tional designers to participate, provided them with samples of hundreds of fabric
choices and helped them source the fabrics. Participating designers and design
houses included Stella McCartney, Yves St. Laurent, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs,
Calvin Klein, Versace, Givenchy, Burberry and many more. The event garnered
significant media coverage and made “eco-fashion” a popular term.
Still, the majority of the market consists not of designer gowns, but of jeans,
yoga clothes, T-shirts, underwear, athletic and outdoor garments—and baby
clothes, the gateway products of this sector. Many of these products are available
online, and in fact, the internet is a primary source of information, education
and availability. Today’s environmental movement is inseparable from e-media,
especially social networking sites, blogs, retail sites and other interactive functions
of the internet. Sites like Treehugger, Inhabitat and Grist.org write frequently
apparel brands and
sites like White Apricot and Organic
Style offer many
brands of organic
and sustainable clothing. Companies like
Under the Canopy sell
from their company
website as well as in retail outlets.
celebrities and the in-
Earth Pledge brought together high fashion designers (left ternet offer a tremen-
to right) such as Stella McCartney (organic cotton), Diane Von Fursten-berg (organic wool), and many others for their 2008 Future Fashion dous marketing base
Show featuring sustainable fabrics. but can also provide
misinformation and exaggerated claims. Just as with the organic foods industry,
standards, transparency and consumer education will be critical to the ongoing
success and growth of the sustainable apparel market. There are still many consumers whose immediate response to an organic garment is, “Why? You don’t eat
it, do you?” The burden will be on apparel manufacturers and retailers to build a
stronger base of educated shoppers.
This means exposing the underside of the textile industry—chemical use in
processing, pesticides in growing cotton, sweatshop labor, and intensive use of
natural resources to clean, finish and transport fabrics and clothing. Unless shoppers understand these dynamics, they will be less likely to understand and accept
the need for sustainable alternatives.
The need for creative and innovative public relations, marketing, advertising
and education through hang tags and point-of-purchase materials will give industry talent a chance to shine. Working with non-profit education and advocacy organizations such as Organic Exchange, Sustainable Style Foundation, Fair Trade
Federation, Organic Trade Association and Earth Pledge, as well as those championing anti-sweatshop initiatives, will help for-profit marketers to achieve their
consumer messaging goals.
Organic food manufacturers and retailers can also play a role in this market;
virtually every food consumer is also a clothing and textiles consumer, and there
are many parallels between the two for the values-based shopper. Retailers like
Whole Foods are experimenting with
sales of clothing in the grocery environment, and nearly every retailer
today offers a cloth grocery bag and T-shirt that can be made of organic cotton. Conference organizers can use
organic cotton or hemp bags and
other items as attendee gifts. Where
once few choices existed in color and
texture of these fabrics, today there is
a range of options to satisfy the most
In conclusion, there is tremendous
potential for the sustainable and organic apparel industry. The need for
change is there, and interest among
young entrepreneurs and professionals in the apparel industry is growing.
Consumer awareness of environmental
and social issues specific to textile production is growing. The farming, manufacturing and retail infrastructure is
Integrity and transparency in business, which will in turn lead to consumer confidence in sustainable
claims, may be the key ingredients for
success. Those who are committed to
genuine change, even in small and incremental ways, will help build a
strong foundation for what can be the
most significant shift in apparel manufacturing and marketing since the Industrial Revolution.
Elaine Lipson is a writer,
editor and creative consult-
ant in sustainable and or-
ganic textiles and apparel,
and the author of TheOr-
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is excerpted and adapted from
“The International Market for Sustainable
(Green) Apparel,” published by Packaged
Facts, May 2008; Elaine Lipson, author.
View the abstract and table of contents and
purchase the full report at www.packaged-facts.com/International-Sustainable-Apparel-