The global Covid-19 pandemic and the associated containment measures such as lockdowns have brought the economy to a historic standstill. The fashion industry is not spared either. What at first glance looks and feels like a crisis could, however, be the great opportunity for the industry to make up for long overdue omissions in terms of sustainability and the ecological footprint.
Even if the world stands still, our desire for sustainability and more ecological justice does not.
Our green conscience is increasingly finding its way into our everyday lives and no longer stops at our wardrobe. More and more people recognize the urgency of climate change and want to play an active role in limiting its effects. Above all, pollution of the environment is viewed as particularly critical by consumers. That is why more and more consumers are turning to products that are either recycled or have been manufactured and/or packaged in a climate-neutral manner. One can already speak of a real trend. This trend also continues in the decision to buy fashion. In addition to the longevity and quality of the products, sustainability is becoming an increasingly important factor in our purchasing decisions. Second-hand, vintage and used clothing are particularly popular with the younger generation. But sustainably produced clothing is also becoming increasingly popular and has experienced a real boom since the outbreak of Corona.
More sustainable fashion is being bought.
Zalando has more than doubled the proportion of its customers who prefer to buy sustainable fashion since the beginning of the pandemic. In response to this behavior, the mail order company has expanded this range extensively. Sustainable fashion is particularly popular with customers in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties. This group shops almost 2.5 times more often in this category than other age groups.
However, second-hand shoppers also state that the comparably low price is also a decisive factor in their purchase. However, due to short-time work salaries, this should not come as a surprise. Due to the deceleration of the economy and everyday life, consumers are now also thinking in a more timeless and regional way. You become aware of what you already have and feel less desire to consume. The current travel restrictions also mean that seasonal trends, such as B. Swimwear, some completely gone.
In its January 2020 issue, Vogue completely dispensed with photo shoots and printed images, for the sake of the environment. Instead, they commissioned artists to simply paint the new collections. Thus, traveling and sending clothes could be completely avoided. This CO2-friendly variant of fashion journalism is a premiere even for Vogue. Editor-in-Chief Emanuel Farneti stated that there had never been a Vogue without photographs. There wasn't even an illustrated cover before. Flipping through this issue, one sees drawings of silk dresses and striped cotton tops from luxury brands such as B. Gucci. You really have to admit that despite the lack of detail and sharpness, the concept works incredibly well and showcases the collections very well.
Online trade is booming.
Online retailer NET-A-PORTER has added beauty products to its sustainable sub-platform NET SUSTAIN. By dividing it into eight subcategories, the customer should be able to quickly and easily find products that have been manufactured responsibly. The online shop relies on both locality and fair trade for its range of products. The packaging of the products also plays a major role. Strict attention is paid to sustainable industry standards and seals of approval. The site's beauty director assured that every single product was checked.
Where some high fashion labels are still planning, other companies are already one step ahead. The buzzword of the hour is circular fashion. What is meant is a closed system, which should enable more sustainability through the maximum use of all resources. The principle can be divided into three steps:
The first starts with the actual design process, as this has the greatest impact on the environment. The better a product is planned and designed, the less waste there will be during actual production. So there is less waste that could pollute the environment. In order to get the maximum out of resources, it would make sense to train both employees and suppliers.
The second Step refers to using recycled and used materials to avoid new resources. This can be guaranteed, for example, by so-called reverse logistics. The brand encourages the return of empty packaging or used products in order to recycle them and use them in the manufacture of new products. The logistical effort could be minimized by delivery stations in stores or at separate locations. However, as a consumer, you have to be careful, because this concept can be misused for greenwashing, as has happened in the past with fast fashion labels. These brands simply throw away the products they collect instead of recycling them.
The third and last step relates to the customer's participation in the process of sustainability. Recycling and reusing packaging and used products is the first step.
If you give the customer the opportunity to participate in specific processes that promote sustainability, you create a synergy effect from which both sides benefit. A café that offers reusable cups with a to-go purchase serves as an example. The customer gets a good feeling when he returns the cup and the seller is also perceived as someone with a high sense of ecological responsibility.
However, the corona crisis offers other opportunities to improve your image in the eyes of customers. Companies that, for example, have made their business premises available for the production of masks and hygiene items or have continued to pay their employees are perceived as particularly positive by customers. This stimulates the purchasing behavior of existing customers and can also generate new customers. This principle can also be applied to sustainability, which is perceived as the most important purchasing criterion alongside the quality and durability of the product. This is probably due to the close contact between body and clothing. In addition to fairness, a high level of transparency can also lead to a closer bond between customers and companies.
Everyone joins in!
The politicians in Berlin have also recognized the problem of our fashion consumption and now want to act. Berlin Fashion Week may not enjoy the same reputation as events in Paris or Milan, but for many it is an underdog when it comes to innovation and sustainability. There are around 3,100 companies in Germany that deal with fashion. These are mostly small labels that only consist of a few employees. Many of these companies deal with sustainable concepts such as recycling and upcycling. But innovation and technological progress in relation to textiles are also promoted by many German fashion companies. It is precisely these labels that the Berlin Senate wants to offer both a stage and support with the so-called Fashion Hub. The budget for this amounts to a total of €600,000.
In contrast to the actual Fashion Week, where there are already shows and concepts for more sustainability, the Fashion Hub is intended to offer a year-round contact point for the labels. Companies should address issues such as B. digitization professionally supported and lured with bonuses. The Fashion Hub aims to help German fashion in general, but especially the Berlin location, to gain an international reputation in the areas of sustainability and innovation.
However, the Berlin Senate has also planned sustainable projects outside of the fashion hub. The so-called "Re-Use" is intended to systematize and expand the collection and recycling of clothes. This project will be presented in more detail at the upcoming Fashion Week.
In summary, a clear change in the fashion industry can be seen. Companies recognize the urgency of climate change and are ready to face it with new and sustainable concepts. The deceleration of the economy has given companies the time and opportunity to replan processes and reposition themselves. A positive ray of hope in a gray time.
von L. Morawietz
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