A Closet Refresh: Sustainability Through Fashion

Trends / Sustainability
Klaus Vedfelt
Samuel Malave Jr
Feb 22, 2024
The Creative Insights team has uncovered plenty of visual insights regarding sustainability: From the importance of reusable cups to the evolution of public transit to the effects of eco‑anxiety. As the conversation around environmentally conscious living evolves, so does the need to investigate the visual implications of those changes. In the past year alone, consumers have proven that they pay special attention to how fashion brands are employing sustainable practices and so it is imperative to understand what visual choices can be made to communicate this.1
Importance of circularity
In our previous coverage of circularity, we spoke about how consumers are engaging with the act of repurposing, specifically through the actions of reusing or purchasing second‑hand instead of buying new. Since then, not much has changed: VisualGPS research shows that nearly 4 in 10 Americans still say they purchase second‑hand yet only 1% of visuals related to consumerism and retail focus on thrifting or upcycled clothing. What has changed is the emergence of research speaking to the rising pressure on brands to prove that they are committed to sustainability. New VisualGPS results show us that in 2023, 71% of US consumers believe it is important that a company has ESG guidelines and practices in place to show consumers they care about other things besides profit. It is still imperative that brands demonstrate their corporate commitment to sustainability, and circularity (by way of reusing and repurposing clothing) can still be a conduit through which to express a corporate commitment to sustainability.
Closet refresh
Thrifting is just one way people use clothes to express their beliefs; it goes a step further. Beyond the method by which clothes are acquired, how they’re worn plays a part in what people think about the state of the world around them. As the world gets warmer,2 fashion brands will have to adapt to consumer sensibilities around the changing climate, especially since younger generations are so worried about the future of our planet—65% of Gen Z consumers feel it is likely the planet will become inhabitable due to climate change. Brands like Claudent are beginning to lean into this awareness by creating clothes with a higher Ultraviolet Protection Factor: Clothes that are denser in construction (like windbreakers) and darker/more saturated in color to protect against the sun’s UV rays.3 As innovations like these become more common, we’d expect brands to mimic them in their visual choices, but that isn’t the case yet. Right now, despite young adults making up just over 50% of top visuals of people wearing visible layers outdoors, none of those specifically highlight the adding or removing of those layers. Further more, only about 25% of top visuals of people wearing visible layers outdoors feature those darker colors that protect against UV rays and only 3% feature dense clothing like windbreakers.

Since only 2% of Gen Z believes that there is nothing individuals can do to live more sustainably, brands should be keen to represent the individual actions that folks take to live in our ever‑changing world.
[1] NPR
[2] The Washington Post
[3] Claudent

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