As prices continue rising, consumers rely on a combination of their wallets and consciences when deciding which fashion industry trends to buy into. Produced by a collective societal desire for more holistic, eco-friendly products, shoppers are frequently prioritizing purchases of items with natural fibers rather than synthetics. Consumers are also pushing for brands to step away from “fast fashion” trends and promote sustainability in both product development and manufacturing, making efforts to reduce or offset their carbon footprints.
In response to these market drives — and the increasing urgency as transparency grows about how fashion contributes one-tenth of the world’s carbon emissions — designers and brands are forging ahead with innovative solutions to the sustainability question. Innovations include new biodegradable materials and manufacturing processes that reduce both textile and environmental waste in the pursuit of sustainable apparel.
Shoppers have been so eager to applaud sustainable apparel production that the eco-fashion industry faces concerns both in terms of greenwashing and stiff competition verging on saturation. Fortunately, this has also provided a breeding ground for serious innovation and imagination. These days, countless brands are experimenting with different fibers and fabrics.
Consider Lululemon’s carbon capture fabric. The fabric possesses the same look and hand feel that is customary to the brand but is manufactured with polyester derived from ethanol that was converted from carbon monoxide gas waste. Rather than releasing CO2 into the environment, Lululemon has found a way to capture it and use it to develop inventive new textiles.
Lululemon is far from the only innovator in the sustainable textile materials space. In another example of sustainability in fashion, Cole Haan’s Generation Zerogrand II shoe contains rubber made from dandelions. Called FlowerFoam, the dandelion-based midsole allows the brand to reach its goal of selling products made with at least 25% recycled or naturally derived materials.
All these efforts are being noticed by entities other than interested consumers and ambitious competitors. The Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards regularly honors, highlights and champions companies at the forefront of sustainability initiatives in the fashion industry. Consequently, eco-friendly clothing materials and styles are gaining more visibility.
Entering the Market of Eco-Friendly Clothing Manufacturers, Designers and Sellers
Brands can stay aware of the impact of the fashion industry on the environment, meet sustainability goals and provide consumers with the products they want with these guidelines:
1. Take a forward-thinking approach.
Recent years have seen an acceleration in the dialogue and expectations of action around sustainability in the fashion industry. This presents friction, as many brands work on collections one to two years in advance. As a result, they may find themselves playing an ever-increasing game of catchup to stay on top of trends and meet customers’ needs. Green goals are a moving target.
As you map out your sustainability plans, keep abreast of the latest environmental discussions and proposed regulatory measures. That way, you can stay on the cusp of what’s trending in the sustainability field. Looking at the big picture of innovation allows you to maintain creativity in your approach to eco-friendly textiles and meet customers where they are.
2. Tackle your supply chain one vendor at a time.
You don’t have to overhaul your entire supply chain overnight. Instead, consider the partners you have now. Do their values align with yours? Are they interested in coordinating sustainability initiatives? Ask clarifying questions to gain insight into where your brand lies in terms of sustainability and where it needs to focus to improve efforts.
Remember to include possible or current ingredient brands when you examine your supply chain vendors. You might consider linking up with an ingredient brand, for example, to add bioceramic minerals to your textile products. These minerals increase the durability of the garment, elevating sustainability by allowing you to wear items longer and have them hold up, in contrast with a lot of fast fashion, which falls apart easily and ends up in landfills sooner. For the best results, make sure you collaborate with a responsible ingredient provider geared toward eco-friendlier industry practices.
3. Educate customers with storytelling.
One hurdle that many sustainable brands face is that consumers may still shop based on price and convenience. This can lead buyers to purchase less eco-friendly alternatives simply because they’re cheaper or can be delivered in 24 hours by Amazon Prime.
The way to overcome this gap between consumer desire and behavior is through strong storytelling. Make certain your marketing explains the true value behind what makes your brand unique, and ultimately, why customers should support you with their purchasing power. Consider adding a landing page to your website related to your sustainability initiatives, incorporating hang tags with traceability notes on garments, or donating profits to environmental causes to increase your accountability.
Fashion, style and clothing have always been about innovation and imagination. Because of the endless room for creativity in textiles, now is the perfect time to extend your brand’s direction into the sustainability sphere. By focusing more deeply on the overall impact of the items you create, you will be able to meet consumers’ eco-friendly desires and play your part in sustainable fashion.
Charlotte Pratt leads global marketing at Hologenix, a materials science company dedicated to developing products that amplify human potential. CELLIANT®, its flagship technology, is an infrared ingredient brand that enhances textile-based products with health and wellness benefits across performance, recovery and sleep. The company is proud to recently have been shortlisted for the Drapers Sustainable Fashion 2022 Awards in the category of Sustainable Textile Innovation.