Driven by the Fridays for Future movement and the pandemic, consumer awareness of sustainability has grown strongly. This was also one of the findings of the study “Shopping Concepts of the Future – New Opportunities for Brick-and-Mortar Retail” by the consultancy FTI Andersch. In future, fashion trends must be consistently regional and use resources sustainably. Even if customers are moving away from the throwaway mentality, they still want to follow current trends. Slow fashion, second hand, leasing, rental models, on-demand production – the industry has seen a lot of changes. Buyers are well aware that sustainability has its price, and they are willing to pay it. “Less but better” is the new motto. Fashion manufacturers, some of whom are starting to reduce the size of new collections and to launch fewer collections on the market, need to take this to heart. As Coco Chanel said: “I’m against the absurdity of creating fashion that doesn’t last … for me, old clothes are like old friends, you know? You look after them. You repair them.”
In Germany alone, 500 million brand-new items of clothing are at risk of being destroyed, according to reports by online magazine utopia.de. These are terrifying figures. To live up to its responsibility, the industry must adopt new approaches. The products, merchandise control and volume planning must be better tailored to customer needs. “If we could all do without the supposed 20 per cent of excess goods we purchase, that would be a good start and would save scarce resources,” says Marc Ramelow, a mono- and multi-brand retailer in the textile industry.
Second-hand Trend and sustainable Labels
The new Momox Second Hand Report reveals that 78 per cent of people below the age of 29 buy used goods. The figure is 67 per cent for people aged between 30 and 39 and then decreases for the older generations. Purchasing is fairly evenly distributed between local and digital trade. Many sustainable labels have already successfully made their way onto the market. For example, the Swiss label REWORK, which produces collections in an environmentally friendly manner using second-hand clothes. Or Nina Rein Fashion from Germany, which offers sustainable business clothes for women. You can read more about the two labels and their philosophy in my social media channels, where I spoke to the creators.
Yet the trend for sustainability in the fashion industry also has a dark side. In particular, it is essential to separate the wheat from the chaff. Greenwashing is present in this sector too. In other words, promises are made that cannot be kept or checked. The concept of sustainability remains elastic and is subject to open interpretation. This makes it all the more important to strengthen the trust of consumers in a brand. Essential to this are a transparent value creation chain and an authentic approach to the topic of sustainability. It is also important to consider that even second-hand or recycled goods need to be washed, processed and transported, leaving behind an environmental footprint.
The challenge for the retail sector is to find the right balance to combine sustainability, customer satisfaction and profitability. New business models would be well advised to focus not solely on growth, but also to foster meaning and identity. That might mean abandoning segments of the market that no longer fulfil customers’ requirements and sales expectations in order to create space for something new that is environmentally and socially compatible but also commercially promising.