women consumers

Getting Authentic about Brand Authenticity

In recent years, the language of ‘sustainability’ has been co-opted by some brands in order to make themselves relevant.

When Megan Thee Stallion told us about “HOT GIRL SUMMER,” she was referencing more than just a season; she was undoubtedly referring to climate change. Extreme weather in recent years has spurred serious conversations about how individuals and brands can combat the crisis. The fashion industry has been at the forefront of these conversations, pioneering sustainability efforts—at least, that’s been the intention.

By Jack Bedwani, CEO, New Moon

In the world of fashion, ‘sustainability’ was once something radical brands undertook to shake up the industry and change the trajectory of climate change, from using recycled materials to eco-friendly manufacturing. However, in recent years, the language of ‘sustainability’ has been co-opted by brands in order to make themselves relevant, effectively setting off waves of ‘greenwashing’: an advertising spin that allows brands to appear sustainable without actually putting in the work. Still, consumers have taken to fighting greenwashing, even suing retail giant for its false advertising around its ‘Conscious Collection’.

H&M Sued Over Greenwashing

H&M isn’t the only brand with a slightly-shady ‘eco-friendly’ collection; Boohoo recently announced a new ‘sustainable’ line with Kourtney Kardashian as its ambassador, a contrast to ASOS quietly removing its ‘responsible edit’ from its site. These sorts of collections feel like an overdone idea, though; brands are steadily moving towards secondhand marketplaces, tapping into Gen Z’s penchant for thrifiting and the surging resale market.

Pretty Little Thing launched their own marketplace just last week, with creative director Molly-Mae Hague calling the move disruptive (which is laughable, considering every other secondhand marketplace), joining a spate of brands, from fast-fashion to luxury, with resale platforms. While this circular economy is undeniably a step towards a more sustainable future and also a way for brands to shine a spotlight on their own archives, it doesn’t get to the root of the problem: excessive consumption.

Alec Leach, former style editor of High Snobiety, sustainability consultant, and the mind behind the IG FUTURE DUST, recently released a slim manifesto on overconsumption and fashion, The World Is On Fire But We’re Still Buying Shoes. In it, he traces a journey towards a better working relationship with fashion, combining KonMarie philosophies with Marxist terminology to give readers a new framework to think through purchases.

“We need to reconnect with the reality of our clothing—how useful, wearable, and long-lasting something is, and most importantly, how good it makes you feel.”

This sense of connection is absent in marketplaces like PLT’s, which feeds into the large apparatus of fast fashion. However, there are brands whose resale platforms feel less like a promotional tool and more a continuation of loving a piece. PANGAIA, Patagonia, and GANNI, for example, are all brands that eschew ‘sustainability’ as a buzzword and practice what they preach. PANGAIA, which famously calls themselves a material science company rather than a sustainable brand, has digital passports for each of its pieces, allowing consumers to trace the journey of their items as they move through the circular economy. Meanwhile, Patagonia and GANNI host their own resale platforms, complete with care tips and repair tutorials to help consumers extend the life of their products.

This thread of repairing seems to be the next, true wave of sustainability in the fashion sphere. Platforms like Fixing Fashion and The Seam are providing tools alongside brands like Patagonia, giving consumers an additional sense of agency over their clothing. TikTok users, especially those SewTok, are flooding FYPs with their tutorials, with the #SewTok and #clothingrepair hashtags garnering ~400M views. The radical act of repairing clothing also feels closely aligned to Leach’s manifesto: namely, that we should have a relationship with the fashion in our lives, that those relationships require work, and that while individually we may not solve climate change, we can do better and be better for it—and that we should be able to demand brands do the same.

As September sees the rollout of Fashion Week across the four major fashion hubs, we’ll be keeping an eye out for brands that are radically transparent and actively fostering a community of consumers who are unafraid to be critical in service of shaping the brands they align with and love. To chat sustainability with us, drop us a line!

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