Slow fashion – Changing consumer values and their impact on the future of the fashion industry

Currently, the environmental problem is in the focus of media attention. Especially young people are addressing the issue. Among other things, the movement Fridays for Future was formed in 2018. It quickly spread globally and is now represented in over 7,500 cities on all continents. With the goal of counteracting climate change, the youth see themselves as the last generation to achieve that.

Whether it's the oil market or factory farming. Every major industry is designed to produce always faster and more in order to generate the greatest possible profit. The textile industry is no exception. As the world's second largest polluter of the environment, the overconsumption of fashion items significantly contributes to human-made climate change. A future without increasing environmental catastrophes is facing the fashion industry, which is based on the rising consumer consumption. Nevertheless, consumer attitudes seem to be changing, as seen in growing environmental movements. But what impact has the environmental awareness of consumers on the fashion industry? To give a thematically overview we’ll have a look on the following questions: Is there an increase in environmental awareness? And what impact will have it on the future development of our beloved fashion goods?

As the most incisive buyer group of the future, young people are increasingly interested in the environment and social standards. According to a study by the management consultancy OC&C, a positive attitude towards sustainability can be seen. That’s why the most important criteria nowadays when consuming are welfare, sustainable production, equality and human rights. Furthermore, a survey of 2,000 participants showed that the environmental awareness of the 14-23 year olds, between the years 2017 and 2019 grew more significantly than in any other age group. Therefore, environmental awareness is in vogue, more than ever before. Nevertheless, and this is important in order to fully comprehend and understand the issue, there is a significant difference between environmental awareness and behavior. For example, the researcher Udo Kuckartz found that the consumer positive attitudes do not go hand in hand with their actual beavior. There has been a clear change of mindset in the past few years, but only a little percentage of the population is actually reconsidering buying (...) while the majority still resist to change their shopping habits. The words of the upcycling entrepreneur Laura Fernandez show that although awareness is changing, an adapted consumer behavior regarding clothes is difficult to achieve.

Despite the demand for intensive ecological and social action and the increased commitment to environmental policy, young people remain contradictory in terms of their personal consumption behavior. Therefore, the rising environmental awareness, which is not increasing that significantly in any other generation, is not expressed in the behavior of young people yet. But even small changes in the mindset of billions of people, like just a higher understanding for environmental awareness, already have a huge effect on the fashion industry. Consumers are beginning to question. And, because of its purchasing decisions, a critical consumer has the power to make companies rethink. So, what influence will this have on the future of the textile industry?

In order to respond to the critical debate and changing consumer demand, the consciousness of the fashion industry changes. More than ever before, the trend of fast fashion is opposing the ideals of companies. Since the last few years, designers and producers have been collecting increasingly solutions about how to minimize or even prevent the negative impact of textiles on the environment. Young designers are focusing on upcycling, with start-ups in particular contributing to finding results to form the basis for responsible and decelerated consumer behavior. Responsible and decelerated fashion has a term: slow fashion. The existing desire to protect the environment and the constructive questioning of one's own consumer behavior – those thoughts are becoming more and more established. Therefore, Slow Fashion is also gaining an always rising level of awareness. Fashion is not being consumed less at the moment, but already in a different way. Awareness is spreading and textiles are no longer seen as disposable items, as attempts are being made to keep them longer circulating.

Because of changing values and attitude, the fashion industry is on the move. Many approaches that can help develop the textile industry towards more sustainable and fair trade products are already present. For example, the young entrepreneur Laura Fernandez proves with deleitewear that the future of fashion lies in sustainable concepts. Upcycling will accompany us in the future, because we only have one planet and this planet has only limited available resources. Rising environmental awareness is having an increasingly positive effect on the fashion industry. The structures of the industry are beginning to change significantly. But still not enough. Now it is up to us as consumers to further support this change. To wear fashion from young sustainable start-ups like deleitewear, in order to protect our environment and counteract climate change. For our future. For our planet. Because there is no planet B.

Sara-Mae Reif

Marketing & Communication

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