Sustainable production and consumption are the main goals for sustainable fashion brands. That usually entails a pre-purchase cross-examination of what a fashion item is made of, how it is made, and the amount of that product one should consume. This article will focus on the concept of buying fashion only out of necessity.
In principle, sustainable fashion should equal sustainable consumption. However, every fashion brand’s goal is to achieve sales and be profitable. In this context, it would, therefore, seem that encouraging consumers to buy only what they need would be getting in the way of making sales.
The difficulty in advocating for sustainable consumption
“The society today always wants something new. We have news every half an hour or every minute. You need to announce something new.”
Here, Arsene Wenger – former Arsenal Football Club manager – was referring to the constant buzz by the fans for their football clubs to acquire new players, despite already possessing quality players within their ranks.
While these words are representative of the world of football, they find relevance in the fashion industry, too. The thought of shopping for new trendy fashion is exciting, regardless of having similar items in your closet that are still in excellent condition.
Buying things you do not need is a type of personality disorder referred to as “oniomania” or simply “compulsive buying disorder”. Also, excessive buying of fashion items is mistaken for high social standing in society.
Indeed, many cities in the world continuously fight for the title of “fashion and shopping capital of the world”, with no consideration of irresponsible consumption’s impact on the environment. Sustainable brands find themselves trapped in the vicious cycle of feeding irresponsible consumption through excessive production. This causes a clash of two matters – sustainability and profitability.
Sustainable production or profit?
It’s important to realize that these brands face the pressure of consistently rolling out new products periodically for consumers. What’s more, is that these products must cover every season of the year. Brands that ignore this trend risk losing visibility in the competitive fashion industry. However, this is a dangerous race to the bottom. Because every fashion item that is released into the market leaves an enormous carbon footprint behind. This is evidenced during manufacturing or through transport to the market.
So, one of the core concepts of responsible consumption is buying only the products you genuinely need. If we all followed this model in making fashion purchases, would brands make money? And is it possible for sustainable brands to advocate for responsible consumption without hurting their sales?
For instance, alcohol brands are required to advocate for responsible consumption of their products in their marketing campaigns. The rationale is that consumers should be painted a balanced picture of the good and the bad before making a purchase. Responsible consumption campaigns in the alcohol industry do not affect profitability.
In effect, sustainable fashion brands should adopt this approach. Brand honesty about the effects of irresponsible fashion consumption will help save the environment. Markedly, one of the most daring responsible consumption campaigns was the “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign by Patagonia, a sustainable fashion brand that makes outdoor wear. Indeed, the aim of this campaign was to encourage sustainable consumption. Subsequently, this campaign led to an increase in sales for Patagonia in 2011.
Therefore, we could argue that it is possible for sustainable fashion brands to promote responsible consumption and still make sales. They just have to take the leap.
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