What’s the market for sustainable fashion?

Sustainable development is growing, but is it selling?”

To address this question, the Smart Talk “Connecting Consumers to Contemporary Smart Fashion Values” (Tuesday 17 September, 2:30 pm/3:30pm, Innovation Talks Area, Hall 3) invited speakers Antonio Achille (Global Head of the Luxury Practice and senior leader of the Consumer & Luxury team at MacKinsey), Ida Petersson (Menswear and Womenswear Buying Director, Browns), Dio Kurazawa (Founding Partner of The Bear Scouts) and Reece Crisp (Head of Buying, Creative and Styling at LN-CC).

Yes, it sells!

Introduced by Giusy Bettoni (Première Vision’s Smart Creation Sustainable Development Consultant), Antonio Achille provided a very detailed overview of the issue, based on data collected for the “Global Sustainability Report: sustainability matters, but does it sell” produced by CNMI and McKinsey & Company to further explore the issue of sustainability from a retail perspective.

The results are irrefutable: while “it is now essential to have a story to tell about sustainability”, this storytelling must now be accompanied by significant storymaking. Thus, 75% of consumers assign a priority value to Hardcore sustainability (sustainable products and processes, traceability, good working conditions, animal welfare) over Softcore sustainability, which includes all communication campaigns and collaborations that contribute to the company’s public image.

Heightened consumer awareness is demanding a considerable economic effort from companies (8% to 12% more for an improvement in “hard” factors, only 1% to 2% for “soft”), but it goes hand in hand with an awareness of the added value of sustainable products among buyers (1/4 of them say they have already banned non-sustainable brands) and consumers, with over 2/3 of respondents saying they are willing to pay a little more for a sustainable product (+ 5% for 48%, + 10% for 22%).

Defining what is sustainable, and communicating it

While some 23% of the products purchased by department stores are now sustainable, the report estimates that this percentage will rise to 42% over the next 5 years, particularly in Europe and the United States. Defining what is sustainable and communicating it to raise awareness amongst the widest possible audience is therefore a key issue: 40% of department stores say they already use sustainability as a strong communications driver, outlining a near future where the ‘green carpet’ will replace the ‘red carpet’ and sustainability will become an essential precondition for all luxury products.

This issue is precisely the focus of The Bear Scouts, a consulting firm offering brands customised monitoring along the entire production, distribution and communication chain, to help them move towards a more responsible and sustainable approach. From the selection of raw materials to the upcycling of stock remains, to putting them into contact with committed producers and distributors, adopting a sustainable approach involves a series of micro-actions designed to impact the entire supply chain: “All our work is a synergistic affair. For this reason, collaboration is one of the essential keys to the success of our projects,” comments Dio Kurazawa.

On the retail side, Ida Petersson and Reece Crisp confirm the central importance of these issues from the point of view of Browns and LN-CC, both in terms of in- store and online sales. At Browns, sustainability has been a cornerstone of the company’s philosophy for years, with a particular focus on developing targeted communications aimed at the younger generations. The same is true for LN-CC, which deems customer awareness a fundamental step in guiding online purchasing practices towards greater responsibility.

For example, Tom Berry, Farfetch’s Global Director of Sustainable Business, believes that “the primary factors driving purchases remain the same: consumers are still looking for style, quality and value for their money,” but brands that also have a story to tell about sustainable development can be especially attractive. “This is certainly an opportunity for growth and business,” he concluded, “as well as a very good opportunity to do good for the planet.”