Key sustainability trends for 2019: what consumers expect from fashion brands

September 7, 2019 0 By JohnValbyNation

It is impossible to deny the impact of the fashion industry on the
environment. More than 16 million tons of textile waste are generated each
year in the United States alone, and the amount has doubled over the last
20 years, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. In the UK,
the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates 140 million
pounds worth of clothing end up in landfills every year.

Luckily, young consumers are becoming aware of the issue and adapting
their consumption habits accordingly. Recent research by consultancy firm
Deloitte revealed over 80 percent of Millennials across Australia, Canada,
China, India, the UK and the US find it important for companies to behave
ethically and take steps to diminish their environmental impact. Consumers
aged 25-35 are projected to spend 150 billion US dollars on sustainable
goods by 2021.

As more shoppers open their wallets for eco-friendly products, trend
forecasting company WGSN has mapped the sustainable consumer trends most
likely to gain traction in 2019. They were published in a report titled
Sustainability and the Consumer 2019. Here are its main

Campaign by American fashion brand Everlane

Walk the walk

Several brands have accelerated messaging that highlights their
environmental credentials, but they need to do walk the walk and not just talk
the talk. Although 72 percent of companies mention UN’s Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) in their annual reporting, only 27 percent
actually include them in their business strategy, according to a study
published in 2018 by PwC. “While awareness has increased, action still lags
behind consumer sentiment”, says WGSN in its report. “The challenge for
brands in 2019 will be maintaining trust and ensuring that they remain
aligned with consumer expectation”.

According to WGSN, one way brands can ensure consumers continue to trust
them is by doing more than just using recyclable materials, pushing the
post-purchase responsibility on to the consumer. WGSN recommends brands to “explore opportunities that exceed expectations
by targeting goals that reduce avoidable residual waste at source”. A few
examples of companies already doing that: Adidas made headlines last year
by pledging to use only recycled plastics by 2024, while H&M, Burberry and
Marks & Spencer signed a global agreement to make sure 100 percent of their
plastic packaging can be reused, recycled or composted by 2025.

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  • Support locals

    Consumers also expect companies to support local communities not only by
    manufacturing their products locally as much as they can, but also by
    setting up smaller, local projects which can create a network of replicable
    and scalable innovations. WGSN mentions the
    partnership between British fashion designer Bethany Williams, supermarket
    chain Tesco and the Vauxhall Food Bank as a good example. Tesco donates food
    items that food bank users can exchange unwanted clothes for. Williams then
    creates a collection using the donated garments, with 30 percent of profits
    invested back into the food bank. Another example: home decor giant Ikea
    teamed up with UK designer Tom Dixon to create a line of gardening tools, looking to
    encourage those living in urban areas to grow more food at home or
    establish local farming communities.

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  • Right to repair

    Many consumers are fed up with products that seem to have been designed
    not to last. Not only are they willing to pay more for higher quality, they
    are also looking for ways to expand product life. Therefore, brands that offer
    more durable clothing and encourage or even facilitate customers to repair
    their products instead of throwing them away are likely to grow in
    popularity, according to WGSN.

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  • Zero waste

    While they still form a minority of consumers, WGSN forecasts the zero
    waste movement to grow. An increasing number of people will make an effort
    to reduce waste as much as possible, with some even striving not to produce
    any waste at all. Expect more customers to refuse packaging or bags, bring
    their own containers to stores and turn to clothing rental services and
    secondhand shops for fashion.

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  • Hugo Boss shoes made from Piñatex

    Viable alternatives

    Caring about the environment doesn’t mean letting go of style. Consumers
    still want to express themselves through their clothes, which is why they
    expect companies to offer sustainable alternatives to the materials
    they already know and love. Pineapple fiber instead of leather, hemp
    instead of cotton, kapok instead of petroleum-based fabrics… Companies
    using such sustainable textile innovations are likely to gain traction.

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    Pictures: courtesy of Lenzing, Everlane Facebook, courtesy of Hugo