Several prominent clothing retailers are revamping their manufacturing and tailoring their brand images for just this kind of change. J. Crew Group, for example, recently debuted its “Eco Jean,” a selection of denim it boasts is made from “sustainably dyed organic Italian cotton.” Earlier this year, Levi Strauss & Co. announced a new initiative that eliminates many chemicals from its jeans manufacturing process and reduces textile waste. In Europe, luxury group Kering SA, Swedish fast-fashion chain Hennes & Mauritz AB, and British retailer Marks & Spencer Group Plc have all undertaken environmental and social projects. These range from a library of 3,000 sustainable fabrics that Kering’s luxury brands can draw on, to recycling over 30 million garments over the past 10 years at M&S stores.
These brands have very good reasons to take these steps and highlight them in their messaging to customers.
The environmental concerns around clothing manufacturing are more acute than ever before. Nearly twice as much apparel was sold in 2017 than in 2003. Some of that reflects growing spending power of consumers in emerging economies. But it also reflects the rise of fast fashion, which has trained shoppers to think differently about the shelf life of the goods in their closet. People are tiring of their wardrobes more quickly, with global clothing utilization — or the number of times a garment is worn — declining significantly in recent years.
There are hints that the clothing world is moving toward prioritizing sustainability. Edited, a fashion data-research firm, analyzed online product listings across more than 52,000 apparel brands. It found a strong increase over the last three years in garments labeled with certain descriptors related to sustainability:
Green is The New Black!
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