Fashion fix needed as UK consumers and industry still fall short in terms of sustainability

  • Price remains the most important factor when buying clothing
  • 74% cannot name a single sustainable fashion retailer
  • Only 24% understand the term ‘Sustainable Fashion’

As Fashion Week descends on London this week, research from Opinium reveals both the industry and consumers need to fix their habits when it comes to sustainability.

While the environment is higher on the agenda than previous years, a substantial number of consumers still do not engage with fashion in a sustainable manner. A third (34%) often buy clothes on impulse, and a quarter (25%) own a lot of clothes they only wear once.

Failing to break the habit

Despite one in four people (24%) saying they understand the term ‘Sustainable Fashion’, those who are more environmentally conscious aren’t changing their shopping habits. Of those who claim to be concerned about fashion sustainability, 44% still shop for clothing at least once a month (vs 38% total sample) and 51% of those who are most knowledgeable about the issue say they return most of the items they buy online (vs 12% total sample). Furthermore, 42% of 25 to 34-year olds, the age group most concerned with fashion sustainability, don’t pay attention to the materials of the garment before buying an item of clothing.

Two-thirds (67%) say price is still the key driver when it comes to purchasing an item of clothing – whereas just 9% say environmental impact is the most important factor, and 6% state it is social impact.

The research found that only 14% avoid retailers who engage in Fast Fashion practices, 15% check the label for organic materials/environmentally friendly materials, and 10% choose a retailer who promotes and delivers on sustainability.

Retailer responsibility

However, there is a desire among consumers to be more sustainable when it comes to their fashion choices. The main things that they would like the brands they love to do are:

  • Set sustainability targets (43%)
  • Be more transparent about the working conditions of garment workers (41%)
  • Be more transparent about the brands’ environmental impact (39%)
  • Include more info about how the clothes were made on care labels (28%)

The research also found that brands that do practice sustainable fashion need to raise more awareness among consumers, as three-quarters (74%) cannot name any sustainable fashion retailers.

Carolyn O’Meara, research manager at Opinium comments: “With the constant pressure from fast-fashion retailers to buy, it is no surprise that the average British shopper falls trap into mindless consumption. Reassuringly however, British shoppers have begun to recognise the negative impacts of the fashion industry and are making the association between fast-fashion and unsustainability.”

“And as the fashion industry continues to be under increased public scrutiny on this topic and consumers become better educated on the Fashion Industry’s impact, it is optimistic to see they dramatically shift their attitudes and likely purchase intent. Something retailers should be wary of, looking to stay ahead of this trend and setting the agenda where they can”.

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