Sustainable fashion: How are the leaders in fast fashion doing?

(c) 2020 Lectra
Brands are prepared for the new health protection rules and have reopened their stores. But aside from the direct impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, is the fashion market ready to respond to customers’ desire to act by changing their spendinghabits? Basedon analyses by Retviews, a recently acquiredstartup, Lectrahas produced a survey of sustainable fashion among the leading fast fashion brands. The main findings are explained here.

Post-COVID-19 survey

  • 10% of their offer is eco-responsible.
  • Sustainable cotton is a priorityfor retailers for the coming years.
  • Sustainable garments cheaper than standard garments.

The COVID-19 crisis has given many people the desire to live more meaningfully and to act more responsibly. The crisis period could be seen as the catalyst that forces the fashion industry to change the way it designs, produces and distributes its products. Since, for consumers, buying is a way of expressing a commitment and affirming their values, brands have an incentive to change their offer in preparationfor the future, by taking a more eco-responsible, authentic and transparent approach.

While these factors were apparent before the pandemic, they have now become the key to interacting with consumers wanting a more responsible offer. The era of the consumer activist, long heralded without actually becoming a reality, is now here, and brands must adapt in response.

Sustainable collections still a very small minority

The  proportion  of  sustainable  fashion  in  collections  varies  considerably  from  one  retailer  to  the  next.  For example, eco-friendly collections constitute only a small portion of the ranges offered by leading retailers Zara and H&M, which signedthe Fashion Pact during the G7 Summit in Biarritz.

Zara’s  Join  Life  collection  represents  14%  of  its  range,  whereas  C&A’s  #Wearthechange  represents  nearly 30%  of  its  total  collection.  The  Conscious  collection  at  H&M,  which  tops  the Fashion  Transparency  Index, created by Fashion Revolution, accounts for less than 10% of its total range. 

Eco vs regular collection, Retviews 2019-2020 (c) 2020 Lectra
Eco vs regular collection, Retviews 2019-2020 (c) 2020 Lectra

Composition of products in eco-friendly collections

C&A, H&M and Inditex (Zara) are among the top four users of organic cotton. All the brands analyzed in the Retviews survey present their cotton as sustainable and consider it a priority for 2020 and beyond.

There  is  little  difference  between  the  fabrics  mostcommonly  usedin  the  mass  and  premium markets.  The same  is  true  for  eco-friendly  compared  to  standard  collections.  Cotton,  synthetic  fabrics  such  as  polyester, elastane and also viscose are the most widely offered and used fabrics. 

Are sustainable fabrics more expensive?

The assumption that sustainable and/or organic garments are more expensive is a misconception, according to  the  results  of  the  survey.  H&M’s  exclusive  sustainable  collection,  Conscious,  is  a  good  example.  The average price of a dress in the standard collection is €39.90, whereas in the Join Life collection it is €31.70.

Average price dresses, Retviews woman dresses 2019-2020 (c) 2020 Lectra
Average price dresses, Retviews woman dresses 2019-2020 (c) 2020 Lectra

The opportunities offered by sustainability are significant. It’s an issue attracting much greater interest from Generation Z, and retailers have listened to and taken on board these concerns. 90% of consumers say they are aware of the situation and are prepared to change their behavior to combat climate change*. This shows their  real  inclination  to  invest  in  eco-responsible  products.  In  view  of this  change,  brands  have  a  social responsibility to inform their customers, to be transparent about their progress in this area, and to share some of  the  challenges  they  face,  in  order  to  educate  their  communities.  There  are  currently  no  international regulations for apparel defining what can be described as sustainable. This means that there is still a long way to  go  before  the  standardization  of  sustainable  fashion  is  achieved.  ”explains  Quentin  Richelle,  Chief Marketing Officer, Retviews.

*European study on sustainable consumption by Oney-Februry2020

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