Towards a new type of fashion consumer
4 October, 2012
Experts in consumer tendencies point to a change in preferences and purchasing patterns in the market. Concepts like sustainability, ecology and solidarity will become increasingly linked to fashion brands, both the established and recently created.
“It seemed that there was a dichotomy between the concepts of ecology and fashion. Furthermore, consumers always had to pay a toll if they wanted a garment to be ecological,” says Carmen Tous, founding partner of Ecoology. The brand has been in existence for a little over a year and a half and was born of a desire to bring ecological, sustainable fashion to the average consumer via the Internet. “The reason we don’t have shops is that we want to reach as many people as possible without making the finished product any more expensive. We sell everything over the Internet,” says Tous. Until recently, she had worked in the world of finance and the stock exchange, but in 2010, right in the middle of the recession, she decided, with her partner Eva García, to launch the Ecoology fashion brand. Both of them are certain that “we have to strive for a type of clothes that will stand the test of time in the wardrobe.”
This point of view is in line with the fact that, according to a study carried out by the Esade business school, 84% of Spanish consumers think that clothes should last longer than they do. What is more, 84% of Spanish consumers, according to the same survey, think that companies should lead the way towards a change to more sustainable products. These are figures which have not gone unnoticed by enterprising business people or by consolidated fashion companies who already have a place in the market. In fact, some companies are already promoting sustainability, ecology or solidarity as the main attributes of their products.
Among the most pioneering of these is Teixidors, which was founded in 1983. Almost 30 years ago, they realized that their project, a cooperative including people with learning difficulties, “only made sense if it was sustainable and ecological.” For this reason, on the one hand, all their products are woven by hand and on the other, as Juan Ruiz, manager of Teixidors, points out, “we look for suppliers who can guarantee the traceability and sustainablility of production processes.” “We choose those that are nearest to us and we try to ensure that the relationships with them are established on a footing of co-responsibility and equality. That’s the way we see sustainable fashion,” says Ruiz.
Beyond the individual purchase
“We are moving towards a society where consumers’ decisions involve social and collective considerations. Therefore, individual decisions to make a purchase will be taken bearing in mind social repercussions,” says Esade lecturer Josep Maria Galí, who headed the study published by Esade titled The New Consumer: Profound Changes and Business Opportunities. The project, which surveyed 3,500 people from 7 different countries, including France, China and the United States, presents a diagnosis of the consumer of the future and highlights the opportunities which are opening up for businesses thanks to new consumer demands.
Following these market trends, in the autumn, Teixidors is bringing out its first collection of clothing accessories for women. Until now, they had produced mainly household textiles. “We want to tap into a differentiated sales channel and we know that there is great demand on the international market,” says Antonia Bové, sales manager of Teixidors. Six years ago, 10% of their production was exported; the figure is now 52%. Due to the current economic situation, they have stepped on the gas as regards internationalization and “the results are very good.”
Foreign markets are also a priority for Ecoology, who tell us that “it’s still a great challenge to be able to guarantee that the raw materials used to make sustainable fashion fulfil all the requirements.” “You can’t have a piece of clothing that is 100% ecological. For example, the thread has to be mixed with nylon if you don’t want it to break and a zip is what it is. We work within a range of 80% – 90% certified ecological garments,” says Carmen Tous.
For Antonia Bové of Teixidors, to talk of ecological and sustainable fashion is to think about such aspects as whether the farmer washes his sheep with suitable products or whether he cares for them when they are ill. “To be able to say that a garment is ecological, we have to look at its origins. So if we can, we buy our wool direct from the producer and we process it. That way, we guarantee the process,” says Bové.
At Ecoology, they are aware that although it is still difficult to be totally certain that cloth meets all sustainability standards, “the situation is changing greatly.” “At fairs such as Première vision there is an ever increasing variety of organic, sustainable textiles on offer, which makes it easier to improve our range of designs and guarantee our brand values,” explains Carmen Tous.
“The economic model which was based on growth by doing the same thing as previously, but more intensively, is too expensive and unsustainable,” says Professor Galí. “In addition to sending out a message to society and creating a company which is environmentally friendly, we believe that we are creating a brand with a future, we are writing the future of fashion consumption,” adds Tous.
At Teixidors, they are also aware of the opportunity created by the growth of these values in the marketplace and stress that it is especially important that “they should not be a fashion, but an attitude.” “Fashions come and go, attitudes remain,” says Bové.