Renewal: Engaging Consumers in Sustainable Fashion

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E n g a ging Consumers in S u s t a i na b l e Fa s hi on

Made in the Warehouse 5th Floor 2016-2021

Dedication Thank you to my family for all their love and support throughout my years at Syracuse. Thank you to my incredible group of peers for their encouragement, fierce curiosity, and friendship. Thank you to my faculty mentor Kirsten Schoonmaker for her guidance throughout my research and to Syracuse University’s SOURCE undergraduate research office for funding this research. The support of my thesis professor, Dianna Miller, and her keen advice, was instrumental in guiding the focus of this research. Thank you to Laurel Morton for fostering thoughtful discussions and questions and helping me to connect to industry experts. Thank you to all of the young industry professionals and my academic peers who participated in deep conversations about sustainability, design, fashion, marketing, business, and advertising. This work would not have been possible without the industry experts, who took the time to interview with me and who regularly create space in the fashion industry for discussions on sustainability, traceability, and








Table of contents..............02






Secondary Research..........20


Primary Research.............46



Consumer Trends.................84


Approaching the Problem.....98




Final design........................142










INTRODUCTION Industrial and Interaction Design Thesis. Syracuse University Fall 2020 - Spring 2021



INTRODUCTION Sustainability means meeting the needs of current and future generations, while balancing economic, social, and environmental impacts. When looking at the global fashion industry, the term ‘sustainability’ is used often, however there is no clear definition as to what that really means.


Sustainable clothing to the consumer should mean awareness of sourcing, transparency in the supply chain, and an understanding of who, where, and how the brand makes their clothes. Brands have capitalized on consumers indicating they care about sustainability by deliberately targeting lines or ads to imply their brand is “sustainable,” resulting in a haze of confusion and lack of faith in the term. While consumers consistently indicate that sustainability is important to them, it is still not a driving factor in their buying decisions.

What is the role between brand communication, consumer trust, and the redesign of garment life cycles?


THESIS STATEMENT Replace consumer doubt and confusion surrounding ‘sustainable’ fashion with a product or system that builds consumer trust while incentivizing brands to pay living wages and create traceable and environmentally conscious products.






BACKGROUND The history behind the fashion industry. Explores the rapid industrialization and growth of the fashion industry, leading to the ready to wear industry,




HISTORY OF TEXTILES INDUSTRY Today, the textiles and apparel industries consist of businesses that design and produce materials for a global market. In the United States, manufacturing companies employ about half a million people in states such as California, North Carolina, and Georgia, accounting for 44% of all workers (Burns, Mullet, & Bryant, 2011). Globally, the textile industry employs around 60 to 75 million people, playing a major role in many countries economics, with the bulk of production occurring in Asia and other growing markets like Egypt, Turkey, Panama, and Chile (Stotz & Kane, 2015). While fashion has globally renowned brand names and markets, the industry only really began about 150 years ago.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels


The fashion industry employs 60-75 million people globally.


INDUSTRY TIMELINE 1794 1857 1860 1941



12 Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin

Macy’s Opens

The textile industry employs 1.4 million people

First men’s ready to wear clothing becomes available

Mass fashion creates simplified styles to easily mass produce and distribute in chain stores.

Birth of Environmentalism Post World War II baby boomers








The Environmental Protection Agency is founded

Vertical integration becomes common

Montreal Protocol

Recession Nike Considered Design Sustainable Footwear

Gen Z will be largest consumer segment




The industry began in England in the mid 1700s when yarn and weaving became mechanized. Some substantial technological developments that made this possible included the flying shuttle loom, water powered spinning, and mechanized power loom. England was so successful in the textile industry because it was strict over who held the intellectual property to the designs of the machines that made textile production easier. While the speed of production increased, conditions for workers did not; “at the time, the textile factory system in England was not only one of the most productive but also one of the most dehumanizing and unhealthy for the workers subjected to it,” (Burns et al., 2011). Meanwhile, in the United States, the cotton industry began to take form, but it lacked the British technologies. This changed when the British Samuel Slater memorized the very protected design blueprints, came to America in 1789 and declared himself a farmer. He set up a textile

Mechanization for weaving and yarn caused a rapid growth in the textile industry.

mill for cotton spinning in Rhode Island, and with it the textile industry began. By the mid 1800s, Massachusetts and Maine became the center of an emerging textile industry. With the mechanization of spinning and weaving and the quick production speeds, it created pressure for more cotton and wool to be harvested. This had its limitations because at the time, cotton was still being hand picked by slaves in the south. However, in 1794, Eli Whitney created the cotton gin, which cleaned cotton at the same rate 50 men could do in one day.

Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons


By 1847 more people were employed in textile mills than any other industry in the US.





The growth of mechanization and textiles created a larger consumer demand for materials. By the late 1890s, three quarter of clothing in Europe and the USA were made from cotton, (Burns et al., 2011). As the economy grew, and the middle class expanded, the desire for nice, well made things grew, however custom-tailored clothes were too expensive. This grew the consumer demand for cheap ready-to-wear clothing. Ready-to-wear clothing began in the early eighteenth century when tailors would make inexpensive clothing from scrap or cut off materials. The original consumers of “ready-to-wear” were sailors, miners, and slaves, because the clothes were cheap. These clothes were often cut in “slop shops,” sewn by women in their own homes; ‘slop’ meaning cheap ready-to-wear clothes. To mass produce clothing that are not custom made, sizing standards hard to be created. Sizing standards refer to the proportional increase or decrease in garment measurements and create pattern pieces for a range of sizes. The first scaled application

of men’s sizing standard were for uniforms in the American Civil War. By the 1860s, a variety of ready-to-wear men’s clothing was available; this increase in demand grew the number of sewing factories across the country. To document the measurements and sizing for specific garments, “patterns” were created. This aided in the growth of production. In 1826, Lord & Taylor opened and by 1903 it moved to 5th Ave. In 1857, Macy’s Wholesale and Dry Goods House opened. These stores began as department stores that sold fabrics, ready-to-wear apparel, hardware, and food. The late 19th century brought the growth of female readyto-wear clothes. The first mass produced were items such as cloaks, capes, and coats, because they were looser and easier to size.

As the economy grew in the late 1800s, so did consumer demand for cheap ready to wear clothing.



Simpson’s Gloves, Richmond VA 1932 Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash



Photo by Wallace Chuck on Pexels

The industry began to take a shift from craft and skill based towards factory based. The production of clothing was labor intensive and immigrant workers spurred the growth of the mass production of apparel” (Burns et al., 2011). By 1900, there were 500 shops in NYC making women’s apparel. While there were some larger modern sewing facilities making high quality apparel, the majority were sewing operations in the very homes of the immigrant workers. Notorious for their poor working conditions, they were called “sweatshops.” Later, the term was associated

with the poor and unsafe conditions and long hours. Support for improving working conditions, which were mostly operated by young migrant women, grew when there was a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Co Factory in 1911 where 146 women died. As the consumer demand grew for these ready-towear clothes, magazines were created to show the latest “fashions.” Vogue began in 1892, providing consumers with up-to-date information and spurred a desire for new fashion trends. There was also the 1892 Daily Trade Record for men and the 1910 Women’s Wear Daily. When World War I hit, it spurred the need for manufactured uniforms, and in turn, streamlined the apparel production processes. By 1941 employment in the textile industry peaked at 1.4 million. Growth of consumer demand also diversified the industry and impacted the types of clothing produced. 1947 through 1961 saw a 160% increase for sportswear and a 40% decrease in suits. “Mass fashion” for teens in the 1960s provided affordable clothing with simplified sizing and styles. In 1965 half of the United States population was under the age of 25 years old and they spent $3.5million on clothing annually. Intertwined with fashion trends were technological developments with textiles. As synthetics were developed and introduced in the mid 1900s, fashion trends adjusted to design for these new materials (Burns et al., 2011).


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT The history of the fashion industry highlights the rapid growth and correlation between population growth and economic development. As the economy developed in the mid 1800s, it created new technologies and a brand-new supply and demand for materials. This in turn, grew the economy and raised the standard of living. As the middle class expanded, so did the desire for materialism. The boost in consumer demand for clothing saw a massive surge in production and created one of the biggest industries in the United States. To this day the fashion industry remains one of the biggest global industries, employing 75 million people and is valued at over $2.5 trillion (United Nations, n.d.).

The economy growth and middle class expansion boosted consumer demand for clothing- leading to the fashion industry to be one of the biggest Industries in the United States. Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash






SECONDARY RESEARCH The ins and outs of the complex fashion supply chain. This chapter covers the externalities throughout the supply chain, from fiber, production, processing, dyeing, stitching, distribution, consumer use, and disposal.



The Industry’s Global Market of Production, Use, & Disposal


Today, the fashion industry functions in a global market across hundreds of countries. In order to understand consumer behavior with fashion and potential sustainable solutions, it is first essential to understand the global supply chain. Fiber production and harvesting, yarn processing and dyeing, garment sewing, production, distribution, consumer usage, and disposal, are part of the extensive process of clothing production. The supply chain is long and complex, with a host of negative environmental and social implications.

The fashion supply chain is long and complex, with a host of negative environmental and social implications.

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Unsplash






Materials are “our starting point for change and also a valuable commodity for farmer, designer, manufacturing industry, consumer and recycler which works to reinforce their central role,” (Fletcher, 2014). Today the markets are saturated with similar ready-made products that lack diversity in fiber types; cotton and polyester account for 85% of the world’s fiber production. There are a host impacts from fiber harvesting and production such as water pollution, pesticide use, pesticide resilience, and water use, with “Textiles production (including cotton farming) also uses around 93 billion cubic meters of water annually,” (Morlet, Opsomer, Balmond, Gillet, & Fuches, 2017).

Lack of diversity in fiber use for clothing puts pressure on earth and resources.










COTTON Every piece of clothing begins with the fibers and there are two types: synthetic or natural. The most common natural fibers used in clothing include: cotton, wool, linen, and silk. The most common, cotton, has used the same amount of land in the last 80 years, but the


Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

output has tripled. This is attributed to the large quantities of fertilizers and pesticides used to grow the cotton. By using the same land over and over again, there is reduced soil fertility, loss of biodiversity, water pollution, pesticide residue and resistance, and exposure to variety of health issues. Cotton growing accounts for 11% of global pesticide use and 25% of global herbicide use. The WHO classifies herbicides, pyrethroids and organophosphates as moderately hazardous to human health. The synthetic fertilizers used are based in nitrogen and can result in nitrate contamination in water. Nitrogen leeching leads to algae blooms, organisms that remove the oxygen to a state where animal and plant life can no longer be supported. In addition, the cotton is highly irrigated, using about 3,800 liters of water per kg of cotton. While water cannot be “used up” per say, as it is a part of a natural cycle circulation, farming of cotton can have adverse changes to the water balance. By changing water infrastructure to feed farms or by contaminating it with pesticides and fertilizers, it makes the water unfit for use, therefore reducing the amount of potable water. Lastly, the machinery


to manage and harvest cotton primarily uses oil, resulting in emissions. Some potential alternatives to conventional cotton is to use: organic cotton, low chemical cotton, hand-picked cotton, rain fed cotton, drip irrigated cotton, or substitute fibers like hemp or flax. Part of the problem is the reliance on single crop; diversifying the source of materials will help to mitigate dependence on one single resource.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS Fertilizer + Pesticide Use Pesticides are hazardous to human health and build pest resistance. Fertilizer causes nitrogen leeching and water contamination.

Loss Biodiversity By reusing the same land over and over again, there is a loss of biodiversity and reduced soil fertility.

Emissions from Machinery The machinery used to manage cotton agriculture primarily runs off of oil and produces emissions.

Water Usage Cotton is highly irrigated, upsetting the balance of water tables. The nearby water is also easily polluted by fertilizer and pesticides.





Another natural fiber used in clothing is wool, which comes from sheep. To control parasites on the shearling, injectable insecticides or pesticide baths can be added to their wool. However, this can be avoided with good husbandry, which actively limits the negative environmental impacts of parasites in wool cultivation. The reason pesticides are so significant is because they can impact human and environmental health. When these chemicals leach into the water or the land they can spread downstream. Organophosphates (used to treat sheep scab) are linked to severe nerve damage in humans. One potential replacement is to use cypermethrin, which is safer for humans, however it has been linked to water pollution and is 1,000 times more toxic to aquatic life. The most commonly used wool for clothing comes from merino sheep. To harvest the wool off the sheep, it can be dirty and greasy; wool needs to be wet cleaned before being turned into yarn. To clean it, it is scoured with hot water to emulsify the grease, producing an effluent (wool grease sludge), which also has high pollution impacts. There have been some ways to collect this grease, but when refined, pesticides can be found in it. Wool loses about


45% of its material when processed. However, it required about three times less energy to produce than polyester, and four to five times less energy than nylon. Look for wool produced in farms with strict effluent treatment protocols or organic wool.


Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS Insecticide Baths When these chemicals leach into the water it can spread downstream and harm local ecosystems.

Pollution from Effluent Wool requires cleaning which produces wool grease sludge, or effluent, which has high pollution impacts.




One of the most commonly used fibers in the world is polyester. Polyester is a synthetic fiber manufactured from petrochemicals. It is a controversial fiber because it is associated with an “acute reliance of industries, nations, communities and lifestyles on oil,” (Fletcher, 2014). The fiber has an environmental impact, with a variety of ecological and social costs from the extraction, processing, and infrastructure for transportation of oil. The main chemicals that make up polyester are terephthalic acid (TA) which react with ethylene glycol. The TA needs to first be purified with bromide controlled oxidation. The petroleum based products are used as feedstock to generate the energy needed in fiber conversion. While there is higher energy use, the amount of water needed to produce polyester is significantly lower than natural fibers. Polluted emissions, such as heavy metal cobalt, are also produced in the processing of polyester. Fletcher identifies some potential alternatives like recycled polyester. Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash



Reliance on Oil Polyester is a synthetic fiber made from petrochemicals that rely on the oil industry, a contributor to global warming.

High Energy Usage To produce the polyester, energy is required to create fiber conversion.

Smaller Water Footprint While polyester requires a lot of energy, it uses significantly less water than natural fibers.

Polluted Emissions Heavy metals and other polluted emissions are another externality in the production of polyester.





Another commonly used fiber in clothing is silk. Silk comes from the chrysalis of silkworms. The worms are fed controlled diet of mulberry leaves; the quality of the silk relies on the worm’s diets. The trees used in producing said diet require fertilizer and pesticides, however, still significantly less than cotton (this is because the worms are sensitive to chemicals). To produce maximum yield, there needs to be a supply of clean air, careful climate control, and intense use of resources. There are not too many known environmental impacts for silk beyond that, so when looking for alternatives, some options include wild or organic silk.


Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash of silk worms

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS Fertilizer + Pesticides The mulberry trees used to feed the silk worms required fertilizer and pesticides, however significantly less than cotton.

Resources for Climate Control To maintain the climate for the trees, energy is required to supply clean air and temperature control, utilizing energy.









After the initial fiber material is harvested or produced, it needs to be spun into yarn. Fiber can be joined together to make yarn in a variety of different methods such as twisted fibers, filaments laid together, or monofilaments. Yarn made up of staple fibers are traditionally spun yarns. For example, cotton or wool fibers are traditionally spun yarns. This process begins with a bale of cotton, which is then loosened

dyes. The dyes can be applied at various stages: to the fibers, the yarns, or the fabrics. Yarn dyeing is the oldest system for dyeing textiles. The yarn is dipped into dye baths and the dye is forced through the yarn. There are a wide variety of techniques to achieve different dyeing methods. The colorfastness of a dye may depend on the type of dye, how it is applied, or whatever chemical finishes are applied to the textiles. Dyes have a

and separated to clear out impurities, then blended to create a uniform texture. The cotton then goes through a series of processes to refine it: picking, carding, combing, drawing, and roving. The final step is spinning which stretches the yarn to the desired diameter and twist. In contrast, filament fibers made from synthetic fibers have a simpler process. The filaments are extruded from a spinnerets and a twist is added, (Joseph, 1980).

host of environmental impacts. “As an example, 20% of industrial water pollution globally is attributable to the dyeing and treatment of textiles”. (Morlet et al., 2017) “Local communities, while benefiting from employment in the industry, may suffer from its poor environmental practices. For example, discharging untreated production wastewater pollutes local rivers used for fishing, drinking, or bathing” (Morlet et al., 2017).

PROCESSING + DYEING Dyeing has been around since 3500BC in Thebes Egypt. Dyes were made from natural materials such as animals or plant matter. For example, the bright red color came from an insect in Mexico. In 1856 the dyeing industry changed completely when Sir William H Perkin tried to artificially make quinine from coal tar and accidentally created synthetic dye. This launched the modern dyeing industry and today almost all dyes are synthetic and superior to natural

Fabric production is an intensive use of chemicals and often results in pollution in local communities. Water treatment systems in factories can mitigate this issue.





The fashion industry produces 10% of all global carbon emissions, more than all maritime shipping and international flights combined (UN Environment Programme, 2018). Production technologies and distribution require transportation, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions. The Ellen MacArthur foundation, “put global textile industry emissions at 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per-year, close to the level of emissions from the automobile industry,” (Doboczky, 2019). Another major impact in this stages is social, with three quarters of garment workers being women, (Stotz, Lina; Kane, 2015). While the textile industry is a trillion dollar global market, the factory workers get paid little to nothing. The lowest paid wages are in Bangladesh and Cambodia, at about $68/month and $128/month. For cotton pickers in India, they are paid $2/day; in the United States about $40,000 a year. The market is driven by big retailers who determine where they want to produce and at which prices. Typically, these buyers are in Europe, America, or Japan, but they source their labor intensive production from developing countries, (Stotz, Lina; Kane, 2015).



Fashion Global Supply Chain Illustrates pain points throughout the supply chain.




Once the consumer buys the clothing, there are still a host of externalities. The biggest impacts come from laundering. Water use, energy required for heating the water, and dryers are main source of environmental

Concerned Scientists, n.d.). Energy usage for washers and driers rely on electricity, which are powered mostly by coal and natural gas. The laundering of clothing also releases microfibers from the synthetic fibers which

impacts. According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2019 the main source of electricity generation in America came from 38% natural gas and 23% coal, (2020). Combustion of coal releases a variety of emissions such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, heavy metals, and carbon dioxide. All of which have adverse effects on the environment and human health, whether it is acid rain, respiratory illnesses, smog, or contributing to the greenhouse effect (Administration, 2020). Natural gas is also a fossil fuel, however its emissions are much lower than that of coal or oil, about 50-60% less. The problem with natural gas lays in the drilling and extraction with results in leakage of methane gas, one of the most potent greenhouse gases. Fracking for natural gas also pollutes local waterways (Union of

leach into water ways. The extent of the aquatic and health impacts are not fully known yet. “When washed, some garments release plastic microfibers, of which around half a million tonnes every year contribute to ocean pollution – 16 times more than plastic micro beads from cosmetics.” Once individuals are finished with their clothes, the problem transitions into waste. “Worldwide, clothing utilization – the average number of times a garment is worn before it ceases to be used – has decreased by 36% compared to 15 years ago,” so more and more clothes are ending up in landfills, (Morlet et al., 2017).



Consumer laundering of clothing uses water, electricity, and release micro plastics.




DISPOSAL When textile materials are discarded and put in landfills, including organic materials such as cotton or leather, the anaerobic digestion produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. As the population grows, and the fashion industry, the linear cycle of production to waste progressed. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation writes, “large amounts of non-renewable resources are extracted to produce clothes that are often used for only a short time, after which the materials are mostly sent to landfill or incinerated. More than USD 500 billion of value is lost every year due to clothing underutilization and the lack of recycling” (Morlet et al., 2017). The lack of recycling infrastructure and technologies means that only about 1% of materials are recycling into new clothing, which represents about $100billion in material loss (Morlet et al., 2017).


As textiles in landfills break down, they produce the potent greenhouse gas, methane. Only 1% of clothes are recycled into new clothing.




The textile industry is a comprehensive process; waste off products, fossil fuels usage, and methane gases from landfills are just some of the impactful byproducts of the industry that contribute to global environmental change. This climate change will impact every part of the earth socially, economically, and environmentally; it may lead to food scarcity, mass migrations, increased extreme weather events, high temperatures, acidification of oceans, and much more. As the population grows and the demand for new products increases, the textile industry will continue to grow, and with it, the amount of production pollution and consumer waste. The Ellen McArthur Foundation writes, “If the industry continues on its current path, by 2050, it could use more than 26% of the carbon budget`... Moving away from the current linear and wasteful textiles system is therefore crucial to keeping within reach the 2°C average global warming limit,” (Morlet et al., 2017). As the majority of the world is buying into fast fashion trends or throwaway designs, this cyclical cycle of production to consumer to trash, progresses.

Fashion’s host of externalities contribute to global environmental change. Climate change impacts us all, and as the population grows, so does fashion consumption.


SUMMARY OF SECTION Lack of Fiber Diversity Reliance on the same few fibers in clothing is putting stress on valuable resources. Agriculture for these fibers can harm local human and environmental health.

Processing + Chemicals The processing and dyeing of fabrics can lead to hazardous chemicals in local waterways.

Emissions Foot Print The fashion industry accounts for 10% of all global carbon emissions.

Use + Disposal The impacts don’t stop with the companies. In the consumer’s hands, laundering and disposal of clothing has a large water usage, energy usage, and methane emitter,






INDUSTRY EXPERTS Primary research interviews. After initial in depth research and information finding, with no clear standards or definitions as to what true “sustainability” means in the fashion industry, I went into the research field to speak with and learn from experts.



Expert Interviews 48

I began by attending conferences such as the Future Fabrics Expo in February 2020, in London and the NYSAR conference in November 2020, virtually. Once COVID hit, I transitioned all my interviews to virtual web conferencing, talking to leading industry experts from brands such as LL Bean, Levi’s, and Unilever.



Future Fabrics Expo 2020 London From left to right: Charlie Orenstein and Mark Ix



Michael Millstein Manager of Global Policy and Advocacy at Levi’s`

Levi’s Straus & Co A clothing company known for their Levi’s Denim Jeans.

Michael emphasized that Levi’s is a brand who’s internal messaging and commitments align with their advocacy. He emphasized not only the economic and environmental benefits of sustainability in fashion, but also that consumers that pay more for quality denim, will get a better return on their investment. This interview details the extensive commitments and goals Levi’s has set for themselves.

TAKEAWAYS Sustainable production can have economic benefits. Quality clothing that lasts longer is more sustainable. Engage the consumer passively.



Q: In terms of sustainability, How does Levi Strauss & Co define or quantify success? A: “In setting science based targets we’re basically looking at how we can operate in a way that is consistent with limiting global emissions to avoid the worst of climate change. So we had defined that as preventing a 1.5 degree warming scenario. Now obviously, you know, as a company on our own, we can’t control the outcome there, right, but we can control our input which is the emissions that we generate and divert.


And then on climate, one way that we seek to have an out sized impact is through our advocacy and so we’ve been advocating for progressive climate policy, when I say progressive I don’t mean ideologically progressive I just mean, you know, advancing climate policy that’s consistent with transitioning to a clean energy economy. And we’ve been at that for over a decade.” “In our 2025 Water Action strategy we’re finding ‘success’ is using water sustainably in the context of local water stress. So while we will apply the programs that we have at our disposal universally and sort of across our global supply chain, we realized that we need to do more and move faster in areas where there’s higher water stress.” “On chemicals management, there’s a host of chemistries that we are committed to not using. So that’s part of the success and then also applying a hazard based approach to assess any new chemical formulations and identify better alternatives.” “Trying to ensure that the folks that work in our supply chain, are healthy or safe or engaged. And so the Worker Well Being Initiative that we have rolling out to suppliers and working in partnership with the Harvard SHINE program is really sort of


a fundamental pillar to that. And I know that the folks in the foundation and our sustainability teams for managing that program, part of it is actually trying to identify what success really is there and how do you measure your well being.” Q: Can you tell me about some of the benefits you’ve seen, maybe, economic, environmental or social from your sustainable commitments? A: ”One of the key sources of this co benefits has been through our water work and our WaterLess program. So the WaterLess program is based on a series of techniques in the garment finishing phases and fabric production which are essentially means to create the same product or fabric, while using less water. And what we found is that when you save water in manufacturing, you also save energy. If you save energy manufacturing, you save money. And so by applying these techniques and recycling water we’ve been able to help our suppliers to reduce their operational expenditures, pretty significantly... But that’s a big benefit and that promotes the financial resilience not only, you know, environmental resilience, but the financial resilience of our supply chain partners.” Q: How do you balance telling Levi’s brand narrative while still trying to engage people who might not normally be engaged in these topics of sustainability? A: “Think here, there’s sort of overt and passive ways that you can sort of engage consumers. So when we had our first life cycle assessment, the projects that we undertook, sort of as a reaction to a campaign around consumer education around, washing garments I think that’s what you’re alluding to, that resulted in the care tag for the planet which is sewn in all of our garments.... An opportunity to sort of give them


Q&A some, you know, just passive education on the way they can reduce their role in the product’s life cycle impact. We also have a label sewn into some of our waterless garments as well, just letting folks know that is a waterless garment. And providing clues as to where they can get more information about that process and how kind of we’re doing our part too.” Q: What are some considerations Levi’s makes when they formulate their communication strategy and being transparent with their consumers and investors?


A: “So you kind of hit on three different buckets there. So we have a Comms function, we have a marketing function, and we have an investor relations function. And I think each of their mandates are slightly different, right. I think something that’s consistent across the board is just making sure that we are really clear and have data to support the direction that we need to go in and also sort of what we’re achieving, and then communicating kind of like the context and significance of it.” Q: I think it’s, at the end of the day, it is the product that brings people in. So passive ways of drawing people in and educating them is a great method. A: “I think increasingly people are starting to associate sustainability with quality though, which is an important development. Now people sort of associate negative environmental impacts with overconsumption or garments that are not built to last as garments that are. So if our jeans are designed to be fabricated to last decades. People see that both as a benefit in terms of the quality of the garment, and their investment as well as an environmental benefit.” Q: What is something you would like to know about my peer group (or people ages 18 to 28). And, what do you want them to know about Levis?

INDUSTRY EXPERTS A: “You know I think I’m just generally interested in how folks are engaging with brands on these issues and whether it’s, resulting in them shifting their consumption patterns... So I think I just wonder about folks that understand sustainability issues and are in wanting to buy a lot of new things, how they’re willing to interact with brands and if you’re willing to go to brands that are offering those solutions, whether it’s secondhand product or product with sustainable or recycled inputs.” “Yeah and then understanding the sort of quality and return on investment that they’re getting out of buying a garment. That is not a loss and then, you know, I think we’re doing a lot of really important stuff on the advocacy front too. I think we’re a company whose advocacy is very much in line with all of our messaging and marketing and internal commitments. And so I think that consumers should have some like comfort in that in knowing that we’re using our voice consistently across these different forums and we’re not like saying one thing or another.”




Rebecca Blake Thompson Senior Contributor for Content and Education

Remake An organization that focuses on education, advocacy, and transparency in the fashion industry.

Rebecca emphasizes the lack of standardization in the industry surrounding the term sustainability and how it leads to green washing. She also emphasizes the importance of story telling and empathy for engaging the consumer.

TAKEAWAYS Education needs to be interactive. Telling the story in a tangible relatable way to build empathy.



Q: In terms of sustainability, how does Remake define or quantify success?


A: ”I would say that our you know, our continual goal is to is to be is to be sharing the garment makers story with more and more global citizens so that the more that people understand who a garment maker is, and what her life looks like, and how our choices as consumers directly impact her life, that you know, we’re creating more of a company, a consumer who very thoughtfully, you know, considers their purchases before they make them who very thoughtfully engages with brands about their practices and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Who very thoughtfully makes an effort to swap or mend or trade a garment before rushing out to buy new things. So I think one of our continual measures of success is how engaged our global ambassador and community audience is how much people are taking part in our pledges.” Q: How you engage people who might not maybe normally be engaged in topics of ethics or sustainability? A: “One of the reasons that interactive media is so critical is because we have found as an organization, that storytelling is the most impactful way to receive engagement. So instead of just like, instead of just doing like facts and figures, which can be overwhelming for people depressing, like they just want to look away. It doesn’t really, you know, when we actually allow, a lot of our work centers around allowing the garment makers to speak for themselves. So we will invite them on our monthly community calls, they can tell their own story, we will interview them, we make our short films about them in their own voice. And what we found is that for consumers who don’t want to think about it don’t want to deal with it don’t care, right? When they can see the women predominantly women, you know, garment makers, globally are predominantly women. Not to discredit the men but when they can see the women behind their clothing and see them


as a mother and see them as you know, a wife or a partner, see them as somebody’s daughter, you know, kind of see them in a way that they might be able to empathize with more in terms of the responsibility of having to work to care for your family. You know, the responsibility of having to provide food. And I think that, you know, there’s just so much more of an emotional engagement when you can really tie this back to individual people, because big numbers are overwhelming, and they don’t really mean anything to us, you know. And we’ve found it’s instead of saying 250,000 garment workers and doc are affected by this, if we can just tell one woman’s story and hear from one woman in her own words, that can that can often be, you know, much more engaging.” Q: What considerations Do you want brands to take when being transparent with consumers or investors? A: “What I would like them to do is to be completely 100% transparent about their supply chain...Within the pyramid structure of manufacturing, see how many different places it went. And then for all of those entities, you could see how many workers do they have, you can see the payroll, you can see that they get health benefits, you know, that’s like the dream, right? Yes. Never, that’s never gonna happen.” “So I would like to see more transparency where the supplier says, okay, consumer, you’re paying $100 for this shirt, and the organic cotton cost $23 and we paid, you know, $36 in labor for it to be sewn. And we paid $5 for the label and our margin is $25 or whatever it is, you know, so that we so that we don’t have to be playing these guessing games when we say, because a lot of it is a lot of these brands will just charge higher prices because consumers assume that means it’s more ethical when really the brand is just getting a higher margin. And it has nothing to do with how do you know how ethical the brand is. And so I wish that, you know, brands would kind of take that sort of ownership of transparency and saying, you know, here’s what we put into it,


INDUSTRY EXPERTS here’s what you’re getting, here’s what you’re paying for, you know, and here’s what you’re getting.” Q; What is something that you wouldn’t want to know about my peer group ages 18 to 28?


A: “What do you care enough about that would motivate you to positively change your behavior? I’d love to see like a bigger picture of like, what is it that you care most about? That would, you know, kind of get you to? Is it co2 emissions? Is it workers being abused? Is it you know, landfills filling up? Is it you know, marine life choking on plastic? What is it that you care enough? Do you care? You know so much about that if you knew about this, you would change your behavior because ultimately the goal is to behavior change. So what I would want to know is how do we know what’s so important to you that we could get you to change your behavior right? And what do I want them to know about remake? I want them to know that sustainable fashion is not a requirement to be perfect or to be any thing specifically, sustainable fashion is simply the thoughtful intention to start somewhere is what we say hashtag start somewhere. It’s the intention to start somewhere no matter where you are by just simply thinking about what role do I play in all of these, you know, how do my choices affect? You know, the women who made this shirt? How do they affect the farmers who you know grew the material for the shirt? How do they affect the air the rivers that the dot, you know, it’s a lot to think about at first, but try to simplify it, I would just say we want. We want everyone to feel like they can be a part of sustainable fashion and that they can start no matter where they are. There’s no requirement for perfection there’s just a requirement for curiosity and engagement that’s it you know it’s really `.” Q: Do you think it’s the responsibility of the government, the consumer, or the company to drive change in the industry?


A: “Within the capitalists structure that most of you know the first world countries operate in, then the power really does, you know, fall that the burden honestly falls on the consumer. Because we can’t trust these brands do the right thing. And so I’m not saying it’s fair that it falls in the guise of that, or that it’s a consumers responsibility. But what I am saying is if we do want to make change, it’s going to be us that have to make the change.”




Talia Daly Senior Designer

L.L. Bean A retail apparel company that specializes in clothing and outdoor recreation gear. Talia focuses on knowing your consumer and how L.L. Bean, while sustainable, focuses their marketing on quality because that is what their consumer values most.

TAKEAWAYS Know you customer and their values. Long lasting quality is sustainable.


Q&A Q: In terms of sustainability, how does LL Bean define or quantify success? A: “We have a whole sustainability committee that is made up of cross functional partners. So product developers are design directors part of it. There’s members from the sourcing team, that are part of it. And the way LLVM shapes up all projects, it’s like, they like to have a sponsor from like, the executive level. And then there’s the people who kind of form the team, and then do all the research. And like, you kind of trickle it


back up. And like, if you get the blessing of your sponsor, then like, they get to push it out. And very, like we, they take the hierarchy and get everyone involved. So like things actually go through. So I think that was formed probably five years ago. And every time we have called milestone meetings that we have run on four seasons. And every time we have a milestone meeting, when we meet with our chief merchandising officer, and we adopt the line, the product developers, say, you know, we’re adopting this percent many new styles that percent is sustainable. And then we’ll break it down, like, is it organic cotton, we call it responsible cotton.” Q: Sustainability is a big trend in the fashion industry. But there’s isn’t a lot of standardization with the information or definitions. So how can consumers better educate themselves? And how can companies be more transparent? A: “Quality is really where our customer base like their loyalty lays. I, we also like, don’t like to think of sustainability as a trend to elevate, I guess, it’s kind of that’s, you know, we’ve tried to push that mindset. And we’re like, it’s just the way things have to be now. And so I think our mindset is like, you know, you have to pick that option. It’s not, it shouldn’t even be an option. It’s just what we need to do. So I think, hopefully, we will start to talk more about it. And I know a key concern is

INDUSTRY EXPERTS it’s like, well, if you say one thing sustainable, and something else isn’t like our customers very like, Well, why isn’t this sustainable? And so I know, like we didn’t roll out, responsible down as a marketing initiative until 100% of our down was responsible and like, just getting through all of our old realist programs like it did take two years before that was before we could say, Yeah, all of our down is 100% responsible And then we can talk about it. But I feel like we’re very conscientious checking all the boxes before we make it any sort of marketing push.” Q: How can you get the average consumer to be interested in the impact of their clothing or the effects of linear consumerism? And you know, how does LL Bean educate or engage the unengaged? A: “Our biggest thing is, like, we tried to limit waste with making products that last forever. And, until recently, we had a return policy where you could return anything, however old it was, you didn’t need a receipt.” “We’re definitely trying to close the loop of just not having not creating fast fashion. You know, just making classic timeless things that you can wear over and over and over, then, you know, if they do get ruined, you can give it back to us, we’ll give you a refund or get you a new shirt, and it comes back to us and we can, you know, do with it what we need to rather than it ending up in a landfill.”



Q: How does LL Bean measures their footprint on the planet. More specifically, I saw L.L. Bean is beginning to shift to materials like using recycled polyester. How has that shift affected your supply chains? And what impacts or benefits are yous seeing?


A: “When I first started designing on the women’s team, I was really into garment dye on it just for the look. And we have since resource many of the garment dyed pants I had done, just because the amount of water use the chemicals used, the impact on the environment is obviously terrible. So it’s like, yeah, they’re always looking at our product. You know, I feel like we always design it one way. And then if it does really well at all, we like I said, we relist it, and then we’re like, Okay, how do we improve it? And how can we make the best product from the beginning? Because we’re just not there yet.” Q: What is something you would want to know about my peer group of consumers? And what do you want them to know about LL Bean? A: “Does your peer group authentically, like do you really actually pay more for an item that is sustainable? Do you take that into consideration when you’re purchasing something?” “I feel like some of the things I told you that like we are choosing to do the right thing for every new product we’re creating. And we don’t always market that. And I think to have that mindset of buy things that are going to last you forever or a long time. I think goes a long, long, long way.”





Maya Kyrsicki Associate Brand Manager on Unilever’s Skin Cleansing Team

Love Beauty & Planet A beauty brand, owned by Unilever, who’s mission is to make the customer and the planet cleaner.

In this interview Maya highlights the power of brands with purpose and growth success. She also details Unilever’s sustainable commitments and the influence of large brands setting industry standards.

TAKEAWAYS Brands with purpose sell. Big brands have a big influence.



Q: In terms of sustainability, how does Unilever define or quantify success? A: “Sustainability is so core to what we do, our mission is to make sustainable living commonplace; it’s like ingrained in everything that we do. We don’t have a CSR department or anything like that, it’s on each individual person to make sure that sustainability in whatever way is true to the brand you’re working on, or the part of the business you’re in, can really come to life. So it’s really case by case.”


“For Love, Beauty and Planet where sustainability is very core to what they do, we put goals out that we want to achieve. For example, our bottles are made out of PCR, so they’re made out of recycled plastic. So how many water bottles do we save every year by doing that- that’s something that we measure ourselves on, and something that we will then communicate out to our community. Because the community that we formed is one that cares about that and is looking for answers there. And then on brands like Dove, it Might be a different approach because Dove’s purpose is something that’s very key in our brands. We say that brands with purpose grow much quicker than brands without a purpose. Doves purpose is a women’s true beauty right? So it’s not focused on sustainability like Love, Beauty & Planet is. It might not be as forefront those goals, but we’re doing small things to kind of show the community that you can make changes towards sustainability.” “We don’t necessarily have outward facing sustainability goals on the brand like Dove because the it’s all about self, like true women’s beauty using real models and advertise or using real women in advertising versus models. But showing that things are possible on brands of that size is like, we feel good about doing that. Even though it might not be like our number one goal on job.”


“Maybe they’ll buy it the first time because they were hooked by a donation you’re doing or something within your product that’s helping the planet, but they won’t come back if the product doesn’t work. So it’s a fundamental balance of making sure your product works... We’re trying to make those slow steps and be the change makers. So it’s like a new industry standard. So for example, like the PCR bottles, a lot of people are not moving to PCR bottles, but it’s something we’ve been talking about for a really long time. And if you can do it on a brand like Dove, the largest brand in skin cleansing globally, and in the US, and you can do it on a brand like that, you should be able to do it on most major brands, and stuff like that will be a requirement...And as more and more people become conscious of the issues in the world, especially around the environment, they’re going to be looking for that- it’s going to be the new industry standard.” Q: What are some considerations, Unilever, or Love, Beauty & Planet makes when they formulate the communication strategies and being transparent with their consumers? A: “I think transparency is huge. So when Love, Beauty & Planet was launched, we said, we’re a brand that’s all about bringing beautiful products that work, but doing something good for the planet. So we call them our small acts of love for the planet. We said, we’re not going to solve this day one. There’s no way we’re going to launch a brand that’s recyclable, fully natural on day one. It’s a journey to get there. And that’s the way we’ve sold the brand and to retailers, how we talk to consumers that we’re on a sustainable journey... And I think being transparent with your consumer- we are starting to do this, we have not figured it out fully, but we want to continue innovating and holding ourselves accountable to that is the best way to do it. Because if you’re not transparent, I mean, it’s just not true. No one’s able to crack this otherwise we wouldn’t


INDUSTRY EXPERTS be in the problems we’re in. So I think just being honest and transparent in those spaces is key. We also do that with our innovation, every year when we look at what new products should we launch, we look at how can we take this to the next step of sustainability.” Q: How do you balance telling those purpose and brand narratives while still engaging people who maybe aren’t normally engaged in these topics of sustainability?


A: “Yeah, I think that’s where a brand like Dove has such a powerful position because think about how many people are already buying it. And they might just be buying it because they have a product or they like the messaging, and that’s where your pack becomes super powerful. Because that pack is something that someone buys and takes home. And they’re in the shower, and they might be reading something, and they’ll read that it’s 100% recycled bottle. Globally, we’ve made very strong commitments to sustainability, whether it’s the environmental footprint on or essentially, positively impacting a large portion of the world. We do it through our brands, right? So each brand takes a piece of that ownership. So huge brands like Dove and Hellman’s when they make small steps towards sustainability, like changing their packaging or moving to cage free eggs and Hellman’s or, you know, partnering on nor with brands that you know, combat deforestation, it’s those small pieces that add up. When it comes to actually measuring our impact. We like to raise our hand and are ask, please audit us, because we want to be honest. And there are times where you can’t achieve a certain goal by a certain time and we want to just to be truth tellers to our consumers, because they’re looking at us and we want to be industry leading when it comes to this.” Q: Are there any economic, social or environmental benefits you’re seeing from the sustainable commitments?

INDUSTRY EXPERTS A: “Yeah, so we see that overall brands with purpose grow. So if same thing like you say, brand like Love, Beauty and Planet, having purpose, in this case being sustainability, small acts of love for the planet, those PCR bottles like packaging that’s recyclable having those things and lots of innovation down the pipeline of how we reinvent personal care in general and beauty and waste in the bathroom comes with a huge benefit. I mean, we were able to grow that brand to 100 million dollars, across all of our platforms in 2019, which is a huge success. It was a brand that was nothing and we attribute a lot of our growth is due to the fact that it has purpose behind it. That purpose happens to be sustainable, like true, like planet sustainability, in this case, and like taking plastic out of the oceans. But that brand wouldn’t be as successful if it was just another Natural brand in the market because it’s not different. So we attribute like, that whole brand success to the fact that it is true and purposeful.” Q: What is something you want to know about our peer group, ages 18 to 28, and what do you want them to know about Unilever? A: “What are the choices your age group is really making? So for example, how much would sustainability influence that peer group? If you get an ad for a new beauty brand on Instagram and you think it is the most beautiful design, would you rather purchase that or would you rather purchase something that is talking about sustainability as that first claim first like true benefit?” “I think knowing who we are, what we stand for, and all the small things that we do that ultimately add up to those big goals would be what I’d like people to know. Absolutely.”




Mark Ix Marketing Director

Advance Denim A sustainable and innovative denim manufacturer, and creator of big box dye. Advance Denim is one of the most sustainable denim mills globally and the creator of big box dyeing which uses little to no water. Advance Denim also uses clean coal technology and is investing in their own cotton farms. Mark talks about their sustainable commitments and the need for transformation in the industry. The initial conversation with Mark was in person at the Future Fabrics Expo in London; the quotes below are from a follow up email interview.

TAKEAWAYS Make capital investments in sustainable manufacturing. Reduction of water in milling has economic benefits. The fashion industry needs a production transformation.



Q: in terms of sustainability, how does Advance Denim define or quantify success?


A: “Advance Denim feels that sustainability is a moving target. What were cutting edge sustainable practices 5 years ago may not even be considered base line sustainable today. We see the goal of sustainability as being constant improvement in our products and processes. There are two ways to approach sustainability in a denim mill. The first is to make sure that we are using the most sustainable inputs. The second is make capital investments in the manufacturing process to promote sustainability. We believe that investing capital into new sustainable ways to produce denim has to be a component of how we define success. Otherwise you are just changing your inputs and thus can change those inputs if you feel you are just following a trend.” Q: Normally, I would ask a company how they measure their footprint on the planet, however Advance denim has made tremendous steps in production technologies, such as reduced water consumption in the dyeing process by up to 95%, reducing wastewater by 99%, developing new fabrics such as sustainable hemp, reducing energy consumption by 42% and much more. Not only has Advance Denim made strong commitments to the future, but they also make this information public. What economic, environmental, or social benefits have you seen from these sustainable commitments and what encouragement or advice would you give other companies? A: “Advance Denim has made the commitment to sustainability and there are certainly sustainable practices that will have economic benefits. If you mill is reducing the amount of water then it will see an economic benefit but the economic pay back of that capital expenditure is not the leading reason for becoming more sustainable. It is the commitment to the

INDUSTRY EXPERTS overall ecology of community. Advance Denim is committed to producing denim in the least impactful way and keeping its hometown of Sunde clean.” Q: Currently, there is a strong desire, or trend, to be seen as ‘sustainable.’ As a leader in the denim industry, have you noticed a shift in other company’s production and manufacturing behaviors in attempts to access that trend? A: “We feel that the denim industry as a whole is going through a much needed transformation. Sustainability is certainly a trend but if this trend fades there will still be the long lasting effect of cleaning up a dirty manufacturing process.“




Ali Golden Strategic Relationships Senior Manager

Loop at TerraCycle A delivery service of trusted brands in reusable packaging, started by their parent organization and environmental agency, TerraCycle.

Conducted via web conferencing, this interview highlights the importance of increased transparency and education in the supply chain. Ali discusses the power of partnerships which is seen in TerraCyle’s program Loop.

TAKEAWAYS Partnerships can reach more consumers. Labeling and branding to signify to the consumer information. Transform waste into value. Make sustainability irresistible and cool.



Q: In terms of sustainability, how does Loop define or quantify success? A: “Our definition of success is, can we get as many partnerships as possible with friends? Can we reach as many consumers as possible? Can we be diverting as much as possible from landfill? So it’s kind of this like, open ended? Like, you know, wish that this was happening all over the world with every single product and every single consumer, which is obviously you know, unattainable, but that’s always what the company is striving for.” Q: How can the consumer better educate themselves? How can companies be more transparent within their practices?


A: “It’s tricky. As I’m sure you know, there aren’t as many kind of readily available solutions to recycle textiles. I think that’s like, one issue, and so I think end of life recycling is a challenge for so many brands right now that are starting to look at that. We get incoming requests, and so much interest from apparel brands, who want to work with our cycle to find solutions and access consumers. But I feel like right now, a lot of it is coming on kind of the front end of the supply chain. So looking at the manufacturing and the textiles themselves and trying to increase transparency in that way educating consumers about the working conditions in the factories, there’s a lot of social and environmental concerns there. So I just think, you know, the more transparency, the better. And I think the more tools that are out there for consumers to utilize to access that information is also really critical. So, you know, on the TerraCycle side, it’s really all about once we do have a product that we are making nationally recyclable through TerraCycle is collection or recycling program, how can we let consumers know that this is an option for them. And that could be everything from you know, digital marketing communication, coming both from TerraCycle, as well as from the brands

INDUSTRY EXPERTS directly, all the way to, you know, on top messaging. So having like, the TerraCycle logo that’s kind of letting the consumer know that they can recycle that product through TerraCycle. Labeling would be a really great thing for the apparel industry to think more closely about, using the physical garment to educate consumers.” Q: How do you engage those unengaged in these important topics such as climate change and waste? A: “I think it’s all about making waste fun. And, you know, TerraCycle attitude is there’s no such thing as waste, nothing’s waste. And so kind of earlier on in TerraCycle revolution, because TerraCycle has been around as a company for about 17 years, it started with our founder, marketing, fertilizer that was actually made from organic worm poop. And he basically called it worm poop. That was what he called the product. And he bottled it in old soda bottles. So he didn’t have to use any kind of virgin packaging for that. And that product actually made it into Walmart and Home Depot and other like major retailers. And that was like the very beginning of the cycle. And then kind of over time evolving into how can we look at waste? More broadly, how can we educate the public about, you know, the waste crisis we’re facing and make people think a little bit differently about the value of waste. And so earlier on the way that the company did, that was a lot of upcycling. So, you know, taking things like Capri Sun packs, and turning those into backpacks and dresses, and pencil cases for kids and all sorts of things like that. Showing That, you know, there are all these other potential ways that these materials can be used. And it can be really fun and interesting. And I think has kind of been the approach to date. So even though upcycling is not exactly what TerraCycle does, it’s usually more something that, you know, let’s see, a recent example is we created a, like wall display, made out of Britta folders made to look like a whale, that’s in the Britta offices. So like, we’ll do those sorts of art




projects, to kind of showcase and kind of help brands display their commitment and their partnership with TerraCycle. But really what we’re doing the recycling of those materials. And that’s really more about I think, bringing together people and making their cycling a community project. So a lot of the TerraCycle recycling programs are done at a community level. So it could be one champion at a school, one person at a community center or, you know, any kind of like local institution who can basically say, Okay, let’s all start recycling this particular waste stream that we encounter a lot. And so what TerraCycle has seen is that that’s what really drives the success of these recycling programs kind of having that like community level engagement. And, and kind of having it just be fun. So it’s less about, you know, this is, this is about waste, or like, we feel guilty about this, or you know, any of the kind of negative things that people might associate with waste. And it’s more about like coming together as a community around a certain initiative, a lot of the recycling programs. So if you’re an individual and you chose to send in a product, to have it be recycled by TerraCycle, you can actually redeem, like, points that you can then donate to a charity of your choice. And that’s something that is sponsored by TerraCycle Brand Partners.” “So that’s kind of another nice add on, kind of incentive, I guess you could say, to get consumers to be excited about recycling, that’s on the TerraCycle side, as they Loop is like an entirely different ballgame. Because it’s, you know, it’s just a very different model. We’re asking people to actually purchase products and phase the way that they consume to begin with, rather than just finding a sustainable end of life for the product once they’re done with it. So it really starts at the very beginning, at the point of purchasing a product and choosing to kind of embrace this new lifestyle that Loop is promoting.” “And so there, what we’ve seen really is that it’s all about

INDUSTRY EXPERTS making sustainability, irresistible, and cool. And the products that are the most successful and Loop are those that are what we call unexpectedly ego. So coming from brands that you might be surprised to see participate in this sustainability initiative, brands who are creating products that are really beautiful, aesthetically, where the packaging itself is just really, you know, counter top worthy, and that has perhaps different kinds of functionalities. So like the Haagen Dazs container that is on Loop, which I don’t know if you’ve seen but that is not only is it very cool looking and obviously very different from anything that exists on the market today. But it also has some built in functionalities because it’s double walled stainless steel and so that fast keep that a screen not flow properly, and it helps protect your hands from getting too cold. And it kind of ties all these aspects to it that just improve the overall experience of consuming that product. And that’s really exciting to a consumer who is not necessarily incredibly eco conscious. You know, they’re coming to a booth because they think the packaging is cool, and they think it’s a novel idea. And that’s what the initial draw is for a lot of people.” `




Nayantara Banerjee Ethical Production Consultant and owner of Williamsburg Seamster.

Garment Worker Center An organization specifically focused on advocating for the needs, and rights of garment workers, domestically in America I spoke with Nayantara about her expertise of material quality as a seamstress. This interview also details the issues garment workers face in Los Angeles and the advocacy work the GWC is doing, particularly during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time Nayantara and the GWC were working towards passing the Workers Protection Act SB 1399, which addresses one of the business practices that has been used to avoid liability by brands and manufacturers.

TAKEAWAYS Clothing construction today is not as high quality as it used to be. Interactive media and holding your peers responsible is a powerful way to engage. Legislation is needed to make significant changes in the garment industry.



Q: As a seamstress, can you speak to which materials you found the most durable or easy to maintain?


A: “When I started my business, I altered all sorts of things, everything from, you know, jeans, vintage clothes, all sorts of things...So what I noticed that when I was altering garments that were made in the 40s, 50s, 60s, even 70s, and 80s, they really held up and there was a higher construction quality. At the same time I would be altering, it was sort of ridiculous to think of, as people would also pay me to tailor stuff that they got at Forever 21 and H&M and eventually these are as you know, a little bit more of the fast fashion retailers, and it was just so much more difficult to take apart. Tailoring first requires you to take something apart and so its construction materials also come into play, but I just find that, garments that had been made prior to the 80s are actually much better made and held up better to the alterations process than newer garments. “ “I could tell also in working with cheap polyester materials, especially with like bridesmaid dresses, I have to say like, you know, David’s bridal bridesmaid dresses, like those fabrics, get runs, and tear very easily. They pull in snag really easily. Making the alterations process even more time intensive, or careful with every issue. Whereas, you know, natural fibers and, to some extent, manufactured fibers are just more durable.” Q: In the digital world we live in today, my generation has instant access to information. Whether someone reads an Instagram post or the news about pollution in the fashion industry and poor ethical labor, it can often get lost in that sea of information, and it doesn’t always translate into their purchasing behaviors. How are you further engaging people, beyond education, in these important topics?

INDUSTRY EXPERTS A: “It’s putting pressure on brands and it’s doing this by engaging consumers... I’ll say I think that there’s an interesting thing that’s happening in this exact moment, where people are not just meaning to be educated but what has been missing, has been what can the consumer do about it? What are the calls to action? And because of the political climate we’re in right now, there’s quite a bit of unrest, there’s a lot of people who are having some sort of reckoning of ways in which systems of oppression and injustice live throughout our society and culture in so many different ways. They’re also now being called upon to call their senators and to sign a petition, and to tag and call out friends and I think that is actually being helped by interactive media. Specifically like Twitter, where there’s a little bit more visual, a little bit less about, your purchasing practices, and a little bit more about changing the system and addressing the conditions which create that. Ultimately, in my perspective, there has been so much of a focus, and shame and blaming on the consumer, that ultimately distracts from the work that needed to be done to address these things by the people who actually have the ability to control that. And that can be legislators, and that’s fashion brands, and sourcing agents and manufacturers.” “That’s why I think these campaigns, like, the Remake #PayUP campaign, for example, is valuable, because it’s not just telling the consumer like, this is all your fault, because you bought a piece of fast fashion, right? Like, that’s not, that’s not helpful. And it’s going to ultimately put a consumer in a place where they’re like, Well, now, I don’t even know what I do- at a place of inaction. And in so instead, I think there just needs to be a more concerted and coordinated effort and like, explanation of what systems are in place, what laws are in place, and what practices are really like prevalent in the fashion industry and all these various departments that ultimately undermine environmental standards and labor rights.”


INDUSTRY EXPERTS Q: What actionable steps could individuals take to help support garment workers, or at least like in LA? A: “Any right now. Because we are in the campaign to push to pass this bill. So SB 1399. There is a way the California Legislature works or the Senate and then the assembly. And each within each of these, there are three steps that the bill needs to go through. Our bill has already gone through the Senate already. So it was passed a vote by the Senate Labor Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee, and then the full Senate floor.”


“And so what this bill does is it addresses one of the business practices that has been used to avoid liability by brands and manufacturers, which is, you know, basically brands manufacturers use layers of subcontracting and contracting to avoid liability...And it also eliminates the use of the piece rate system.” “A garment worker is going to be paid three cents per seam, and five cents per neckline, and then, ultimately, the piece rate itself right, is so low that it puts minimum wage out of reach. It also incentivizes really unsustainable paces of production, because permit workers that are working 12 to 14 hour days, trying to or trying to reach, you know, an acceptable total, and always, always, this translates into sub minimum wage. And minimum wage right now in California is $13. So it’s like instead, what that translates to is garment workers earning between five and $6 an hour right now, with the elimination of piece rate is going to say that garment workers, no matter what their productivity should be paid for every minute that they work. This is also not just about LA or California, this is about what’s ‘Made in the USA’, and we want what’s ‘Made in the USA’ to be good.”

INDUSTRY EXPERTS Q: So how are you drawing attention to the fact you know, that it’s not just a global issue? It is in America too. A: “Yeah, I mean, actually, that’s, part of that, where we’re still in the education space, right. Like, people either don’t think that stuff was made in America, or if it is, just assume it must be made better. This is actually helpful because what we’re showing is the interconnectedness of the industry, and really the global labor force to it. If you know what’s happened because of different international trade programs and that over the last 25 years or so, have really liberalized market. It’s made it so folks that are manufacturing in America have to now compete with the wages that are being paid in, for example, China, Bangladesh, India, Southeast Asia, but there’s value in the development that has come in these places, but the long term effects have been really just like the outsourcing of jobs and production.” “So when we are talking about Made in America, we need to frame it in such a way that there’s a real value here, there, are talented and skilled workers here. And it’s really like paying a minimum wage and doing this provides a competitive advantage to America. Yeah, it’s a higher quality product that we can get here.” “And then just in terms of the pandemic, I remember like near my studio in downtown LA where all the fashion brands are, I remember I was having a drink with a friend. There are designers who are talking about their orders weren’t coming in, like the fashion industry in America was experiencing the pandemic earlier on, right, because it was already happening in China, where a lot of materials come from, and a lot of their goods are made. So brands that are ready utilize supply chains that are based in America, were much more resilient and able to quickly move into production and PPP, because they already had the materials here, they already have the


INDUSTRY EXPERTS workforce here, they already had the facilities, right. And so if you understand that we are only going to experience more environmental and public health crises as we move forward because of the situation we’re in, you know, climate change. So we need to make sure that we are equipped for that [climate change]. So we need to invest in more local domestic production, facilities and abilities.” Q: Do you think it’s the role of the government to mandate new laws or the companies who employ those workers?


A: “The controversial thing is in California, especially as we speak to different business owners that they think California is too restrictive, on business. It’s more expensive for me to have my business in LA than it ever was in New York, but the reality is, it’s creating a better work environment for many people. At the same time, there’s so much especially in terms of agriculture, and especially in terms of like manufacturing right now, like, there’s, still plenty of violations. And brands and companies and corporations, their job is to earn, to pay their investors and to get a return on investment for their shareholders. They’re not going to do anything good out of the goodness of their hearts. So we need the government setting the standard.”





CONSUMER TRENDS Primary Research of consumer behavior with fashion. The consumer survey revealed that consumers morals and ethics did not line up with their buying behaviors. This is reflected in market research.



CONSUMER SURVEY To better understand consumer motivations and their behaviors within the fashion markets and infrastructure with sustainable fashion, I conducted a survey with 112 participants, with a focus on ages 18-28. The survey was distributed via social media and word of mouth. It is important to note that this survey is not a wide enough pool of people to represent the entire United States’ beliefs, as the demographics represented 90.2% white, 77.7% female, 42.3% with annual household over $100,00 and majority from the east coast. However, my findings were reflected in larger consumer surveys done by McKinsey, Business of Fashion, Global Fashion Agenda, and Fashion Revolution.



SUMMARY OF FINDINGS Majority of respondents want to know more about the supply chain and material sourcing in garment production. 81.7% of people said sustainability is important to them when shopping, however, this was not reflected in many of their buying behaviors, favorite brands, or knowledge of the supply chain. Respondents indicated consistent concern for the planet and people and desire brands that make alike commitments. Many respondents felt that cost is a barrier to accessing sustainable fashion. There is a correlation between sustainability and quality. Respondents identified that they are willing to pay more for sustainable clothing because it lasts longer.




ANNUAL INCOME 42.2% over $100,000 12.8% $75,000-$99,000 13.8% $50,000-$74,000


GENDER 77.5% Female 22.5% Male

AGES 18-28

ETHNICITY 2.7% asian 0.9% arab 3.6% black 9.1% hispanic 90.9% white




care about brand ethics when buying clothing.

PERCEPTION OF SUSTAINABILITY IN FASHION Overall, the survey respondents demonstrated a consistent preference towards sustainable brands, with 81.7% stating it is important to them. However, this statistic while may represent their values, did not reflect in all of their buying behaviors. Some stated they cared, yet when asked about their favorite brands, they listed brands that are recognized as not “sustainable.” This alludes to the possibility that they say they care, but do not actually act on it or that they do not have a clear understanding of sustainable really means, as indicated in the above table. However, in the qualitative responses, many also emphasized that they are willing to pay more for the ‘sustainable’ garment because they understand that it is better made and will last longer and as shown in the figure below; quality was one of the most prioritized when buying clothing. One of the biggest perceived barrier to ‘sustainable’ fashion is price, with many assuming that it is more expensive and that they cannot afford it.

8 out of 10

of respondents value sustainability in fashion brands.





But while there was such a low understanding of how clothing is made, consistently respondents voiced that they want to know more from brands about how, who and where they make their clothing, with 63.3% saying companies should be completely transparent, and 30.2% saying they should be mostly transparent (see figure to the right). This desire to be more educated and support brands they believe in is a growing trend and I anticipate that following the COVID-19 pandemic and the current social justice movement in America, the concept of voting with your dollar will be even more prominent, particularly in the Gen-Z consumers.

Completely transparent


Partially transparent


Some transparency

Barely transparent

Not transparent




Excerpt from survey responses. These responses indicate that consumers prefer transparent companies.







Had no understanding of the process

Had little understanding of the process.

Had some understanding of the process.

Had a general understanding of the process. Could explain every detail of the process.

Excerpt from survey responses. These responses indicate that consumers have little to no knowledge as to how their clothes are made.

CLOTHING PRODUCTION KNOWLEDGE Given the social climate in which this survey was distributed, the summer of 2020, I infer that there is a pre-bias or pre-set mindset of social awareness and ethics. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many brands not paying their factories, in countries like Bangladesh, and in turn many workers fired from their jobs. Remake’s PayUp campaign gained national attention, particularly on social media, with a rise in circulating education pieces that drew attention to major labor issues in the fashion industry, and also representation in corporate settings, (Remake, n.d.). Furthermore, I hypothesize that education and awareness plays a major role in people’s buying choices and similarly is reflected in the survey respondents. 43.6% indicated they have little to no understanding and 21.8% have no understanding of how clothing is produced. Only 1 person indicated they understand how it is produced, (see figure to the left).



KEY QUOTES “I am absolutely willing to pay more for sustainable clothing because it’s something little that I can do to help brands that are working towards a better future for our earth and all that live here. This small choice today plays a part in big change tomorrow.”


“Sustainable options and clothing needs to be more widely accessible and affordable. It is a privilege to be able to afford sustainable options and the fashion industry needs to advance more to the point where sustainable clothing is more affordable.”

CONSUMER TRENDS When buying clothing, what is most important to you? Style Material Quality Brand Sustainability Origin Trends Fit Price Comfort

78.6% 51.8% 87.5%

25.9% 42.9% 12.5% 25.9%

77.7% 60.7% 0.9% 02






Excerpt from survey responses. These responses indicate that while 81.7% stated sustainability was important to them, it is not the what is most important to them when actually buying clothing. Style, quality, and fit were listed as the most important.

KEY QUOTES “It’s important because I want to spend my money on a brand that chooses to be responsible.” “Fast fashion is more attainable.” “I believe that sustainable pieces last and maintain their initial quality longer then non sustainable pieces.” “Because it makes me feel better about spending that money.”


CONSUMER TRENDS Do you stay up to date on fashion trends? Yes No 52.7%


8.9% 38.4%

Excerpt from survey responses. This response demonstrated the majority of respondents stay up to date on trends, with 75.9% relying on social media.


Moreover, trends play a major role in buying behaviors. With only 8.9% responding that they do not stay up to date with trends, 52.7% said they do, and 38.4% said sometimes. Of those 75.9% rely on social media to stay up to date on fashion trends. This reliance of social media perpetuates trends and peer validation. As emphasized by Rebecca Blake Thompson from Remake, many companies capitalize on the “trend” of sustainability by green washing or deliberately marketing products as “sustainable.” While some use it to merely sell more product, many companies, like those I interviewed, are in fact making commitments to ensure the health and safety of their workers and the environment. This is significant because the creative industries hold the power to set standards and trends. This creative influence paired with education holds the ability to make eco-friendly, traceable, responsible garments the norm.


PATTERNS REVEALED: Respondents say they care about sustainability and ethics, but it is not reflected in their buying behaviors. Some are hesitant to trust that something really is “sustainable” or that their money is going to proper practices. Respondents pointed to their lack of clarity in the garment manufacturing supply chain. 103

But if consumers value sustainability, why aren’t their buying behaviors changing? This market research and my survey respondents highlights a link between the want to support sustainable brands and brands with purpose, however, due to the lack of education and clear definitions on sustainability in the garment supply chain, consumer behavior is not reflecting their values.



Market trends also indicate that consumers want sustainable fashion, and yet it is not reflected in their buying behaviors. “Our research shows that a lack of clarity and awareness, as well as perceived higher price points, are the main factors preventing consumers from purchasing sustainable goods. Other barriers include a lack of availability of preferred styles and brands, perceived inconvenience and the belief that a product isn’t truly sustainable,” (Hahn-Petersen, 2018). In addition, it takes significant time to do the research and understand a brands production techniques, with limited consumers actually taking the time to visit corporate sustainability reports; “sustainability information needs to be clear, visible and easily accessible — both in-store and online — to cater to the short attention span millennials are so famous for,” (Hahn-Petersen, 2018). Furthermore, the fashion industry lacks clear definitions of what sustainability means. With no universal definition, “Sustainability remains a nebulous concept that means different things to different people and continues to shift as a priority over time. Many consumers struggle to identify what makes a brand or product sustainable to begin with,” (Willersdorf & Mitchell 2020). This lack of clarity allows brands to capitalize on the sustainability trends and greenwash or target their marketing to appear ‘sustainable.’ This highlights a link between the want to support sustainable brands and brands with purpose, however, due to the lack of education and clear definitions on sustainability in the garment supply chain,


consumer behavior is not reflecting their values. The Global Fashion Agenda reported that more than a third of consumers “reported they have switched from their preferred brand to another for reasons related to responsible practices. However, the 2019 data revealed that sustainability is still far from being a key consideration in purchasing decisions.” (Global Fashion Agenda, 2019). As communication is a key form of engagement today, brands hold the power to drive change and influence consumer understandings of the industry. Based on a Fashion Revolution survey with 5,000 participants, they found that the majority of respondents want to know how their clothing was made, where the materials are sourced from, and what the fashion brands are doing to minimize “their environmental impacts, protect workers rights, and improve the lives of people in societies where the clothes are made,” (2018). Brands can take this as an opportunity to educate their consumers by being more transparent in their supply chains and production techniques, while also building a more loyal trusting consumer base by eying them into how their clothes are made. “Sustainability will be the next major battlefield where brands will compete for millennial spend” so it is an opportunity to drive industry change (Hahn-Petersen, 2018).




APPROACHING THE PROBLEM Examining human behavior and current solutions. This section examines the commonly stated solutions such as the circular economy, and some drawbacks to those solutions. It also breaks down some human drivers.





When examining consumer behavior, it is important to examine the drivers. “Virtually all forces that have an impact on human behavior work on only two basic drivers of behavior… The first question simply asks, “Am I able?” The second, “Am I motivated?” (Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, & Swtizler, 2013). When examining the survey respondents result, many identified that they care about sustainability, however were not motivated to purchase sustainable clothing due to a variety of reasons like barrier of cost, lack of trust, or lack of understanding. The following figure creates a lens to examine consumer behavior and the infrastructure they exist in.

This structure of human behavior drivers plays a role in everything we do day to day, like shopping for clothing. There are a variety of influences as to what goes into purchasing clothing, whether it is self-expression, societal pressures to meet trends, price, style, or materialism for ephemeral happiness. All of the possible drivers play an important role in perpetuating the fashion industry. The motivation and ability are carefully intertwined with personal, social, and structural influences.



Gen-Z holds 40% of global consumer buying power and are influencing the older generations.

Gen Z makes up 40% of current global consumers, with over $150billion in spending power (Nanda, 2020). Fashion brands are looking to Gen Z not just for their buying power but also their influence on families. Clothing and fashion have historically and culturally used to show status and identity. Olander suggests, high fashion emerges at the upper classes of society, eventually finding its way down to the greater population: “the trickle-down theory,” (Olander, 2019). When these trends or clothing emerge in the upper classes, others begin to imitate the style to feel as though they represent the same status. In the past, clothing was a symbol of status and social hierarchy, fashion for the elite would eventually trickle down to the masses, however today, trends show a “trickle up.” More and more of Gen Z are influencing their parents, with 52% saying their children influenced the brands they purchase from (Nanda, 2020). This stems from digital fluency in the younger generation where Gen Z is exposed to wider retail channels and brands online and on social media. Part of this



digital age means increased communication from brands. “Collectively, these and other youthfocused social platforms have empowered a global, highly educated consumer group that is more connected than the generations before them, and which is highly segmented across platforms an channels,” (Nanda, 2020). Consumers are looking towards fashion brands to not only reflect their values and morals, but also take action upon them. According the McKinsey group, “nine out of 10 Gen-Z consumers believe brands should detail their beliefs on environmental and social issues,” (Nanda, 2020). Gen-Z is the next battle ground for consumer spending as they hold a significant percentage of global consumer and influence those around them buying decisions too.

Consumers are looking to brands to represent their values and take action.


CONSUMER TRUST While consumers want brands to voice their ethical and environmental commitments, many consumer do not trust brands. Recent breaches in data left consumers uncertain as to how much personal information they should share with brands. “As a result, they are demanding to know much more about a range of issues, from where and how items are made to the design provenance and the item’s quality,” (Amed, Balchandani, Beltrami, Hedrich, & Rolkens, n.d.). As shown in my survey responses, McKinsey identified that this distrust has led to consumers expecting complete transparency across the entire value chain, and transparency to be a trend in the coming years (McKinsey&Company, 2019). This erosion of trust has led to a higher standard of scrutiny of brands and their actions, with social media enabling discussion. In response to these trends many brands have enacted transparency in manufacturing to capture consumer and build trust. For example, Everlane prides itself on its ‘radical transparency’ and shows the cost of production and he factories the clothes are made in (Everlane, 2020). Fashion Revolution’s 2020 transparency index listed H&M group, Adidas, Marks & Spencer, C&A, and Patagonia as some of the most transparent brands, based on the amount of information the companies disclose, (Marriot, 2020).


There is a lack of trust between consumers and brands, with consumers expecting more radical transparency.




According to Marisa Adler, from Resource Recycling Systems and a speaker at the NYSAR conference, recycled polyester, rPET, is in high demand and if the recycling systems are put in place to support it, it could help transition to a circular economy. While tens of billions pounds of polyester textiles (and PET bottles) are being disposed of, only a small fraction of rPET is being used, (Adler, n.d.). When looking at the waste stream in the United States, in 2017 there were 267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste; 13% of which was plastic and 6% was textiles. That amounts to 16.9 million tons of textile waste. And yet, the infrastructure to manage or divert it from the waste stream to be recycled does not yet exist. Textile waste is expensive for municipalities to collect and dispose of, with the United states spending $4billion to collect and throw away textiles in 2020. When looking at those 16.9 million tons of textile waste, only 15% is actually recycled and reused. For that small percentage, 80% gets sold off to exporters and brokers to be sent overseas. 45% of which is reusable as clothing, 30% is down cycled into industrial rags, 20% gets turned into shoddy (ground up textiles), and the remaining 5% is waste (Adler, n.d.). A sound recovery value chain would take pressure off of environmental resources and also support the economy by keeping the value of textiles in cycle for as long as possible. Adler identifies six elements to ensure a proper value chain: collection systems readily available, textile sorting facilities that “generate readily accessible material volume


and composition data, paired with mechanical and advanced recycling technologies to convert inputs into global commodities,” brand agreement and markets that utilize and accept circular economies, outreach to drive engagement, supportive legislation to incentivize textile recovery, and partnerships to decrease textiles in the municipal solid waste stream (Adler, n.d.).


The infrastructure required to support waste stream divergent does not yet exist.




Due to the complexities of the supply chain, over 40% of composition labels on clothing are not accurate. This limits the ability for textile recycling. It is crucial to understand how the fibers are blended together, what are the fiber contents, and what finishing, coatings, dyes or treatments were used (Adler, n.d.). In this digital age, data is proving to be a key asset. The complex supply chain of fashion uses a variety of global partners and organizations to grow, process, manufacture, produce, ship and distribute. Human error and inconsistencies are bound to happen, which is seen in 40% of clothing being mislabeled. In order to support a circular economy and strong recovery value chain, more data needs to be used and attained to effectively recover and process the materials. In efforts to address their tremendous production, Abigail Kammerzell, the Sustainability manager at H&M, spoke at the NYSAR conference about their company who began using AI to monitor and impact the number of garments produced based on data inputs on location and stock depletion. As a result, this year they produced fewer skews than the year prior (Kammerzell, 2020). At the NYSAR conference, Annie Gullingsrud, the Chief Strategy Officer at Eon, emphasized the role data will need to play in enforcing circularity into the textile industry. As many labels are misidentified, it will be impossible to properly recycled and reuse materials if it is


unclear as to what the actual material is. Eon aims to create a global language for products in the circular economy. Creating more data will not only make it easier to operationalize resale and recycling, but also create more transparency between brands and consumers, in turn building trust across the value chain. More data can help to increase the equity and value of materials and control the brand within second markets, building data insights and potential business opportunities, (Gullingsrud, 2020).


Miscommunication and mislabeling in the supply chain makes it difficult to effectively recover materials.

ENFORCE DIVERSITY OF MATERIALS Another approach to mitigating some of the impacts of the global fashion supply chain is to decrease dependency on a few fibers, like cotton and polyester. Introducing a variety of materials and fibers into the stream would improve biodiversity and limit the pressure on reliance of land and petrochemicals. Fletcher writes of the benefits in her book, Sustainable Fashions and Textiles, “A strategy of materials diversity aims to temper these fibers’ market dominance so that alternative, more resource-efficient and culturally responsive fibers can begin to flourish. Replacing some conventional cotton production, for example, with alternatives such as organic or low chemical cotton, flax, hemp and lyocell could bring benefits by reducing pesticides and water use. Likewise a shift away from polyester to renewable and biodegradable fibers such as wool and those made from corn starch would also bring benefits, reducing our dependency on petrochemical products including oil” (2012).


There is no one single solution to transofrm the industry.

There cannot be one solution, one approach, or one fiber that can transform the industry or change the “resource-intensive industry into a more sustainable one,” (Fletcher, 2014). While enforcing a diversity of material will benefit the system, a hyper focus on just changing materials will not be the end all be all solution, it needs to be in combination with a multitude of solutions.


SYNTHESIS When looking at how to address the fashion supply chain, there is not going to be one “right” or “wrong” approach. It will take a cumulation and variety of techniques and technological developments to properly address the problem. However, with that said, what does remain clear, is the need to standardize and define “sustainability” in the fashion industry and build consumer trust. As there is a large disconnect between consumer values and their actions, there is a need to examine what are the limitations and enablers to changing consumer behavior within the current or future infrastructures, personally, socially, and economically. The next step in my thesis is to formulate recommendations based on this research and identify potential solutions to the overarching problems faced by the fashion industry which consumers will engage with.


OPPORTUNITY Replace consumer doubt and confusion surrounding ‘sustainable’ fashion with a product or system that builds consumer trust while incentivizing brands to pay living wages and create traceable and environmentally conscious products.




Market research demonstrates that consumers value brands that have ethics. By utilizing a solution that creates trust with the consumer that said brand is abiding by ‘sustainable’ guidelines, it will attract more consumers.


While consumers value brands that have purpose, my initial research highlights their lack of understanding of apparel production. This lack of understanding is transferring in the lack of change in their buying behavior, because it’s difficult for individuals to have empathy, when they do not fully understand the process. By creating a solution that builds trust between the “right” process and the brand, the consumer only has to trust one organization, rather than researching each individual brand.


By making a solution that is mutually beneficial to consumer wants and financially beneficial to brands, more companies will participate. By setting a desirable solution, it will raise the standard of production, and in turn benefit surrounding environments.




Companies, like Inditex who own the brand Zara, would benefit from associating with the potential solution. By gaining more consumer support, the demand for those type of brands and clothing will grow, and in doing so grow their revenue.


All governing bodies, particularly capitalist societies, aim to raise their overall GDP. With the current mode of production, it would not be beneficial to the economy to limit production methods. However, if companies began to make changes on their own, based on consumer demand, it would then be easier to set legislation that protects environmental and human health, while still raising the GDP.


Improving the overall quality of production not only means creating better garments and better environmental practices, but also raising the standard of work. More money and more legislation means that more workers can be ensured living wages and access to safe working conditions.




GUIDING QUESTIONS How do we impact consumer behavior by helping them to trust that their purchases are sustainable? 121

What does it mean to impact consumer behavior? What does ‘sustainable’ mean? What does ‘trust’ mean to a consumer of fashion?




IDEATION + CONCEPTS Potential Solutions Prototypes, wire frames, sketches, story boarding, and site maps, all leading up to my final design.


CO-DESIGN To start of my ideation phase, I began by interviewing 9 young creative professionals about their views on sustainability in the creative industries.


GOAL To identify how they define “success” in sustainability, their values, and goals for their professional field to create a clearer vision of who and what the future of the industry will be driven by.

FINDINGS Majority of creatives identified the power and importance of creative fields in influencing consumers and the world. Majority cited that either social or environmental causes motivate their work.


“Hopefully, we’re moving towards ads actually aimed to educate, inform and help the consumer… creating consumers who are curious, who think for themselves who do their own research, who don’t trust everything they read... And I think that the creative fields are the ones who can do that...I hope the future of creativity will be a source of information that a consumer can trust and a consumer can go to and lean on.” - Cam Lavoie



IDEATION Next I moved to the ideation phase. There were some key influences from my primary and secondary research phase that informed my final design system.



DESIGN OPPORTUNITIES Brands with purpose sell Unilever saw the rapid growth of purpose driven brands and consumer trends indicate consumer value ethical action oriented brands.

Make sustainability irresistible As we live in a trend based society, pushing sustainability as a trend will attract more consumers because it relies on the core human element of desire.

Passive education Both Levi’s and Dove mentioned the power of small messaging which can peak the consumer’s interest just enough for them to go looking for more information on their own.

Know your customer From the consumer surveys, it is clear that a large barrier to sustainable fashion is cost, so the design solution needs to be cost effective and attractive to the average twenty year old.

Power of Partnerships Partnerships bring loyal brand followers and expose the service to more people, as learned from Loop. By creative a service that works in tangent with recognized brands, it allows for consumers to still shop at the places they trust, making it an easier transition.

Iconography for immediate recognition Lastly, for the most instantaneous response from the consumer, iconography will create easily recognized and processed information by just looking at the symbol.



STORY MAPPING Before creating concepts, I first story mapped a generic in store and online shopping experience for a customer.







CONCEPT 1 An app that connects the user with resources to how the apparel item they are browsing is made and sourced. Providing a grade reference for categories. It suggests similar items from other brands that are more sustainable or approved.

Drawback: This idea does not intervening in the users normal shopping routine, they have to already be using the app for it to work, therefore not likely to build habits or change behavior in the long run.




My second concept focused solely around certifications and icons. The user would see the icon on the tag and be able to look up that the item is sustainably certified. Drawbacks: An extra step that consumers are not likely to take. Not incentivizing enough to change their behaviors, no benefit beyond the fact that is sustainable, therefore not appealing to a wide enough user base.





SHOPPER FLOW + INTERVENTION Sees instagram ad for swim suit

sends to sister

decides she needs new suit before summer

insta shopping

clicks on the ad she sent to her sister


intervene convince

motivation fit

finds a swim suit she likes with underwire support

reads about product/sustainability

swim suit is too expensive

cannot justify price + risk not fitting

googles underwire swimsuit

selects familiar brand






SH A only 1 pop up


extension pop up: savings/discount code/points

notification or jumping, or side bar

button show me more

here are other options ($80) on website

saves x water

ideal start location

buys the 80 sustainable swim suit in similar style


posts on social media






Alex is a 22 year old senior in Syracuse University, majoring in political science. She is passionate about sustainability and is aware of the issues with fast fashion. Because of her major, she is well educated on these topics and is motivated to be perceived as intelligent and conscious of social and environmental issues. She usually only shops online or from thrift shops because Syracuse does not have many sustainable brands. She loves fashion and staying on trend, but tries not to shop too often. Her go to brands are Reformation, Outdoor voices, and Aritizia. Alex is 5'10" and a size 2, and usually has no problem finding her size. She's open to shopping at new brands but likes to read about them first.

Mary is a 26 year old woman living in New York City. She has a full time job making 65k a year. She is petite and has a hard time finding clothes that fit her well. She cares about sustainability, but her difficulty in finding clothes that fit well, usually trumps her desire to be sustainable. She spends a lot of time on Instagram and Pinterest trying to find inspiration for petite fashion. Due to the high expenses of living in NYC she prefers brands that are reasonably priced. Her favorite store is ASOS because they have so many brand options and free shipping. She doesn’t usually shop in store because she’s not a big fan of crowds, but if she does, she likes to shop at Lord & Taylor.

Designing for Alex: Provide significant information to convince them of the brands ethics and practices and a way for them to show off that they are being sustainable.

Designing for Mary: Use Instagram ads to catch her attention for the service. Provide online messaging to accompany her online shopping at trusted brands.




Sophia is a 19 year old woman who is a full time student in college and works part time in the campus coffee shop. She is 5’6” and a size 8. She loves buying new clothes that make her feel good, however cannot afford expensive brands. She is conscious of the environment however it does not motivate or influence her when shopping, as her primary motivation is to find clothes that make her look good. She loves going to the local mall to go to store such as Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters, or when shopping online she purchases from Shein or Amazon. She loves to wear her new clothes in her Instagram posts or when she goes out with friends.

Chris is a 23 year old male who just graduated from college and is entering his first post grad job in finance. He is very well read in the news and cares about sustainability, but never really saw the connection with fashion. He is most interested in putting his money behind brands that he supports and admires as successful businesses. Chris appreciates well made functional clothes that provide comfort, but also some style. He does not shop often, but when he isn’t buying suits or work attire, he usually shops at Carhartt, Bonobos or Patagonia. He is 6’1” and a size 32. He can usually find his size no problem, but likes to shop in person so he can try things on.

Designing for Sophia: Reward her shopping with money/savings to motivate her to shop at sustainable brands. Allow her to celebrate with her friends her new clothing.

Designing for Chris: Provide Chris with substantial information about the brands and incentives to convince him why he should shop from them. Talk more about the business beyond just sustainability, as that is not a motivating factor behind his shopping.





Bringing the user into the service and creating future triggers for continuous use and to recruit more users.

The action the user takes with the service.

Keeping consumers engaged in the sustainable fashion service: Renewal



Variable Rewards


The immediate rewards the user gets from the action.

The over time investment that gets them to keep coming back and can also serve as a trigger for new users.

Reads about Renewals growing success in a Bloomberg article


His higher quality clothes last him longer and h e gets an o verall better experience and use.

The Functionalist

Checks out the website and decides to shop through it

Feels satisfied he supported companies that are traceable, ethical, and financially successful, all through the ease of using Renewal s website



Hears about it on podcast she listens to daily


Shares on Instagram her carbon emissions and water savings for shopping sustainably

The Conscious Consumer

Uses the Renewal website and program

Feels pride in w earing sustainable clothes with visible Renewable tag


Sees fashionable influencer Renewal promo and friend s eye catching Instagram story of fashion stats


Collects points for future purchases

The Skeptic

Downloads the chrome extension

Feels satisfied she s aved money using the discount codes to shop at brands she cannot normally afford



For my third and final concept, I looked to combine concept 1 and 2 to create a certification organization and sustainable marketplace. The goal is to create an easily identifiable icon that consumers can immediately trust. The service will pop up in a chrome extension when shoppers are online shopping; its aim is to be as passive as possible, but with strong incentives such as rewards/savings, while still educating and building desire for sustainable fashion.





My Account



How Sign Up

Log in

Fiber Information Enter

Forgot Password Pick inspiration




Get Started

142 Measurable Impacts


Under $100


Click product


Product Info

Link to og website Instagram/FB Story



Items Ethics


Browse Water Usage

About Us

How do we certify sustainable

Energy Source

Fiber Sourcing We examine 5 factors

Waste Output


How it works Where





China Oil

Ethics Finds coupon Codes

Labor Rights Helps you do X

Water India

Cashback/points Etc

143 Exclusive








“I want to be able to add my in person purchases to my online account” “Why do the brands need certification?”

“The logo is easily identifiable”




“I like to sort when shopping by size”

“I usually shop at minimal websites and brands”

“I want the shopping experience to feel as normal as possible”










An online marketplace and chrome extension to make sustainable, traceable shopping more accessible and convenient to users. Renewal certifies all the brands they partner with, making sure they meet strict ecological and ethical requirements.





Online Marketplace Renewal certifies brands, eliminating the space for users to research or doubt while shopping about whether or not a brand is truly ‘sustainable.’

Renewal certified symbol is stamp of approval and immediately recognizable.





Shopping Made Easy Browse all the brands in one convenient location. Widens sustainable brand exposure to more shoppers. Easily filter items to personalize shopping experience.




Passive Education Provides the user with all the relevant information about how clothing is made and the impacts the industry has.

Users can click on each fiber to learn more.







Share with peers. To trigger more users into the system and build community support and desire. Users can post their personalized savings report to their Instagram stories.



R 164

Renewal’s Google chrome extension. Every time the user shops, it will notify them when there are applicable savings, and whether or not the brand is certified Renewal sustainable. It keeps track of the users sustainable shopping habits and the equivalent ecological savings to reward them with points, encouraging them to continue to shop sustainably.



Reward sustainable purchases. To motivate users to continue to shop, the chrome extension offers discounts and point rewards.


Tie savings to environmental footprint. Connect environmental impacts to money for tangible savings.

Non-invasive cues to encourage behavior change. The chrome extension functions through the users normal shopping behaviors, only prompting the user at key intervention points.




Show off jeans are sustainable with the Renewal Jean tag.

In person shopping. Renewal also tags physical clothing in brand stores, calling attention to certified pieces.

Users can scan the QR code to add the item to their account for more savings and rewards.









In conclusion, Renewal is an organization that certifies fashion brands on their supply chain, energy usage, water usage, material sourcing, and end of life responsibility. It utilizes iconography in conjunction with brand partnerships, to build upon existing consumer trust, while also building its own brand. Renewal aims so be a quiet assistant, popping up when it’s needed most, and being a resource for those who get curious as to how their clothes are made.


This design service is deeply routed in the primary research findings from consumer surveys and expert interviews. Climate change is a present day threat, and tremendous obstacle we will all face globally. The fashion industries supply chain is complex and far reaching, impacting all corners of the world. In order to stimulate change, because we live in a capitalist society, the power lays in the consumers hands. Renewal was designed to empower and assist consumers in their journey in navigating a variety of mis labeling and green washing in the fashion industry. An all in one trust worthy source, but also a desirable brand, leaning into the trend driven society to make positive change.


Next Steps As Renewal is established, the next steps would be to have publicity partnerships with prominent brands to boost Renewal’s name. In addition, as it’s platform grew, it would branch out into a mobile app to increase convenience and accessibility. Furthermore, Renewal’s long term goal is to work with the government to establish stronger legislation to force the hands of corporations and their harmful practices.









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Nanda, M. . (2020). Gen-Z Shopping : Separating Myth from Reality, (October). Olander, F. (2019). Has Gucci Gone Too Premium Mediocre ? Lund University. Projects, C. T. (2020, September 09). Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https:// Remake. (n.d.). #PayUpFashion Tracker. Retrieved December 7, 2020, from https:// Stotz, Lina; Kane, G. (2015). Facts on The Global Garment Industry. Clean Clothes Campaign, 1–20. The Circular Economy in Detail. (2020). Retrieved December 2, 2020, from https://www. circular economy is a,the consumption of finite resources. UN Environment Programme. (2018). Putting the brakes on fast fashion. Retrieved December 8, 2020, from putting-brakes-fast-fashion Union of Concerned Scientists. (n.d.). Environmental Impacts of Natural Gas. Retrieved from United Nations. (n.d.). UN Alliance aims to put fashion on path to sustainability. Willersdorf, S. & Mitchell, R. (2020, September 22). What Consumers Really Think About Sustainability. Business of Fashion. Retrieved from: https://www.businessoffashion. com/articles/opinion/sustainability-consumer-spending-environment-social-impactallbirds-patagonia-covid-19

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