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In Youth we Learn, in Age we Understand: Why Sustainability in Fashion is Not Just the Responsibility of Today’s Youth

@Genz 123 Add to collection

While Gen Z is an easy target market for trendy sustainably sourced fashion, in reality, fashion brands need to expand their horizons writes Fox & Hare

In Youth we Learn, in Age we Understand: Why Sustainability in Fashion is Not Just the Responsibility of Today’s Youth

Image credit: Patagonia Worn Wear Program 

The fashion industry is the third most polluting industry in the world, accounting for more than 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 20% of global water waste

By 2030, both of these figures are predicted to reach 50%, with total waste expected to hit 148 million tonnes globally.  

Thankfully, increased awareness of the issues at hand means that more companies and consumers are becoming committed to sustainability. 

But for responsible consumerism to have a long-term positive impact, the message brands push must not be confined to one demographic. 

In this article, we’ll look at why fashion’s eco-consumerism needs to engage audiences of all ages to encourage excitement and commitment to wider systemic change.

Cost matters

As digital-first natives, Gen Z (aged 18 to 24) have grown up with more access to information from more sources than ever before. They’re wise to important topics and are more inclined to outwardly support sustainable and industry-led initiatives on social media.  

Yet research shows an interesting disconnect between those expressing support online and actively investing in products that promote slower fashion.

The main reason for this disconnect?


65% of British Gen Z-ers reveal price is vital to them when buying clothes. Couple this with the fact that they’re drawn to fast fashion to be able to imitate influencers’ style at a fraction of the price of luxury goods and you have a chain that’s hard to break. This mindset ultimately dissuades Gen Z-ers from investing in more sustainable items. 

Slower fashion is naturally more expensive because production processes are more meticulous, using more ethically sourced materials and manufactured in conditions that are fairer to garment workers.

Higher investment is required to justify each step of the supply chain to be paid adequately. 

Therefore, it makes sense to target consumers who have grown up without the same access to information as Gen Z-ers but now fall within a demographic that has disposable income. 

Middle-aged and older audiences are more likely to be able to afford sustainable clothing at its current price point. With higher self-sufficient salaries, their purchasing behaviours are conducted over a longer life-cycle, with more care and attention taken as to which pieces of clothing they invest in.  

With purchasing power as a key measure of advocacy, including these audiences can help brands progress towards more sustainable practices within their outreach. This means they’re not solely relying on their younger counterparts, simply because they appear to be more visible advocates of the revolution.

Sustainability starts in the home

According to Fast Company, 'cross-generational consumers' are responsible for the recent change in attitudes and behaviours towards more conscious consumption. 

Given the amount of time we spend in rooms where waste is created (i.e. the kitchen or bathroom), sustainable fashion goes against what we’re used to. But changing our clothing consumption habits can be easier if other habits are in place. 

Actionable guides like Country Life’s sustainability maps and Vogue’s planet-saving tips are great for getting their older audiences to think about living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. 

Making changes in one room or one aspect of your life can trigger a domino effect that spreads across all forms of personal consumption, from food and cleaning products to fashion.

The future of clothes shopping 

Patagonia Worn Wear Program

Of course, encouraging consumers to adopt sustainable fashion can only work if the fashion brands themselves are doing their bit. 

Pleasingly, a growing number of them are.  

Take Patagonia, for example, which recently launched a second-hand store where customers can buy and trade preloved Patagonia-branded clothing. 

Or fashion rental platforms like HURR or MyWardrobeHQ which lets women lend and rent on-trend outfits from leading brands. 

Or the growing number of fashion subscription services such as Stitch Fix and A Curated Thrift which deliver a set number of items to customers’ doorsteps for a fixed price, providing a more personalised retail experience that offers customers more value for their purchase.  

With a 2020 YouGov survey revealing that “six in ten women (59%) aged between 25 and 34 [...] and a third of women over 55 (33%)” would be interested in trialling this service if run by a brand they were familiar with, subscription services offer a long term solution for brands looking away to move away from fast fashion.

These initiatives show innovation is there. And the information is there. 

What the sustainable fashion revolution needs now is to rally the right kind of consumer and involve the older generation at the forefront. This way, it can have the impact that’s needed at the speed of progress that’s required.

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Fox & Hare, Fri, 05 Mar 2021 15:42:36 GMT