After having looked at the two other areas of responsibility within fashion sustainability, we now focus on the third and last area of accountability: the consumer.
The exciting and challenging aspect of this stage relates to the fact that when operating in the context of sustainability, firms need to find ways to alter consumer behaviour and challenge some of their daily-life habits. Some of these habits relate to how often to shop, when to replace worn-out items or even simply, how often to wash them.
This sustainable message is also a very effective way to personalise the products, considering that the non-wash approach allows to develop a storytelling approach around the experience of the product.
Here’s a breakdown of the article:
As washing is a very resource-intensive and frequent act, even the smallest changes in the consumer behaviour can resort into a highly effective environmental impact. Some of the sustainability messages that brands provide to their customers revolve around:
In both cases, care labels are essential, as brands can use them to advise washing tips or provide advice to encourage more responsible washing practices. Some companies also encourage users to dye products as a form of cleaning, allowing dyes to cover stains or use.
When it comes to fashion customers are used to discard flawed items, as repairs can hardly be done by any regular unexperienced customers. However, from environmental standpoint repairs are always better than replacements.
This is an area which lends itself for effective brand communication as companies can make use of the frequent need to repair garments and create services tailored to increase a garment’s durability. Some brands even go as far as creating a user community around a user need. This is what in marketing we often refer to as a value net, involving the end-users in the value creation process. Research additionally shows how customers who are able to repair a product, and to some extent contribute to its durability are more likely to grow an emotional attachment to it and to the brand.
Other optimised life strategies in fashion include:
Aside from these more technologically advanced approaches, even simply offering repairs goes a long way.
Other simple advice to optimise the lifetime of a garment entails:
Let’s start with a simple statement: approx. 60% of discarded textiles goes into a landfill.
In order to “avoid the landfill” companies can create new circular business designs capable of reclaiming a used product at the end of its life. This can be done by creating zero-waste processes and repurposing products to create a more circular approach to the economy of fashion.
Some of the strategies that can be employed at this stage include:
To allow consumers to develop these sustainable habits, companies need to act in terms of brand communication, by informing customers of all that the options they have available once they reach the end of a garment’s lifecycle.
Before moving on to conclusions these are additional guidelines to optimise the end of life of a garment:
As we’ve seen, there are a variety of things that companies are trying to do in order to create a new wave of corporate responsibility capable of countering the issues that have risen in over 30 years of global fashion expansion.
Change is already happening, and no one player can solve the problem alone. Designers and managers need to be creative as they tackle sustainability challenges by building long-term assets and developing company cultures which foster accountability and corporate social responsibility for their whole value chain. Consumers too, have an obligation and need to become part of the solution, by changing their perceptions and behaviours to become change agents as well company managers and designers.
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