Fashion with a conscience: Why sustainable fashion is the next retail frontier

H&M Conscious Exclusive

Instock retail data reveals that in the US, sustainable fashion products* have grown 19.0% year-to-date (YTD) 2017, compared to last year. In addition, volumes of sustainable fabrics such as Tencel and Lyocell have grown by 19.7% year-on-year (YOY), highlighting retailers’ efforts to make their assortments more sustainable. Importantly, this growth is spread across all market segments, from value to luxury.

Sustainability and eco-friendly credentials are no longer niche concerns

Facilitated by social media, consumers have become more vocal regarding sustainable issues, making it imperative for retailers to offer visibility over their material procurement and apparel production practices. Accordingly, the growth in sustainable fashion has come from retailers launching dedicated sustainable collections (such as Mango’s Committed collection), broadening existing ones (such as Zara’s Join Life and H&M’s Conscious collections), and expanding the presence of sustainable products in core collections.

Apparel at forefront of sustainable investment

Sustainable fashion line: Mango Committed

Mango Committed

There is growing shopper awareness and interest in sustainable clothing and consequently demand is higher – thereby justifying retailers’ investment in sustainable apparel.

However, as shoppers become increasingly considered with their disposable incomes and buy less but better – a product’s sustainable credentials alone are not enough to encourage shoppers to part with their cash. Sustainable collections must stand up to core fashion collections in terms of design, quality, fit and fashion credibility – a fact some retailers have already woken up to.

As fast-fashion giants Zara, H&M and Asos have grown sustainable ranges, they have become increasingly sophisticated in terms of design, dismantling perceptions of unappealing, one-tone sustainable collections. In addition, collections are increasingly designed and marketed in line with wider collections, easing consumer adoption and justifying prices.

New entrant, Mango Committed’s women’s average price is £45.19, £5.40 higher than Mango’s main collection, but the collection’s distinctive design and premium feel helps justify these. Similarly, H&M recently launched a higher-priced Exclusive collection for H&M Conscious with a glamorous party in LA, further breaking down perceptions of rough-hewn sustainable collections.

Opportunities lie in footwear

Despite advancements, current range expansion and development investment remains in apparel as sustainable footwear volumes actually declined 34.6% YOY in the YTD 2017. However, soon consumers will start to demand the same levels of transparency from footwear and accessories as they do from apparel. Retailers who invest in these smaller categories now have the opportunity to benefit from first-mover advantage.



Note: Sustainable data is collated by selecting those products from the Instock platform that have the keywords ‘recycled’, ‘sustainable’ or ‘organic’ in the product name or description

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