Amplifying The Voice of Sustainable Fashion Labels
It’s understandable if you didn’t - there’s a lot of noise out there. Everyone’s talking about going sustainable, particularly in fashion. As consumers become more aware of climate change, brands are also trying to create clothing that cause less harm to the planet. A McKinsey study released in October last year reported that online searches for “sustainable fashion” tripled between 2016 and 2019. In response, it found that more than 50% of the industry players want at least half of their products to be made with sustainable materials by 2025.
While the industry is still a long way from meeting that agenda, there’s quite some conversation being generated around it. We’re seeing brand campaigns about being eco-friendly rolling out at quite a pace - even as concerns about greenwashing increase. When everyone’s proclaiming their love for the environment, how can brands that are truly dedicated to being sustainable, establish trust and ensure that they’re heard?
1. Avoiding small talk.
Communication only focused on labels like ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘slow fashion’ can end up being vague. They don’t tell the world how exactly the brand creates value. No Nasties in India does a great job of sharing information with their customers in this regard. Their website breaks down how their processes help create organic clothing which also supports free-trade. Like Patagonia in America, they share data about how they’re saving on energy, with the entire report easily accessible. No Nasties takes it a step further using well-formatted content with icons and visuals that stay in your memory. In 2018 alone, they had website visitors from over 200 countries, and orders from around 61.
Being transparent about the lifecycle of the product as well as the brand’s larger goals is vital for customers who are trying to be more conscious of what they buy. We also need to see more of this on social media, where the larger dialogue is taking place, without it being restricted to the company’s about page.
2. Talking about it differently - diversifying content formats
Just like dressing styles, content formats should be mixed and matched. It’s an age-old adage, but with the fashion marketing revolution that Instagram ushered in, it seems to have been forgotten. Since sustainable fashion is a part of a larger lifestyle about being mindful of our choices, these ideas need to be addressed in all the different platforms that customers use as a part of daily routine.
Fast fashion brands like Burberry, for example, have extended their engagement strategies to Tiktok. In another case, an influencer’s light-hearted clip of models at Milan Fashion Week last month garnered over a staggering 3 million likes. Vogue India’s also a classic reference for its lifestyle content in various formats on Instagram and Youtube. Apps are an efficient tool to encourage making sustainable living a habit - Finery, a British label, created a styling and wardrobe inventory app that helps customers style outfits with what they already have. It subtly encouraged avoiding more purchase for the sake of a new look.
3. “We’re in this together.”
Making lifestyle changes requires support and education. When brands establish that they’re there for their customers and build a vibrant community where knowledge sharing takes place, it can create a competitive advantage. A recent Harvard Business Review article proposes that it helps attract new customers and increases retention. Not to mention there’s an extraordinary feeling of support. This can be observed from the many communities such as Organic Terrace Gardening on Facebook. Environmentally conscious stores can facilitate such a sense of community both online and offline, as reStore Chennai, an organic grocery store, does with frequent workshops about alternative living. Creating an online sharing space is even more significant for customers in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, who lack access to physical shopping experiences with such brands. To ensure digital engagement, language needs to be simple and have clear, specific CTAs.
When it comes down to it, customers noticing what brands say is quite similar to how likely you were to listen to a literature lecture in college. Did it offer you insight, or was it the same old drivel about how the author made the curtains blue because the character was depressed*? Did the professor offer you the same kind of photocopied summaries, or would they use the chalkboard, brilliant references from other books and maybe the odd movie once in a while? And last but not least, did you feel like you belonged somewhere as they talked about the character’s similar struggles with identity?
If not, you ended up sleeping through despite being in the front row - and that’s an audience no brand would want to sustain.
*Analogy credits to the proverbial meme