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Model Thinking: The Economic Benefits of Eco Fashion

After speaking to many of the 28 Eco Designers at London Fashion Week, I felt the 'Slow Fashion' movement could benefit from publicity as money saving for individuals - buying fewer clothes, perhaps at slightly higher prices, that last much longer and therefore save people money in the long term.

Many of the 28 Eco Designers within the Estethica Exhibition at London Fashion Week mentioned the term ‘slow fashion’ during our impromptu interviews. The slow fashion movement aims to slow down the fast turnover of clothing in the retail industry, reducing clothing waste to landfill, and moving towards eco friendly clothing that lasts more than one or two fashion seasons. Men’s suits are a good example of slow fashion; you can wear the same smart jacket 15 times and remain fashionable, as long as you wash it occasionally.

catwalk_model_100.gifIf there’s one thing I’ve learned from my experience in the environmental sector, it is to never forget the accepted and astonishingly simple model of sustainability. That model is portrayed by 3 interlinking ‘Olympic’ circles of sustainability: Environmental, Economic and Social. The central area where these 3 circles interlink is where true sustainability occurs. I’m yet to find an example where this model of thinking is not helpful.

I’d say the Eco Designers are all pretty sorted on the Environmental circle. Their eco clothing features organic cotton, recycled and up-cycled materials, pesticides free, etc. On the Social circle, a few of them quite rightly said the phrase ‘Fashion First’ – there’s no point being eco if no one wants to buy their clothes to look good for social occasions.

But what about the Economic circle? While some of the designers highlighted that slow fashion can save consumers money in the long term, my feeling was that this was not emphasised enough in their advertising strategies. Perhaps it’s the very labels eco, ethical or sustainable fashion themselves. These terms appeal to an altruistic sensibility that may make existing consumers feel good about wearing their clothes, but not necessarily reach new audiences concerned with economic self preservation during a recession.

If PR based on eco, ethical or sustainable fashion is preaching to the converted, how do they reach new customers?

As an environmentalist I’ve learnt to emphasise the economic and social benefits more than the environmental. Try emphasising your clothes as durable in your advertising, saving people money because they won’t need to buy new ones next year. If you make full use of all waste materials, try advertising this as efficiency and a means of keeping your costs low. If your materials are sourced within the UK, that’s a benefit primarily to the consumer who doesn’t have to ultimately foot the bill for the ‘fashion miles’ of flying materials around the world; the secondary benefit is reduced climate change.

Some of the designers were already using this model in their PR. I hope more Eco Designers benefit from this model of thinking. 

Atul Srivastava
Eco Expert
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