Sustainable Fashion Is Finding a Hot Pocket: European Millennials

If marketers haven’t been able to crack the code of millennial shopping habits, it hasn’t been for lack of trying.

But the majority of Europeans aged 18 to 30, at least, seem to lean toward greener fashion. They’re willing to hand over extra money for it, too.

Indeed, of the 283 mostly young adults polled across seven European countries by the University of Applied Sciences of Jyväskylä on behalf of Spinnova, a Finnish eco-textile producer, 62% said they would pay more for a sustainable item of clothing.

“This is a great result, considering that the respondents are mostly young people [who] don’t have a lot of spending power,” Spinnova noted in a report.

While 54% of respondents said they would only pay a sustainability “premium” of 20% or less — meaning some of them would rather not fork out more at all — as many as 41% said they would be amenable to a 20% to 30% hike in price.

“In any case, there is an emerging determination to make more sustainable choices. This convinces someone like us, developing sustainable alternatives, and brands who are investing time and money in comprehensive sustainability programs,” said Janne Poranen, the company’s CEO, in a statement. “Our mission is also meaningful to the consumer.”

His assertion bore out elsewhere: Given only the briefest of introductions to Spinnova, 52% of those polled said they would be interested in its mechanically processed cellulose-based fiber, which can derive from agricultural waste, when it becomes available.

But the poll also revealed a gaping divide between the desire of millennials to buy better and their ability to do so. For instance, while 51% of respondents expressed interest in sustainable clothes, only 15% knew of brands or shops where they could be purchased.

“This looks like an all-round awareness problem, both with general environmental knowledge and how retailers support sustainable choices or promote their sustainable selections,” Poranen said. “Some brands already have separate sections for conscious items. This is a very good start, but also a challenge to all of us in the textile industry.”

Even so, sustainability appears to be an easier sell to Europeans than, say, Americans, who make up the largest retail market in the world. In a recent survey by Ipsos-MORI, 34% of 1,000 Americans said they were troubled by the environmental impacts of their apparel purchases, compared with 42% of Britons, 47% of Italians and 63% of Spaniards.

Something Europeans and Americans can agree on, however, is that clothing cannot rely solely on sustainability as a selling point. Fifty-one percent of those polled by Spinnova said they based their buying decision on design, and 25% on price. Likewise, Americans overwhelmingly prioritize design and fit, quality and cost over any kind of ethical considerations.

Editor’s Note: This story was reported by FN’s sister magazine Sourcing Journal. For more, visit Sourcingjournal.com.

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