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Sustainably Chic: When Luxury Fashion Goes Green

[RETHINK Retail] — Sustainable living is growing on today’s shoppers. And eco-friendly shopping is becoming the “norm” instead of something to search for online to find. Word-of-mouth and a change in attitudes can be thanked for this shopping evolution.

For women (81 percent) and men (80 percent), companies implementing programs to improve the environment are high priority. Although there is a slight difference for each generation, at least 65 percent or more believe eco-friendly options are “extremely” or “very” important.

  • Silent Generation (65 or older): 65 percent
  • Baby Boomers (ages 50–64): 72 percent
  • Generation X (ages 35–49): 79 percent
  • Generation Z (ages 15–20): 80 percent
  • Millennials (ages 21–34): 85 percent

And Rent the Runway is one of many to help consumers find ways to be more environmentally responsible. First, there are fashion rentals that are delivered directly to hotels to avoid extra packaging waste from online shipment boxes and travelers’ waste. And now Rent the Runway plans to launch a yet-to-be-disclosed brand made entirely out of recycled materials. As the go-to for rentals with 650 design partners, this gives rental customers the opportunity to wear “new” outfits without losing interest in them or donating their own abandoned clothing to organizations that end up ditching them in landfills anyway.

And while Rent the Runway is doing its part, both in and out of the luxury fashion industry, plenty more are brainstorming on ways to help.


How retailers are responding to the sustainable fashion industry

Fast fashion is helping people buy cheaper clothing in a faster time frame. And while it’s not always the best or highest quality option, consumers love a good bargain. However, they are also willing to pay upfront rates to find more environmentally friendly apparel options. In an IBM consumer 2020 research study, seven in 10 consumers are willing to pay a premium (up to 35 percent more) for transparency of how products are sourced and made. And this green attitude is transgenerational.

“We have always known that doing good is good for the planet, but now we know doing good is good for business too,” Marissa Pagnani McGowan, Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at PVH Corporation, said during a session at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show.

And one of those “good business” categories is luxury fashion, according to a Bloomberg report. Multiple names in the who’s who world of luxury fashion are reevaluating how they make their clothing and present it to the world.


  • Giorgio Armani SpA and Versace have discontinued the use of fur.
  • Burberry Group Plc vowed not to destroy unsold stock, which avoids unwanted products ending up in bargain bins.
  • In July 2019, LVMH (the owner of Louis Vuitton), Christian Dior and Dom Perignon Champagne bought a stake in Stella McCartney’s fashion label, which is known for working with sustainable materials such as biodegradable shoe soles.
  • Prada SpA plans to source all of its nylon accessories from recycled materials, including ocean waste, by the end of 2021.
  • François-Henri Pinault (French billionaire businessman, and chairman and CEO of Kering) is prioritizing his bands so fashion display looks are produced from organic cotton, traceable leather skins or recycled plastic.


While fast fashion often gets blamed for apparel waste—and justifiably so—these actions above prove that luxury brands have their own seller concerns to work through.


Encouraging retailers to promote their original eco-friendly perks

Of course, there are other ways for retailers to encourage consumers to shop green. But some consumers may not even realize they’re already doing so, and it’s up to retailers to show them how to do so.


Locally based companies can encourage brick-and-mortar purchases instead of online purchases. Local boutiques and retailers can educate their consumers that they reduce potentially damaging gases in the air and don’t waste natural resources. When customers by locally made or harvested products instead of overseas products, by default, they’re helping to avoid excess shipping wastes.


Buy in bulk or all at once. Costco has proven to be Amazon-proof and profitable because shoppers are learning that they save money by buying items in bulk. This means less individual waste from buying smaller versions of certain items year-round. Additionally, Amazon customers can choose to only ship items when they’re all available instead of a few here and there, just so they get them quicker.


Market second-hand clothing in stores. Macy’s is already on the right track with their business move partnering up with thredUP. Gently used second-hand clothing gives abandoned clothing a second chance at life on a new person.


Encourage shoppers to use reusable and heavy-duty bags. Anytime customers can save money, they’ll almost always pay attention. Whole Foods Market gives $0.10 credit for each bag used. Target gives $0.05 credits for each bag used. Other stores provide heavy-duty bags that are automatically easier to reuse for home needs or additional grocery visits. Doing away with flimsy plastic bags goes a long way for grocers. And as much as it may be an initial nuisance for consumers who aren’t used to something new, eventually they get used to local taxes on plastic bags and plastic bag bans, too.


The Takeaway:

While consumers may say they want to have a greener shopping experience, they have to know how to get it first. If both companies and consumers can work together to share the responsibility of making their shopping experience more environmentally friendly, it’s a win-win for the planet and them too.