Story at a glance

  • More companies are experimenting with sustainable fashion lines as customers become more environmentally conscious.
  • But new research shows that while customers care about sustainability, they’re not always willing to pay more for it.
  • Age pays a factor in willingness to spend money for more environmentally-friendly clothing options.

Sustainable fashion is in, but so were studded belts and low-rise jeans once. How do we know if the environmentally-friendly approach to clothing is here to stay?  

A majority of adults consider sustainability practices when deciding where to shop for clothing and apparel, according to research by CivicScience.

More women, (64 percent of the total surveyed), than men (50 percent), place a premium on sustainable fashion, and the study draws a line to an emergence of sustainable brands such as Reformation which target millennial women in particular. 

But only 15 percent of respondents said sustainability practices were very important, compared to 42 percent that said it was only somewhat important. And that matters because sustainable fashion can be more expensive than fast fashion. Rachel Grant, founder and CEO of unisex luxury brand Bad Decision Adventure Club, told Bustle that meeting the higher standard of sustainability comes at a cost.

"The reason why it can get so expensive is because it takes low-impact organic crops to produce them. They are typically grown without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and can't be genetically modified," Grant told Bustle. "There are very strict federal guidelines to be certified organic which is why it's more expensive to mill organic or recycled fabrics — you're paying for conscious fashion."

Grant’s company, which uses hemp for its material, has also found that demand plays a key role. With less demand, companies have to make the fabrics to order, but as demand grows, they are able to mass produce their fabrics. 

And there is reason to be optimistic. CivicScience's research shows that more people think fashion brands will increasingly practice sustainability compared to those who think it’s a fad. Young people are more likely to not only care about sustainability but are also willing to pay more for it. So as young people’s influence and buying power grows in the future, there is reason to believe the sustainable fashion industry will as well. 

Published on Feb 11, 2020