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Consumers Want More Eco-Friendly Apparel

A new survey shows consumers want to buy more eco-friendly apparel, but have trouble finding it.

Style with Substance – a report by Ryan Partnership Chicago/Mambo Sprouts Marketing – notes that despite the challenge, consumers intend to double their eco-apparel purchases this year, creating a growth opportunity for mainstream retailers.

In 2011, the top eco-apparel categories were footwear (23%), active/workout wear (21%), and women's casual wear (21%), with green options purchased by about one in five respondents. While seven in ten (69%) considered eco/sustainability at least sometimes when purchasing clothing in 2011, eco-fashion purchase intent doubles in nearly every category in 2012, with these so-called “gateway categories” reaching 48%, 47%, and 47%, respectively.

While price will always be top-of-mind, lack of availability appeared to be a strong limiting factor. About one in three (33%) of those who don't regularly consider sustainability in their apparel purchases said they didn't buy sustainable because it wasn't available where they shop and one in four (28%) said they didn't even know where to purchase eco/sustainable clothing. 

"The data is showing a strong interest in eco/sustainable apparel. This represents a growth opportunity, especially if manufacturers and retailers make it easier to find," said Christine Nardi Diette, group president, Ryan Partnership Chicago.

When shoppers do buy eco/sustainable, more than half (57%) said they became aware of eco-attributes through product tags, while a third (37%) credited in-store information. Fewer than one in four use digital means to seek out eco/sustainable information through online search (23%) and brand websites (22%). 

Notably, a majority of shoppers (61%) expressed interest in an Apparel Sustainability Rating or Index. One consumer said, "It would be a tipping point if I were choosing between two products of similar price and quality or might persuade me to buy the more expensive product."

Diette points out that eco/organic food, personal care and cleaning products have already overcome this eco-awareness hurdle.  "We believe sustainable apparel may be next if the industry can pull together with a similar effort to better market the category," Diette said. 

The survey shows that shoppers seek eco-conscious apparel at mainstream retailers where they shop, suggesting those products represent an immediate growth opportunity for all apparel retailers, not just niche shops. "We believe there's a case to be made for more consistent and impactful eco-apparel product labeling and compelling point-of-sale signage.  A 'store-within-a-store' concept for this category could significantly increase shopper perception of availability as well, eliminating a major barrier to purchase," Diette said.

Also, the report revealed eco-conscious consumers aren't willing to trade fit or durability, and rank a number of "sustainable" factors at the same level of importance in their purchase decision, such as "fun" and "fashionable." With the growing availability of a range of stylish yet sustainable apparel options, today's shoppers can have it all – if they can find it.

Earlier this week, Nike announced a partnership to pursue a waterless dyeing process to reduce the environmental impact of fabric production.

Bart King is a PR consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications.



Don't forget retail packaging - those tags and tickets should be made from third-party verified, responsibly source post-consumer recycled fiber! Monadnock Paper Mills works with many clothing brands to green their packaging.

this is great news that

this is great news that people are catching on and caring about where, by whom and how their clothes are made. but equally important is how we care for those clothes once we get them home. there are a handful of eco-friendlier laundry soaps, of which our berryplus is one, that take better care of your clothes and your family, as well as the environment, because they are not chemical soups that leave residue in clothes or washing machines and therefore you and your family. hopefully, a tipping point is coming soon. thanks again for the great data in support of a great trend.

Recommendation engine for stylish green shopping

We are seeing the eco fashion market strengthen everyday. It’s so great to see an article like this one highlight the fact that mainstream consumers are also looking for sustainably made clothing.

Fashioning Change has built a recommendation engine that helps online shoppers make purchases from stylish eco-friendly and ethical brands that match the style and price points of the name brands they know they like and want. Shoppers tell us what name brand they like and our recommendation engine gives them stylish indie brand alternatives that have a similar style aesthetic and price point AND protect health, the Earth, and human rights.

To help shoppers easily find “green” brands with on-trend collections we also create interactive looks that feature the latest styles and that share details about how a garment has a positive impact on the world,

Shoppers can explore Fashioning Change at Thanks for bringing attention to the consumer demand for eco fashion.

Bart King is the principal and founder of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. Follow him @bart_king and on LinkedIn.

[Read more about Bart King]

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