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These Fashion Brands Are Getting Serious About Sustainability

Young consumers are looking for eco-friendly ways to shop, and these five more major brands are starting to get sustainable…

For years, Gen Z and Millennials have been going zero waste and finding ways to live an eco-friendly lifestyle. Previously, we told you how Millennials’ secondhand shopping habits were starting to transform the luxury retail industry, and it made an even bigger impact last year. Despite the other major issues they’re facing today, climate change is still a priority for young consumers and it’s something that reflected in their buying habits and purchases too.

Buying from secondhand marketplaces is one way that they have chosen to shop green, and COVID hasn’t changed their interest in thrift shoppingit’s only accelerated it. Resale sites like Depop, Poshmark, and ThredUp have been thriving during the pandemicseeing an increase in traffic during the months of lockdown. ThredUp even recently rebranded their tagline to reflect this generation of “proud thrifters” and recognize how far the secondhand industry has come. YPulse’s 2020 fashion and style survey showed that 26% of 13-39-year-old females, and 31% of 20-38-year-old females, said that they had bought clothing from a resale site/app. We’ve noted before that as the resale economy heats up, more big retail brands are finding ways to tap into the trend—in the hopes of attracting back the Gen Z and Millennial shoppers they’re losing. 

This year, more and more major retailers are launching sustainable initiatives—via resale and more. Here’s how five are getting more serious about eco-friendly efforts:


Walmart’s Free Assembly
In May, Walmart they hopped onto the resale trend, teaming up with ThredUp to offer customers thousands of pre-owned items. But they’re wading even further into sustainable fashion: Earlier this month, they launched new in-house brand Free Assembly, which offers “wardrobe staples” made from organic cotton and recycled polyester. The messaging and marketing on makes sustainability central, telling visitors, “We’re out to build a brand that looks good, is priced great, & is committed to sustainability.” A banner highlights how their denim products are produced in “Fair Trade Certified™ Facilities That Protect Both the Environment & The Workers”  While the approach differs from brands like ASOS, Fashionista notes the efforts show that “every single tier of the fashion industry is starting to grasp that citizens value sustainability.” 

ASOS’s Circular Collection
Earlier this month, ASOS announced their “first ever circular collection” featuring 29 trendy pieces that include denim and knitwear that are “all about reducing, reusing and recycling.” Each item went through a “circle” cycle of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. The clothing includes, a “zero-waste top,” “fully recycled purple suit,” and “recyclable denim jacket.” A circular design, which has been “a holy grail” for the fashion industry in recent years, entails creating products that “never go out of use” or end up in a landfill, because they’re constantly being made into something new. ASOS is following in the footsteps of brands like Maggie Marilyn and Eileen Fisher who have adopted it for some time.

Madewell’s Recycled Shop
At the beginning of this month, Madewell introduced a number of sustainable initiatives, including a backend component that includes using “regenerated materials” for their cashmere products under a new production model using 70% recycled cashmere and 30% wool. They will also be launching 57 new styles, which will be certified by Fair Trade USA with part of the sales’ proceeds going toward a community fund for the factories where each product was produced. Come November, Madewell will also become the first retailer in the U.S. to have its products be Good Cashmere certified joining the ranks of other certified brands like Hugo Boss, Lacoste, and Madeline. To “tie everything together,” they are debuting the Recycled Shop, an online hub where the brand’s sustainable products will live. It will feature more than 70 items and join a list of other curated shops on the company’s site including the “similarly-themed” Do Well Shop, which debuted last spring and focuses on products made with an ethical view towards factory workers.

Levi’s SecondHand
This month, Levi’s teamed up Trove to launch Levi’s SecondHand, a “recommerce site” for previously worn jeans and denim jackets from the brand. Some of it will be “handpicked vintage,” while most will be directly from customers. Through the buyback and resale program, shoppers can buy pre-owned Levi’s pieces directly from the brand with prices ranging from $30 to $100. They can also earn gift cards worth $15 to $25 toward future purchases by reselling their old pieces. Previously, companies like Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and REI have worked with Trove on their resale initiatives. For pieces that are “too worn to be resold,” Levi’s collaborated with Renewcell, a company that recycles fibers from worn out clothes into new ones.

Gucci x The RealReal
Gucci has
teamed up with The RealReal to launch an ecommerce site for secondhand pieces from customers and the brand itself. While it is an unusual move from a high-end fashion company, more luxury brands have been working to “curry favor with younger consumers who flock to resale sites.” And the numbers show too: CNBC reported that luxury apparel and accessories consignment grew to a $24 billion market even before COVID hit, and has been projected to reach $51 billion by 2023, which has been driven by Gen Z and Millennials. As part of the partnership between the two, The RealReal is planting a tree for every Gucci product bought or sold, through One Tree Planted, a nonprofit working on global reforestation. However, this isn’t Gucci’s first go-around with sustainability either: Earlier this summer, they launched their first “experimental” line with “Gucci Off the Grid,” which offered accessories and streetwear made from recycled and regenerated fibers.