformation initiatives. He is an ardent leader with Infosys for the last 25+ years helping clients to design a winning agenda to expand market share and achieve competitive advantage via organizational excellence.
Mohanrangasamy is a Consultant in the CRL practice. He specializes in Digital Supply Chain Strategy and Operations Transformation, helping clients transform their digital business operations agenda. Before joining Infosys Consulting, Mohan worked in multiple in-house strategy roles across leading Retail companies, driving key supply chain optimization projects and other digital operations initiatives.