Data Show Eco-Fashion a Smarter Choice for Conscious Consumers, Brands Alike
According to eMarketer, online apparel and accessories is the fastest growing category of online sales among nine major categories. Online apparel sales will grow by 16.4% through 2016 to over $73 billion, a sum that excludes brick and mortar, outlets, etc. When it comes to shopping for sustainable and fairly made clothing, a report by the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability states that 8 out of 10 shoppers say they like the idea of buying non-toxic, safe, sustainable, and sweatshop free clothing and accessories but never make the leap because of the misconception that "buying green" means spending more money.
The industrial revolution changed the course of fashion consumption forever; shoppers have become accustomed to cheap clothing. Apparel and accessory design is now about fast fashion — how much one brandcan manufacture, how fast they can produce, and how cheap theycan get their supply chain. Fashion design has shifted from a focus on quality and timeless construction to mass production, resulting in clothing that falls apart after a few washes, exposes shoppers tocarcinogens and endocrine-disrupting hormones, pollutes our soils and waterways, and violates human rights. Our culture has succumbed to a Materials Economy, a society that is driven by consumption. The fear of not being "in style," a perceived obsolescence, has become a cultural norm in the United States. Brands further facilitate mass consumption through their planned obsolescence, turning over poorly constructed products as fast as they can. This Materials Economy has made the fashion industry a powerful market segment that employs 1/6 of the world's population, and over the last couple of decades has produced global billion-dollar companies that mass manufacture apparel and accessories with no regard for the environment and people within the supply chain.
My startup, Fashioning Change, is a marketplace that connects online shoppers to over 18,000 stylish, money-saving, non-toxic, sustainable, and sweatshop-free apparel and accessories. When a shopper purchases our option over the name brand product, they save an average of 27%. We're critical of the brands we recommend; only a little over 50 percent of the brands that submit make it into our product catalog. We dive into the supply chain details, looking into the Cradle-to-Cradle design process. If a brand makes it onto Fashioning Change, we highlight the Cradle-to-Cradle details on the brand page; here's an example: Zkano.
Since Fashioning Change had its 'Hello World' in the fall of 2011, we have been comparing mainstream products to the stylish eco-friendly and ethical alternatives via our Wear This, Not That feature. Wear This, Not That compares brands based on style, quality, price and corporate social responsibility attributes, including sustainability and ethics. On average, products from mainstream brands are more expensive and manufactured in ways that pollute the environment and violate human rights.
Curious about the price difference between eco-friendly and ethical apparel and accessories, and the mainstream options, Fashioning Change performed a comparative analysis of our Wear This, Not Thatlooks. We compared over 100 products from 27 top name brands to their eco-friendly and ethical equivalents. The data revealed that a shopper can on average save 27.07% across market segments. Savings vary slightly across market segments:
AVERAGE SAVINGS DOLLAR AMOUNT PERCENTAGE
Across Market Segments: $132.51 27.07%
Accessible Brands: $16.96 13.40%
Moderate Luxury Brands: $48.99 23.06%
Luxury Brands: $282.64 41.44%
As noted in the details above, we've been successful at saving shoppers money across market segments. We've been most successful when it comes to providing quality non-toxic, sustainable and fairly made alternatives to mainstream moderate-luxury and luxury brands. As the demand for fashion produced in a better way (i.e., free of toxins, sustainable, and sweatshop free) and supply-chain transparencyreaches a tipping point, we'll be able to better compete on pricing when it comes to the accessible brand segment that consists of brands such as H&M, Forever 21 and Old Navy. We're still very surprised at our ability to compete on pricing within the accessible brand segment.
Our marketplace is a testament to a better way of manufacturing that pulls from pre-industrial revolution times. Clothing and accessories, everything that we put in (and on) our bodies, in our homes and in our communities can be designed in a better way. Products can save money, look good, protect your health, protect the Earth and protect human rights, if the brand has the intention to manufacture that way.
We have proven that better choices exist.