Sustainability In Fashion: You Are What You Wear?

Now more than ever consumers are looking to make their lifestyle sustainable, even if that means spending up to $50 on one t-shirt because of its eco-friendly background. 

sustainability in fashion. credit: Matthias Cooper from Pexels

When consumers make a purchase whether it be clothes, cars or technology they are taking a stance on who they are. This includes the consumer who wants to shop sustainably. In an interview with Northeastern University marketing professor Daniele Mathras, she talked about the importance of showing who a person is through their clothes even if those clothes do cost more to buy. 

“The possessions that we have are an extension of ourselves, it’s the notion that through our possessions we signal our social identity and who we are, not only to others but also ourselves,” Mathras said. “Consumers are putting their money where their mouth is and willing to spend more for those things to help communicate their identity.”

Mathras also talked about how generational differences can affect how consumers shop. In more recent years, brands have seen the younger generations become increasingly interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle. In a report by Fabrik they found that 60% of millennials want to shop more sustainably. 

“Every generation has different value priorities and I feel like with Millennials and Gen Z, sustainability tends to be one of the high value priorities for this group of people, so it’s become more important for people who are catering to the Millennial and Gen Z market to be including sustainability as a brand value,” Mathras said.

Since sustainability can take on numerous meaning Yashi Dadhich simplified the meaning of the word in three parts: environment, people, and price. Dadhich is the founder of Kahani, an organization that works with others to manage their environmental and social impacts while reducing costs. “We are trying to balance those three pillars,” she said. 

“When we talk about specifically the fashion industry, it is the second most polluting industry because it comes with heavy impacts on our planet … for example the water used for making one t-shirt is about 27,000 liters which is more than 700 gallons and this is just to grow the cotton for it,” Dadhich said. “Then we talk about the human impact of it … people who are manufacturing the garments, mostly in China, Bangladesh, India, they get paid less than $100 a month.” 

In H&M’s 2018 sustainability report, they claimed 57% of all the materials they used were recycled or sustainably sourced. While bigger brands such as H&M are looking to make their clothes more sustainable, smaller boutiques such as Ash & Rose have been making sustainable clothing since opening the small store. 

Ash & Rose is a small boutique in Boston, Massachusetts that focuses on sustainable fashion. Mary Savoca and her mother Nea, the co-owners and founders of the store, finds fabrics that are vintage, upcycled or going to be thrown out and creates pieces for the store. 

While Ash & Rose are always looking to expand, digital intern and Ash & Rose employee Emma Damokas said, “We don’t want to be an H&M, we don’t want to be a Forever 21.”

In a report by Nosto, an e-commerce platform, found 46% said they would rather buy from a smaller brand with sustainable clothing than a well known brand without. While bigger brands, such as H&M and Patagonia, are looking to make their clothing more sustainable, it is starting to become evident that more consumers are going to look for the word “sustainable” on their next t-shirt.