Millennials care about sustainability. Whether it’s in the fashion industry, the food industry or in virtually every other arena of consumption, Millennials prefer sustainable, ethically sourced products that make us feel good about paying for them. We’ve heard a lot about organic farming and renewable energy, but it’s the sustainable fashion industry that could lead the next wave of innovation.
Generational values have forced the hand of long-standing institutions. One recent example of this is Balenciaga’s decision to stop using fur in all products. Given the cultural cachet that animal rights movements and veganism hold in the modern age, this was a wise move. Previously seen as something luxurious and decadent, fur has come to be associated with cruelty and the wanton killing of animals, especially among younger people.
Companies are learning that to keep Millennials buying, you have to commit to their values. According to a Nielsen study, Millennials want to buy sustainably sourced products. This represents a major opportunity for any company that will adapt to the ethics of their consumers to build brand loyalty.
So what’s next for sustainable fashion?
Is it ethical?
Large portions of the fashion industry (particularly fast fashion retail) essentially function on underpaid sweatshop labor and have done so for years. In many cases, countries with little regulatory oversight produce clothes, and child labor is not uncommon.
As a generation, we not only care about preserving the environment and the well-being of animals, we also believe that workers should be treated fairly. We actually hold strong support for unions across the political spectrum. We need to speak out and demand better labor practices for those who produce the clothes we wear.
Millennials are aware of what brands do. We prefer companies that align with our values, and we vote with our wallets. The future of fashion could be a bright place for companies that use recycled textiles or eco-friendly dye, ensure fair labor practices down the entire supply chain and reach out to consumers to show they genuinely care about the environment and its inhabitants. Or it could be a place where landfills pile up, water is full of toxins and workers are mistreated.
It’s up to the Millennial generation to use their spending influence over companies to advocate for sustainability in all areas of production. Companies can (and hopefully will) do more to support cruelty-free, sustainable fashion. Sure it’s a ploy to appeal to consumers, but Millennials will appreciate it nonetheless.
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