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Is there a way to make sustainable fashion affordable?

Marni Hirschorn SVP, Account Management 13/08/2021

It seems like every fashion brand is looking to sustainability as their next branding initiative in their corporate strategy.

More than half the population (53% ) say that cost is single-handedly the most significant impact on their purchase decision.

Brands are looking to provide their audience with an eco-friendly collection or a social-conscious initiative to reduce waste or improve working conditions.

However, the problem with sustainable fashion is affordability. When it comes to responsibly sourced materials and reaching global standards for working conditions, the cost will inevitably increase to compensate for efforts made before sale. But is there a way for sustainability to also be affordable?

Based on sentiment surrounding shopping habits, this question seems critical to swaying the opinion of most Americans. Savanta reports that 74% of the US general population say that cost impacts their purchase decision. More than half the population (53% ) say that cost is single-handedly the most significant impact on their purchase decision. Only 22% of Americans include sustainability in their reasoning for their purchase decisions. Other factors that determine shopping habits and purchase selection include comfortability (50%), (personal style (38%), and accessibility (22%).

While there is still work that needs to be done in sustainable clothing creation, some other affordable sustainable fashion initiatives include recycling and repurposing clothing already produced, like thrifting. Only 6% of the US population shop at thrift stores as their primary way of shopping for clothes, with the majority of people going to superstores like Walmart and Target (41%) and department stores (28%) as their primary form of shopping for clothes. Only 6% of Americans say that sustainability is the biggest impact on their purchase decision.

As trends come and go, so too does the garments that you purchase and the pieces you keep in your wardrobe. Thrifting has become a choice for many individuals that are interested in fashion and trending styles that are reintroduced into American society and culture, without the price tag of new fast-fashion lines that keep on top of trends.

As thrifting becomes more and more popular amongst younger generations, thrift stores have emerged in the digital space, with thrifting companies, apps, and websites working to make sustainable fashion and repurposing of clothes an accessible and easy shift.

However, as influencer culture begins to emerge, there is a greater focus on fast-fashion brands that are affordable and on-trend amongst the majority of young social media users. Of the individuals who are 25 to 44 on social media, 21% almost always draw fashion inspiration from social media. 10% of Americans who are 25 to 44 go say that social media influencers impact their shopping behaviors almost always or sometimes.

Although fast fashion is well-liked and accepted among many Americans for their low-pricing and cost-efficient model, there appears to slowly become more and more intrigue amongst people looking to work to combat social and ecological problems that our world face today. Ultimately, we are not at a point where eco-friendly or sustainable collections have the ability to get far cheaper. But, by thinking consciously about clothing waste and the quality of each garment, spending money on one piece rather than ten appears the best way to practice sustainable fashion.

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