Sustainable fashion is no longer a trend but a significant movement in the industry. Millennials and the elusive Generation Z are becoming increasingly concerned with protecting the planet and minimizing the effect that global manufacturing, particularly fashion, has on the environment.In previous posts, we’ve discussed how consumers credit authenticity to brands that deliver on their promises and maintain high standards for quality, social responsibility and environmental stewardship. It’s no wonder that brands embracing sustainability also come across as more authentic to their consumers.
Below, we highlight brands that have done more than incorporate sustainability into their designs — they've made it a core component of their brand identity. Since these brands make an extra effort to be transparent about their processes, they are seen as more authentic by consumers who value integrity and transparency in their own lives.
Brands Building Authenticity through Sustainability
Designer Stella McCartney has made sustainability her mission and has served as an example for others in the fashion industry. Her website details her company's supply chains and their material and construction choices. They use non-leather alternative and recycled nylon, in addition to other materials that are environmentally friendly. She also refuses to use fur in her designs.
Inspired by Stella McCartney, designer Richard Quinn uses a digital printing workshop that utilizes 70 percent less water and 80 percent less energy than traditional workshops would use. This method also allows him to create exactly the amount of fabric he needs so there is no waste -- an ongoing problem in the industry.
Matt & Nat
Matt & Nat shoes, short for MAT(T)ERIAL and NATURE, are produced in Montreal, Quebec, and are vegan, made with synthetic leathers and 100 percent recyclable plastic and cork. They create affordable women's sneakers, sandals, heels and mules by using ethical labor practices.
Save the Duck
This Italian outerwear brand creates "cruelty-free" clothing with a focus on environmental sustainability. The company has dedicated an entire page on their website to its environmental promise that states: “We have a daily commitment: to improve the sustainability of our company with full respect for animals, the environment in which they live and the people who live there.”
G-Star is headquartered in Amsterdam and creates fashion-forward jeans made from organic and recycled cotton, as well as recycled water bottles and Tencel. These fabrics greatly limit the company's environmental impact. In addition, they are transparent about their production processes, publishing the names and locations of their manufacturing partners.
Clothing retailer Patagonia admits that their company's sustainability is a work in progress. However, since 1988, they've made a concerted effort to be an ethical and ecologically conscious business. They began using organic cotton in 1996, and they also use recycled bottles and recycled fabrics. They measure the environmental impact of their clothing items and work to create proper working conditions and adequate pay for those producing their garments.
Alternative Apparel is located in Atlanta, Georgia, and produces tops and bottoms for men and women, as well as accessories. They use eco-fleece for their jackets and organic cotton in other garments. They emphasize basic clothing items that can be worn for work and for play. Alternative Apparel also strives to create fair, safe working conditions for those creating their garments.
Recently, Primark launched their sustainable line of women's pajamas. The company buys the cotton from female farmers who are enrolled in their Sustainable Programme. Currently, 6,000 farmers have been trained so that, eventually, all of the cotton Primark uses will be sustainably sourced.
When Sustainability Backfires
With educated consumers demanding their fashion be produced responsibly, more brands are racing to embrace sustainable practices. But as companies proclaim eco-friendliness, many are being accused of greenwashing.
In 2015, Nordstrom and J.C. Penney were fined by the FTC for falsely labeling rayon as the more eco-friendly, bamboo. And in 2014, Forever 21 was subject to claims of greenwashing when they unveiled a solar power system for their LA store but then turned around and opened a 18,000 square-foot store that promotes their fast fashion, low cost items.
With information about a company’s sustainability practice openly available on the internet, brand’s can’t take a chance of faking their efforts. A report by Fashionista highlights “The FTC, Higgs Index and Fashion Revolution” as websites dedicated to keeping brands honest about their environmental efforts.
Authenticity = Loyalty
For brands looking to increase customer loyalty, an authentic commitment to environmental stewardship could help.
But remember that a brand can only be as authentic as the products it makes. Efforts to lessen your brand's environmental footprint are undermined when counterfeiters make fake versions of your products and sell them as the real thing.
One solutions is making it safe and simple for consumers to verify that a product they find for sale in a store or online was truly made by the brand on its label.
The same digital authentication process can also be used to deliver information that reinforces your brand message and commitment to sustainability — everything from detailed supply chain information to storytelling to instructions for product care or recycling and disposal.
Learn how a commitment to brand and product authenticity is helping brands make a difference against counterfeits in our latest e-book The Power of Authenticity for Brand Protection in Fashion: 6 Numbers You Should Know