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The Growing Appeal of Sustainable Fashion Among Young Buyers

Like the rest of the world, the fashion industry has steadily undergone a remarkable shift in the last handful of years. Here’s what the young buyers have to say.

Sustainable fashion, with its commitment to minimizing environmental impact and promoting ethical practices, has emerged as a defining trend. It is the values and passion of the young buyers that have driven this transformation.

Young buyers are no longer satisfied with just trendy apparel; they seek more from fashion today. To answer their differing needs, the fashion industry is evolving, embracing innovations such as upcycled designs and circular economy models. 

As an outcome, the global sustainable fashion market is growing at a surprising pace. While it was valued at $7.80 billion in 2023, it is now growing at a CAGR of 22.9%. In the next six years, the market is estimated to be valued at $33 billion. 

Join us as we attempt to understand what has sparked the appeal of sustainable fashion among young buyers.

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The Rise of Sustainable Fashion – A Closer Look

The journey of sustainable fashion is rooted in a growing awareness of environmental and social issues within the global fashion industry. 

In the 1960s and 70s, the counterculture and environmental movements started raising awareness about the impact of consumerism. This period saw the birth of early eco-conscious initiatives, focusing on natural fibers and handmade clothing.

The 1990s and early 2000s marked a pivotal era, with the rise of influential brands and designers committed to sustainability. Pioneers like Patagonia and Stella McCartney began integrating eco-friendly practices into their business models, setting new standards for environmental responsibility.

The 2010s witnessed an exponential growth in the movement, propelled by increasing consumer awareness and technological advancements. 

Documentaries like The True Cost (2015) highlighted the detrimental effects of fast fashion on the environment and garment workers, sparking widespread public discourse. Social media platforms amplified these conversations, allowing activists, influencers, and consumers to unite and advocate for change.

In 2022, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) revealed that the fashion industry was responsible for 2-8% of the total global carbon emissions. While it might sound insignificant, these numbers amount to a lot.

In response to it, many fashion companies – be it a clothing line or a leading jewelry brand –  are adopting sustainable practices. Newer business models like clothing resale and rentals are also gaining popularity.

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Why Are Young Buyers Motivated to Shift to Sustainable Fashion? 

The rising trend of sustainable fashion among young buyers is driven by their increased environmental awareness and ethical values. This generation is determined to prioritize purchases that reflect their commitment to sustainability and social responsibility.

Below, we’ll examine the major contributors that have motivated this strong resolve among young buyers:

Growing Environmental Concerns 

A major driver behind the shift to sustainable fashion among young consumers is their keen awareness of environmental issues. They’re highly sensitive to the alarming effects of climate change and pollution. That, coupled with the staggering waste generated by the fashion industry, highlights the urgency for change. 

Last year, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) found that more than 700 gallons of water went into making just one cotton t-shirt. To add to it, the process also releases as much greenhouse gas emissions as a car does after driving 10 miles. 

In the face of this sobering truth, sustainable fashion shines as a beacon of hope, offering eco-friendly materials and reduced carbon footprints. 

These green choices resonate deeply with young buyers, who are committed to protecting the planet. For them, every piece of sustainable clothing is not just a fashion statement, but a pledge to a greener, healthier world. The same is true for jewelry. Leibish recommends young buyers choose custom jewelry pieces as they can last a lifetime. 

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Ethical Considerations 

Ethical considerations are at the heart of the movement towards sustainable fashion. In 2022 the US Department of Labor (DOL) published a list of goods produced by child or forced labor. 

The list highlighted a number of developing countries using child or forced labor to produce garments, fabrics, and other fashion accessories. Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh were some of the countries on the list.

Young buyers today are acutely aware of the human cost behind their clothes. They are, therefore, on the lookout for brands that champion fair wages, safe working environments, and the humane treatment of workers. 

By opting for ethically produced clothing, these discerning buyers are casting their vote for a more just and equitable fashion industry. For them, every ethical purchase is a step towards a world where style and conscience go hand in hand.

Fast Fashion and Its Downsides 

Fast fashion, with its rapid production cycles, low-quality materials, and disposable nature, has long dominated the fashion industry. The trend of buying cheap and moving on has started to take a toll on our planet. 

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation noted that every second, a truckload of abandoned textiles is either incinerated or dumped in a landfill. This is because of 60% more people buying new clothes in 2022 – the numbers have only gone up in the last two years.

As the cracks in this model become increasingly visible, young buyers are turning away from its allure. They are rejecting the fast fashion frenzy in favor of sustainable alternatives. These alternatives emphasize quality, durability, and ethical production practices. 

For them, sustainable fashion is more than just a trend; it’s a statement against the throwaway culture of fast fashion.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the three principles of sustainable fashion?

Sustainable Fashion is founded on three fundamental principles. The first one is the quest to prioritize quality over quantity. The second one involves adding mindfulness to your shopping approach by putting wants over needs. The third one encourages you to have a future-centric approach to fashion and avoid over-consuming.

What led to the introduction of fast fashion in the clothing industry?

The rise of fast fashion was driven by the consumer demand for trendy styles at affordable prices.  As social media amplified fashion trends, buyers craved instant access to the latest designs. Brands responded by streamlining production and optimizing logistics to shrink turnaround times from runway to retail.

Why is sustainable fashion more expensive?

Sustainable fashion is more expensive because it follows ethical labor practices, uses high-quality materials, and environmentally responsible production methods. All these might have an inherently higher cost up-front, but they’ll last longer than fast fashion accessories. They don’t contribute to polluting our planet, which is a bigger win here.

To sum things up, moving towards sustainable fashion is like taking a step towards a better future.  By opting for sustainable fashion, you’re saying no to fast fashion’s throwaway culture and yes to a wardrobe that’s stylish, ethical, and enduring.

How can you extend the life of your clothing?

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