Fashion and sustainability are intertwined. While niche in the past, sustainable fashion is the way ahead for the brands of today. And one of the positive impacts of the global pandemic was the boost it provided to the demand for sustainable fashion.
The news stories about fashion houses cancelling orders from garment factories in developing economies and the stories about inventory stockpiles made people think about the journey of the garments they purchase and their vast impact on the environment.
And, quite naturally, it’s also made the marketing world re-evaluate its impact on the fashion industry.
What Is Sustainable Fashion?
Sustainable fashion is mindful of its social, environmental, and economic impact. It's fashion developed by organisations that pay fair wages to their workers and give them a safe working environment.
It also monitors the environmental impact of its production process and the product by paying particular attention to using sustainable, eco-friendly raw materials.
Sustainable fashion is the opposite of fast fashion. Tables are turning slowly after years of fast fashion ruling the world. So, what are the factors behind the rise of sustainable fashion?
The Growth of Sustainable Fashion
The environmental impact of fashion is tremendous. The socio-economic implications are huge, and the destruction caused by fashion is unimaginable.
Fast fashion isn't just clothes; it's an environmental nightmare peppered with hordes of social and economic issues. But the fast fashion formula is simple...
Cheap labour + cheap material = cheap clothes.
More than $500 billion is lost every year due to a lack of recycling and clothing utilisation.
The pandemic proved to be a boon in disguise for sustainability. The economy was weakening, which impacted job security, and global lockdowns meant people were staying home and, unfortunately, losing jobs.
This killed the appetite for wasteful fashion. The fashion giants saw a bleak future and refused to honour their order commitments, most of which were produced in developing countries.
Not accepting the orders created two major issues:
1. The producers and their entire supply chain were not being paid
2. Inventory pileup, which, if not consumed, would end up in landfill
When the media reported this, it led to questions from consumers...
- Who manufactures their clothes?
- What does the supply chain look like for their favourite brand?
- What is the environmental impact of the denim they just threw away after wearing it fewer than 10 times?
People had time to research and educate themselves. Documentaries like "A Life on Our Planet" and "Seaspiracy" gained mass popularity during the pandemic and sparked conversations around the concept of fast fashion.
And while sustainable fashion had been a small business for a decade, we now see it as a celebrated mainstream industry.
Why is Sustainability so Important?
The carbon footprint of the fashion industry is enormous. Your wardrobe has an immense environmental impact. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions - more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
On top of that, 20% of global wastewater comes from textile dyeing, and fast fashion produces half a million tons of microplastics every year.
As you can see, sustainable fashion is important because a dead planet simply can't support demand. Now is the time to recycle, repurpose, and reduce fashion waste, and Millennials understand this.
They demand environmentally friendly fashion and are ready to pay more for sustainable, ethically sourced products. Millennials are looking for clothes made to last. And they are ready to pay more if brands make serious eco-friendly efforts.
Marketing to a Sustainable Audience
Designing a marketing campaign for a sustainable fashion brand isn't the same as creating a campaign for a fast fashion brand. Everything will be different. The target audience, the delivery method, the campaign goal, and more will differ vastly.
Sustainable fashion insights will help you design an effective marketing campaign for a sustainable fashion brand. Sustainability is about the long term. This is how you can make your marketing matter.
1. Define Your Target Persona
Your marketing campaign design will depend on your target audience persona.
Since you're a sustainable fashion brand, your customer profile will also be people who care about sustainability and are consciously looking for sustainable and environmentally friendly fashion options. Therefore, you need to design a campaign to target them.
A note of caution: If your product isn't sustainable, don't even think about greenwashing it. This will backfire and cause more harm than good.
2. Be Customer Oriented
Once you have profiled your customers and defined their persona, it's time to address your audience. Sustainability is a lifestyle. Consistency will be of utmost importance if you're targeting a sustainable market.
Your target audience will most likely be environmentally conscious, informed people whose remarkable trait will be making researched purchases. They are the ones who are most likely to read all the information in the fine print.
If the information printed in the fine print doesn't satisfy them, they will try to gather additional information to ensure the product they purchase is sustainable.
3. Get Certified
Millennials value sustainable clothing options. Getting certificates adds credibility to your sustainable claims. Customers are likely to turn to well-regarded green certificates such as:
The information-thirsty audience will trust the certifications and be inclined to purchase the certified products. Therefore, brands should mention their certifications in their advertising.
4. Use Digital Storytelling
How do you reach environmentally and socially responsible people?
One of the simplest ways is digital media. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Google have advanced target audience selection options. This means you can maximize the return on investment on your marketing spend by targeting your ads to the right crowd.
When designing a sustainable digital campaign, it's important to note that it will be very different from a campaign for a fast fashion brand.
Your message needs to be consistent and simple. Your creative needs to have a sustainability focus, too. You can't have ads that promote consumerism for sustainable products.
The fashion industry is going through a tectonic shift. The younger generation is demanding sustainable products, and the fashion industry is trying hard to deliver sustainability while being relevant and attractive.
To reach this audience, you can’t rely on the marketing tactics associated with fast fashion. Instead, you need to connect with your audience on an emotional level and tell the story of your brand. Together we can create a greener landscape for the future.