person holding a green plant

Gen Z Leads the Sustainability Trend in the Fashion Industry

What do you think of when you hear “Sustainable fashion“, “eco-friendly brands”?  Lately, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  became a trending topic on social media, people have started to see more often influencers and brands are advertising their sustainable methods. Whenever you scroll through your phone, you probably see at least one post about sustainability. The fashion industry has been told that they are the worst at damaging the environment, even worse than agriculture. The main fast fashion brands such as ZARA, H&M, FOREVER21, etc started claiming to be ethical brands, as well as many other small businesses

These brands which claimed they are eco-friendly, make sponsorships with many influencers. Influencers made consumers choose ethical brands over fast fashion. However, the issue is that it has become a trend and now there is increased demand without mass production making it difficult to deliver.

Overconsumption and Sustainability

Practicing sustainability should result in a lower impact on the environment, to love and care about what you have already, don’t throw away and give away, put it in recycling, donate, etc. It’s a reminder to be gentle to the environment and your clothes. 

Overconsumption has a big impact on the environment. And it is one of the issues for the future of the fashion industry. The confusion is between “need” and “want”. Do we need an entire new wardrobe for every season? It’s just an unnecessary “want”. As long as people keep buying their new outfits for each occasion, the industry will keep producing massive clothes and it never stops. 

Here are some examples. Every year, approximately 300,000 tonnes of clothing in the UK, about £140 million worth goes to landfills. Worldwide, 80 billion pieces of new clothing are purchased every year, about $1.2 trillion annually. The majority of products are produced in China, while the United States consumes more clothing than any other country. An estimated 85% of the clothing, nearly £3.8 billion annually, goes to landfills. 

The majority of the population may not be ready to be minimalists. However, one should check their wardrobe before buying something new. These are small steps but positive changes for the future.

The behind scene of fast fashion 

the facts of fast fashion

Fast fashion is cheap, very convenient, accessible whenever we need it. However, is it going to last long in your wardrobe? It has been revealed that human and environmental health risks are connected with cheap clothing. The growth of water-intensive cotton,  the release of unrelated dyes into local water sources, worker’s low wages, poor working environment, the social and environmental costs involved in textile mass production are widespread. 

While fast fashion offers consumers the opportunity to buy more cheap clothes, those who work in or live close to the manufacturing facilities are facing environmental health risks.

For example, polyester is obtained from oil, while cotton requires a large amount of water and pesticides to grow. Garment dyeing causes additional hazards. Untreated wastewater from dyes is often leaked into local water systems, releasing heavy metals and other toxicants which can negatively impact the health of animals and humans.

While consumers keep throwing their clothes away, they don’t go to landfills directly. They were often sent to the second-hand clothing trade. Almost 500,000 tons of used clothing are exported abroad from the United States each year, and most of them go to the Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). Nearly $700 million worth of used clothing is shipped from the United States.

However, the clothing that doesn’t sell in markets becomes solid waste, clogging rivers, greenways, and parks, and creating potential environmental health hazards.

The relationship with influencers and sustainable brands

finding a right influencer

One of the reasons sustainable brands accomplish such huge trends is because they have a connection with influencers. They make their living income from advertising brands, making content, providing it to the public. Nowadays, SNS is the biggest marketplace to promote every work. It is the place where people constantly check in.

Advertising has made a big change, since influencers are not from the entertainment world. Consumers see them as if they’re friends, since most of them are normal university students, office workers, and have nothing to do with the entertainment world. These facts made consumers feel familiar with their daily life. Also, SNS is the closest source of daily information.

So having a partnership with them is a big part of marketing for every brand. But it’s also a big step forward for influencers as well. Getting a new partnership with the brand is a way to promote themselves. This is still a new style of marketing and there has to be a strong, trustful connection between them.

Finding the right person

According to the experts, it is the biggest challenge for brands to find the right person. Reportedly, 39% of marketers don’t feel confident about choosing the right online personalities. 

Successful marketing goes around with an influencer who makes authentic content and is beloved by followers. On SNS, followers are the consumers. And they must trust their favorite influencers. To find the right person, the brand has to seek someone whose image and the way they themselves on SNS naturally line up with brands. 

“All advertising and marketing seek to move people emotionally. People with a following have already invested time and energy into connecting with people in a heartfelt way. Those emotional connections are a marketer’s secret weapon.”  – Brand- Influencer Relationships: How to Create Real Connections

The relationship with consumers and sustainable brands

Consumer's mindeset for sustainability

Even though your favorite influencers promote some brands,  you have to check the company concepts to know reality. For example, if you seek sustainable, ethical brands, you might check the company website for their principles for SDGs. Unconsciously, you are likely to buy something from the company that supports the issues they also agree with.

Consuming is the extension of people’s personalities. The consumer is the last place to support these brands or not. They have the power to choose the businesses and to influence how the company operates.

One of the surveys shows us

“Seventy-one percent (71%) of people think it’s important for businesses to take a stance on social movements, such as those involving gender, gun control, the environment, politics, and human rights.” – How Corporate Social Responsibility Influences Buying Decisions

Gen Z and their mindset for sustainability leads the market

Lately, the younger generation ( 16-24 years old, also called generation Z) are most likely to stop shopping for brands they disagree with. Nowadays, consumers expect companies to accept socially responsible policies and take a stance on protecting the environment. 

Another survey has shown us a great number of people from generation Z would pay for an eco-friendly product in the UK. The number has risen from 49% in 2011 to 57% in 2019. It means younger consumers are spending more on the brand’s corporate social responsibility(CSR).

“Today we see more and more young brands building their business around a central message of positive societal or environmental change. This enables them to organically integrate CSR to build a compelling brand purpose.”- CSR trends that can make or break a brand

The change in shopping

As we’ve already known that this trend is led by millennials and Generation Z (Gen Z), online searches for “sustainable fashion” tripled between 2016 and 2019. Nowadays, the customer’s main focus is no longer “how it looks”,  their tensions move to whether their purchase makes any difference.

The fashion industry now has to think about how its business can move sustainably. 52% in total of the fashion industry is cited.

“sustainability targets acted as a guiding principle for nearly every strategic decision they made,” – Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report, published by Global Fashion Agenda and the Boston Consulting Group

The things the fashion industry faces with

what fashion industry faces with

However, while consumers are expecting more environmental clothes for their wardrobe, the fashion industry faces difficulties environmentally sustainable materials with accessible cost and quantity. More than half of the industry is trying to change at least half of products to be created with sustainable materials by 2025.

To make a balance of high demand and less production, firstly, the fashion industry needs to define what is sustainable fashion. In the industry, there are persistent issues that they tend to overproduction and try to nail the trends that consumers want, which leads to a ton of unsold merchandise that often ended up in landfills.

So, before anything starts to change in sustainability, they have to solve these problems.

“…tremendous amount of inefficiency. The idea that we are going to switch focus from inventory to sustainability without a solution that embraces both is very hypocritical.” – John Torbeck, chairman of consultancy Change Capital and a former industry executive.  

Consumers are willing to pay, but it’s expensive

The sustainable, ethical materials and garments are expensive, so the clothes which are made by them are also expensive. Even then, customers are now willing to pay. The next goal for sustainable brands is to be accessible.

Using more ethical, eco-friendly materials means less waste, and long-lasting items that can lead to saving. However, there is some outlook on costs. It is a slightly higher cost than it should be. Since most of the consumers who focus on sustainable purchases are millennials and gen Z, it is difficult to sustain spending that much higher on sustainable products.

Brands have to make their lineup as small as possible to sustain themselves and keep focusing on sustainability. Then they can source organic, eco-friendly, and recycled materials, plus business impact will offer a better manufacturing process. 

Finally, what is sustainable fashion for generation Z? 

Gen Z and Sustainability

Gen Z and millennials are now faced with thinking about the way they consume products. Since global warming has become an obvious problem, the next generation feels like they have the responsibility to make a positive change environmentally. Because of SNS, knowledge about ethical, sustainable lifestyles is spreading quickly.

Instagram has been the place where Gen Z looks for daily inspiration and advice. And they’re willing to support more local, small businesses with their ethical concepts. In this way, they can search for what they deserve for their sustainable lifestyle. 

Growing up in an influencer marketing culture,  SNS is the place where they get daily information. And since many influencers have partnerships with brands, they have to be careful about what to choose. Already most of the brands are greenwashed and it is getting more difficult to see the difference. To clarify, it is important to understand what sustainability really is, so that one can decide what is right for them when it comes to fashion.

Conclusion

To stop overconsumption, it is also important to be mindful of knowing what you own before getting a new item. Being a minimalist is one of the ways to live a lower impact lifestyle. Sustainable fashion hit Gen Z in different ways. They are willing to spend on more ethical items. However, in their mindset,  true sustainability happens when people stop overconsumption.

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