Are Purpose-Driven Clothing Brands Here to Stay?

Posted on Saturday, 05 Mar 2016

I have always enjoyed quality things that gets better with age. My Filson bags that I bring with me when I visit different clients across the world and speak at conferences, have travelled many miles. I like how the ages gracefully and have developed their own distinct patina. After reading the article The Power of Buying Less by Buying Better I have realized that I'm part of a bigger consumer trend. According to the article a lot of clothing retailers are acknowledging consumer's growing desire to buy goods that lasts. 

Elizabeth Cline, the author of the article The Power of Buying Less by Buying Better,  argue that we are seeing this trend growing stronger because consumers have become increasingly tired of hearing about mainstream fashions bad behaviour (check out the movie The True Cost). And according to a survey from Nielsen, consumers are becoming more willing to pay a premium for goods and services from companies that are committed to social and environmental issues. Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability at Nielsen, said that: "consumers around the world are saying loud and clear that a brand’s social purpose is among the factors that influence purchase decisions". 

"Consumers around the world are saying loud and clear that a brand’s social purpose is among the factors that influence purchase decisions."

As a result more and more consumers have started to actively look for brands that focus on quality and sustainability. The British brand Private White VC is one of those brands, they source many of their fabrics, trims and components locally and the garments are made in their factory in Manchester. 

Another interesting example of a company that's focusing on quality and sustainability is British fashion entrepeneur Tom Cridland's business and his project The 30 Year Sweatshirt. Their sweatshirts/pullovers are handmade in Portugal with organic cotton. With this project Cridland wants to prove that there is a market for durable clothing. At the same time he wants encourage sustainable shopping habits among young people. In the article Cline reported that celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio have been spotted wearing garments from Tom Cridland. When the 41 year old actor won his well-deserved Oscar on February 28 he to drew attention away from himself and talked about climate change which is an issue that's very close to his heart. You can watch his acceptance speech here.

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"Buy less, choose well" is a famous quote by the British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood who have become known for her strong ecological beliefs. According to The Guardian Westwood said that communicating climate change have become one of her top priorities.

In San Francisco there is an online retailer called Cuyana who also focus on selling garments that last. Their collection comprise of elegant and simple wardrobe essentials that are made of exclusive and natural fabrics which are sourced from Argentina, Italy, Spain and Scotland. The co-founder, Karla Gallardo, said that selling quality and ethically produced products is about building very strong relationships. 

The co-founder, Karla Gallardo, said that selling quality and ethically produced products is about building very strong relationships

Today's consumer can with the help of apps like Glia secure that they put their money where their heart is, or in other words vote with their dollars. The app has an advanced algorithm that looks at the issues that you care about and then checks how well businesses support the same values. 

Glia - An Introduction from Glia on Vimeo.

I believe that the demand for sustainable and ethically produced products will grow even more in the future. I also think that more consumers will be more inclined to shop from brands like Tom Crindland and Filson that produces products that are made to last. And as a result of this development I believe that purpose-driven brands will become increasingly popular. 

Furthermore I believe that especially younger consumers will spend more of their income on experiences like concerts, museums, theatre-tickets and travel. Already today we are seeing that Millennials are prioritizing access over ownership. From this we can conclude that the clothing and retail industry are facing big challenges ahead.  First of all clothing brands needs to adress these changing consumer attitudes and make sure that they are effeciently communicating their brand's social purpose. Secondly, the bricks and mortar retail industry need to focus on creating memorable and seamless experiences that appeal to Millennials. Online retailers on the other hand needs to show that they have an analogue soul. They can do this by publishing content that's helpful and inspiring - a good example of an online retailer that have done this really well is Mr Porter

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