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Eco-responsible fashion surrounds brands actively taking accountability to improve and be transparent about their sustainable practices. These fashion companies are attempting to minimise their impact on the environment, through their choice of material or production ethics. Often these brands focus on durable, recyclable fabrics, plant-based dyes and a fair wage for the manufacturers and suppliers.
Due to the rise in global awareness of climate change, more and more brands are increasing their efforts to be sustainable. However, Eco-responsible fashion is not just a trend. In a 2019 study conducted by the IFM-Première Vision Chair, over 40 per cent of French and German respondents said they had purchased a responsible fashion item that year. In 2022, this amount had risen to over 60% for both countries, highlighting the growth in the Eco-fashion market.
THE IFM STUDY
The Première Vision Chair Study is a recent study shaking up the way we view eco-responsible fashion. The study was conducted in 2022, with a sample of 7000 people in 5 countries (France, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, and the United States). The work was carried out by Première Vision and the Institut Français de la Mode. The investigation aims to understand consumption patterns, expectations, and the level of awareness of consumers regarding eco-responsibility.
In the study, over 90% of respondents intended to change the way they buy clothes in the future. But how do they plan to do this?
Materials are viewed as the cornerstone of the sustainable fashion industry. It is one of the earliest and most influential changes a brand starts to make when becoming more responsible. The bio-technical fabric industry is steadily growing due to this influx of companies wanting to make a change.
According to the IFM study, materials are also vital in customer motivation behind investing in certain brands. For Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy, one out of three consumers cited materials as the primary motivation for buying eco-responsible clothing. Therefore, materials appear as a key consideration for consumers who are shopping more carefully.
Another new dimension that has recently gained momentum is the focus on “Made In”. This idea surrounds the place of production for an item of clothing. In two of the countries studied here, an eco-responsible piece of clothing was primarily considered an item that was produced locally, according to over 30% and 40% of French and American respondents respectively.
WHAT IS MADE IN: AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Where an item is made is incredibly important for its impact on the environment. An item of clothing made locally travels a lot less than one made abroad. Materials are often local too, alongside smaller supply chains, ensuring ethical practices of the garment.
TRANSPORTATION: Fewer miles to travel, equals less air and water pollution.
TRANSPARENCY: Due to national regulations, a garment can feel safer when made in your own country. You’re familiar with your government’s regulations and practices. Whereas other environmental certifications in the fashion industry are poorly identified or maintained. Meaning people can slip through the cracks and be exploited.
ARTISINAL SOVEREIGNTY: There has been a renewed sense of artistic freedom surrounding small-owned fashion businesses. Increasing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which generated a strong feeling of dispossession of factories, workshops, and know-how (with crises around the production of masks, hand gel, etc.).
For those who do not buy sustainable fashion, it is the lack of information that is holding them back. In the IFM study, for the USA, more than one customer out of three claimed to not know where to find sustainable products. This highlights the second major obstacle to growth for environmentally responsible fashion businesses. Nine out of 10 people say that they intend to change the way they buy clothes, but they have not acted on it yet because they lack education.
CULTURE: OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FABRIC
Our relationship with various materials is a constant battle between perception and knowledge. Synthetic materials are largely aware of their damaging properties. Amongst materials consumers actively avoid, polyester, acrylic, and polyamide rank first. This is due to the large-scale effort to bring awareness to these fabrics.
However, other materials, such as cotton, continue to convey strong symbolism: childish innocence and softness. Due to this widespread perception, cotton is often viewed as a natural, clean material. This is far from reality, cotton agriculture destroys large amounts of landscape, causing water pollution and habitat loss. Among the other materials, linen and wool are favoured and are alternately ranked in the top positions in the five countries studied. This positive perception and lack of knowledge contribute to the continued purchasing of these materials.
Due to technological advances and investments, a new age of materials is starting to emerge in the fashion world. The Première Vision x IFM study shows that only experts and specialists are even aware of their existence. It is crucial that the general public become aware and excited about these new developments, as these materials won’t be invested in by businesses if they are not perceived as profitable.
For both France and Germany less than 6% of their respondents were aware of materials derived from agricultural waste. For biopolymers (textiles from renewable resources) on average, less than 3% of respondents even knew about the innovative fabric. These materials are essential for the future of the eco-responsible fashion industry, but they won’t be invested in unless a market is created for them.