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Saturday, 05 September 2009

Price only plays a secondary role when purchasing clothes and consumers are willing to pay a premium for ethical fashion. This is one of the outcomes of a recent study conducted by Karin Schreier from the University of St. Gallen and myself. The Facebook survey amongst 350 students from three Swiss universities, further revealed that consumers weigh social considerations heavier than environmental concerns when buying clothing. But above all, style color and quality are critical and will be looked at first in the decision making process. These outcomes are similar to findings of other studies in the UK, Germany and the US.

Other outcomes are that most people still don't consider eco design as stylish and they are surprised to find out that there are so many fashionable ethical brands on the market. To them, ethical fashion is rarely available and information is lacking. Switzerland is unique in the sense that major supermarket chains sell organic cotton and bamboo fashion products. But according to the students, buying clothes in the supermarket is something they never consider doing. And while the bio and fair-trade labeling for food in these supermarkets work very well, such labels for clothing are less likely to have an impact on purchase decision.

Although the group of people buying ethical fashion is relatively small, most consumers have strong positive attitudes towards this product. Unfortunately they know too little about it and are not likely to go out and search for information either. The best ways to inform them is through on-the-product-labels, in-store-posters, TV advertising and awareness campaigns such as the Helvetas campaign 'Fragen Sie auch bei T-shirts nach bio'. Newspapers, magazines and companies' homepages are perceived as less effective in educating consumers about ethical fashion.

What is the message for our field? That we have to work harder in raising awareness amongst consumers. That we need to explore innovative ways to brand, market and sell our products. That we don't need to be shy in showing off what beautiful brands are out there. And that we should never forget the underlying motivations of what goes on behind style. Because in the end, consumers will pay the price.

The other studies conducted in the UK, Germany and the US have been done by:
Dickson, M.A. (2005) Identifying and Profiling Apparel Label Users. In R. Harrison, T. Newholm & D. Shaw (Eds.) The Ethical Consumer (pp. 155-171). London: SAGE Publications.
Joergens, C. (2006) Ethical fashion: myth or future trend? Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 3, pp. 360-371.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Great Article!!!
written by Avendano-ecostyle, September 10, 2009
Yes I think that style, colour and cut is what catches the eye of the consumer. However, with so many choices, I think that the social and environmental position of the garment helps to add a couple of seconds to our 15 second attention span. Keeping people informed about the environment and social issues of fashion is the best way to create change in consumer attitude.


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