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How European Fashion Brands Are Attracting Eco-Conscious Young Consumers

Jun 09 2022

Young consumers’ climate anxiety is shifting their shopping habits towards sustainability—and fashion brands are adopting these eco practices to keep up…


TL;DR

  • The majority of young Europeans have changed some behaviors to be more sustainable, including how they shop for fashion
  • Whether luxury or fast, fashion brands are launching resale and rental platforms to offer young consumers environmentally friendly ways to stay in style
  • Brands are also tapping recycled, carbon-neutral, and innovative new materials to create sustainable lines

YPulse has been tracking Gen Z and Millennials’ move to an eco-friendly lifestyle for a while now, and our recent WE Sustainability report confirms what we already suspected: young Europeans’ fears about climate change are influencing them to go green too. The majority of Gen Z and Millennials in Western Europe have changed some behavior to help fight climate change, including shopping secondhand and seeking more sustainable brands—especially in the fashion industry. In fact, we told you how Millennials’ secondhand shopping habits were starting to transform the luxury retail industry back in 2017, and in the years since, their interest in sustainable fashion has only accelerated.

In response, more and more major retailers are launching sustainable initiatives, whether by entering the secondhand market or experimenting with innovative, waste-free materials. From Prada to Primark, here are three ways brands are centering sustainability to appeal to a new generation of conscious consumers:

Image: ASOS

Secondhand and resale marketplaces

Resale sites like Depop, Poshmark, and ThredUp thrived during the pandemic as young consumers sought eco- and cost-conscious ways to stay in style. Now, Depop has gotten so big that it’s credited with defining Gen Z’s style, and ThredUp is making major moves into Western Europe as the market there expands. In fact, the resale market is already valued at $40 billion a year globally and is expected to grow 15-20% in the next five years.

In response, fast fashion to luxury brands are partnering with resale platforms. Asos, for instance, recently announced a trial partnership with Thrift+, which lets customers trade in their used clothes in exchange for Asos vouchers, and Dr. Martens is launching its “ReSouled” platform on Depop where customers can buy used boots at around 80% of the retail price as well as have their own boots refurbished. Meanwhile, Europe’s top rental platform Hurr is giving its retired pieces (another) second life by selling them on Depop, and even U.K.’s fan-favorite reality show Love Island dropped its fast-fashion sponsor in favor of eBay in the name of going green.

Other brands are cutting out the middleman to open their own secondhand marketplaces: popular fast-fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing created a Depop-like resale app where users can sell their own used clothing, sustainable German brand ARMEDANGELS opened its own resale program to allow customers to sell their items back to the brand in exchange for store credit, and Prada is rumored to be considering its own secondhand marketplace—to name just a few.

In less traditional moves, French luxury group LVMH—which owns Christian Dior, Fendi, Givenchy, and more—created Nona Source, the first online resale platform offering deadstock materials to other designers at a fraction of the cost, sparring the environment the extra waste. And Gucci introduced its Gucci Vault, which sells vintage Gucci pieces that are restored by emerging designers.

Image: Burberry x My Wardrobe HQ

Rental programs

Young consumers are also turning to clothing rental platforms as a way to reduce waste in the fashion supply chain—and the industry is booming. Now worth around $4.6 billion globally, established brands are also launching their own rental programs or partnering with existing ones. British retailer Marks & Spencer, for instance, recently tapped rental platform Highstreet to rent out 40 pieces of its current line, which retail for between £59 and £250, for as little as £13 for four days. Meanwhile, Burberry teamed up with My Wardrobe HQ to offer some of its iconic pieces as rentals, including its cult classic trenchcoat, which retails for £1600 and can now be rented for £170 a week. And Jean Paul Gaultier opened up its archives of 30,000-plus designs for consumers to rent (or purchase).

Image: Ganni

Sustainable materials

As brands move towards sustainability, many are turning their backs on unsustainable materials in favor of eco-friendly ones. French luxury fashion conglomerate Kering, for instance, recently announced that all of its brands (including Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta) will no longer use fur in an effort to align with young consumers’ values. Instead, brands are launching lines and products made of recycled, carbon-neutral, or otherwise innovative materials—or, in the case of Asos, all of the above. The fast-fashion brand recently released its second “circular design collection,” which features 40 products from things like upcycled cotton scraps, recycled brass, and more.

In the innovative materials department, Danish brand Ganni is also releasing several products made of its three “fabrics of the future,” which include a leather-like material made from mycelium, or the root structure of mushrooms. Stella McCartney and Hermès have also created mycelium-based lines and pieces, including McCartney’s handbag made of the material was the first mycelium ever to be presented on a runway. And Zara recently released a capsule collection composed of a silk-like material made from carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, recycled and zero-waste materials are also trending: Prada is using Econyl, a recycled nylon material made from abandoned fishing nets, Alexander McQueen is using recycled polyester, and Emporio Armani has used regenerated leather. And British luxury brand Mulberry recently released its Lily Zero line, which uses carbon-neutral leather.

As climate anxiety continues to influence young consumers’ shopping habits, it’s imperative that brands signal their sustainable solidarity, whether with mushroom leather or a collab with Depop.

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE Sustainability behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.

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