Published on February 9, 2023, at 9:17 a.m.
by Lauren Bingham.
The clothes we wear can speak volumes without saying a single word. Whether attempting to make a fashion statement or sticking to what style fits you best, every outfit you wear communicates a message. I believe it goes so much deeper than that in society today.
Without realizing it, most of us even shop for certain brands because we identify with their style or the message that they are trying to convey. It becomes not only about style but who we as people want to associate ourselves with. This gives the fashion industry much to work with when it comes to developing consumer relationships.
A new perspective on clothing purchases
Sustainable, fair-trade clothing brands create relationships with consumers in the same way, minus the unethical labor conditions, harmful carbon emissions or suspiciously cheap garments.
The way I curate my closet changed when I learned that my favorite pair of jeans was most likely made by an underage girl across the globe, receiving little to no pay for her labor. This is when I made the commitment to shop small and shop sustainably.
Over time, I took on sustainable clothing brands as part of my personality and a reflection of how I wanted others to perceive me. My newfound favorite clothing brands did an outstanding job of developing me into a loyal consumer because of the sustainability mission they invited me to join.
Sustainable fashion’s invitation to the consumer
Shopping sustainably offers the average consumer not only the ability to shop for what style fits them best but also accept a call to action. Everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something, and what better strategy than offering ways to better the Earth alongside a fashionable clothing brand?
We can all agree, hopefully, that taking care of the Earth is everyone’s responsibility. However, in order to see big steps toward change, it starts with bringing to light how much the world’s largest corporations mass-produce at one time.
It’s become normal to see an Instagram feed full of brands like Zara and H&M promoting their commitment to reducing waste and conserving water but are still producing new clothing lines alarmingly often. These posts resonate with oblivious consumers, but only because the brand has done an excellent job at keeping things new and fresh, with a side of supposed social responsibility.
A brand that can do both
Reformation, headquartered in Los Angeles, California, is a great example of a sustainable brand with a loyal consumer base. Every article of clothing is made locally with sustainable materials by employees.
The company also takes the time to share pictures and videos of employees making the clothes, showcasing just how much effort is put into one article of clothing. This is an excellent way to be transparent with consumers so that there is a level of trust between them and the brand.
Despite its strong consumer loyalty, Reformation also receives backlash for how expensive its clothing is from the outside looking in. As a brand, its response to this criticism is to educate those who may not know why its clothing costs more. The public then gets to see a brand that promotes slow fashion, made with quality fabrics under ethical working conditions. The relationship between the brand and its customers looks different here — not giving the consumer the cheapest option in order to keep ethics and industry reform at the center of the entire brand.
A call to action for big brands
In communication fields, we are constantly learning about the importance of ethics and consumer relationships. These standards led me to admire how sustainable brands reach their target market and make a profit without sacrificing company morality. In fact, sustainable brands have established a loyal consumer base of people — such as myself — who latch onto their principles and become passionate about them, as well.
Fashion brands like Zara, H&M and Shein should step aside and learn a valuable PR lesson from fair trade brands like Patagonia and Reformation. Consumer relationships are essential to the vitality of a brand, but not at the expense of poor labor conditions, unfair wages or harm to the Earth. Perhaps consumer relationships should be established through the invitation to join in on something bigger than themselves.