In the context of sustainable fashion, greater good does not have to compete with self-interest.
Millennials. A lot is constantly written and said about us. We are the subject of several research studies and have marketers obsessing over how our unique brains are wired, trying to decipher trends in our behaviour. We are also touted to be a socially conscious generation; a generation that cares about ethical and sustainable causes, and drives brands to be more responsible and transparent about their practices.
Yes, we are well-informed, mindful and woke, but does that reflect on our purchase decisions?
Findings suggest not. And it’s not because we don’t have our heart in the right place.
Last year, Business of Fashion had published an opinion piece on how there’s a gap between millennials’ positive sentiments towards sustainability vis-à-vis their purchase patterns, attributing the same to lack of “product availability and clear marketing”. Most sustainable fashion brands we have today rarely meet an average millennial’s purchase criteria, whether it’s in terms of price, value or aesthetics.
Catherine, a 22-year-old forensic science student and part-time content writer from Bangalore, India, echoes similar views. “I feel there is a lack of availability of sustainable fashion in India. Other countries have a larger selection to choose from. Also, the options that we have available are very expensive with neutral
A few weeks ago, while browsing through Instagram, a story that my friend had posted caught my attention. It was a screenshot of a post from SSS Magazine’s Instagram page; a quote by Moses Koul, a 26-year-old musician, sharing his views on sustainable fashion (appended below).
People like Moses and Catherine belong to a group of young individuals who are motivated to make mindful fashion decisions but feel restricted because they see a paucity of sustainable options that are accessible and aesthetically pleasing.
And, I don’t disagree.There surely is a gap. However, I still believe we have solutions if we are willing to try.
I recently came across a very useful guide by sustainability consultants BSR and Futerra titled, ‘Selling Sustainability’. Although the guide is meant for marketers, being someone who advocates for sustainable fashion, it gave me a lot of great takeaways.
The guide pointed out something very important and put all what I’d read on this subject in perspective — today, most sustainability marketing only sells sustainability. What it taps on, like Koul pointed out, is the consumers’ guilt, and what it gives them is only a temporary feel-good factor. It doesn’t do more than that and it should. Because, there truly is much more to it.
Based on my learnings from the guide, I will attempt and break down sustainable fashion’s value proposition for the millennial consumer — tell you what is really in it for you:
– Earn and Save Money – One of the biggest apprehensions most people have about sustainable fashion is that it is not affordable.
While it’s true that sustainable and ethical fashion labels are expensive in comparison to fast fashion brands, they are so owing to several factors ranging from the cost of raw materials these brands use, to the higher wages they pay their workers.
If you feel like the price of sustainable fashion brands is what holds you back from making mindful fashion choices, you can still opt for sustainable clothing options that are not heavy on the pocket at all. Vintage, thrifted and second hand clothing is sustainable as well as economical. Instagram brands like carols.shop and redempress.label sell affordable and exclusive vintage pieces from all over the world. Websites like kiabza.com, coutloot.com and theluxurycloset.com both, buy and sell second hand clothing where you can even make some bucks in exchange for your old clothes and accessories.
– Explore Your Creative Side – What do you do with a pair of jeans that’s had a little tear? What about a shirt you burned while ironing? Chances are that you either throw such clothes away or turn them into dust rags.
With techniques like visible mending, darning, embroidery and textile collage, you can use your creativity to mend and upcycle your old and damaged clothes; perhaps, make them even better than they were, originally. There are several Instagram accounts where you can find upcycling tutorials and mending inspiration. My personal favourites include katrinarodabaug, tickover and mindful_mending.
– Connect With Your Roots – I quite often wonder why there are so few narratives that touch upon the link between sustainable fashion and nostalgia. For me, the greatest thing about choosing sustainable fashion is that it has helped me connect with my past through material memory. Whether it is my dad’s old shirt or my grandfather’s old houndstooth blazer or my great grandmother’s old Ikat saree, each one of these garments
– Be a Part of a Mindful Community – Someone who has little knowledge about sustainable fashion may find it a tad bit overwhelming, perhaps even intimidating to venture into the space. I, for one, had several inhibitions when I began my journey with The Baksa Project.
In the past couple of months of me actively interacting and engaging with the community, I have found it to be extremely helpful, encouraging and warm.
If you are willing to take mindful steps but need a little guidance, be rest assured that the community will embrace you and walk with you through your journey.
For most consumers who decide to take the sustainability plunge, the starting point of a sustainable purchase becomes a brand they usually shop from. It is important to note that several fast fashion brands today make vague and baseless claims regarding their green impact in order to appear conscious. As consumers, it is crucial that we use the right judgement to differentiate brands that greenwash from those that are genuinely working towards sustainability. Just because a label says “eco-friendly” doesn’t mean that it is. A sustainability commitment requires that we constantly make ourselves aware and never stop asking questions.
And, if that seems like a lot of work, it probably is, but I promise you this — it is rewarding in more ways than one.6