What Is the Biggest Obstacle To Buying "Sustainable Fashion"? 26% Still Doubt Brand Sincerity

October 10,2019

The sustainable fashion trend is sweeping the world, providing a new opportunity for the fashion industry, and opening a new window for brands to advocate individuality and transform like-minded people into loyal users.

As the earliest fashion business media in China reporting global sustainable fashion trends, Luxe.CO has launched the ‘Global Sustainable Fashion Monthly Report’ since last November, carrying out extensive communication with professionals in the fashion industry. Nowadays, it is not only international brands, but also local brands in China that have started to launch product lines centered around the concept of sustainability. A group of emerging brands created by fashion entrepreneurs even take "Sustainability" as part of their DNA.

However, it is undeniable that for most local Chinese consumers, sustainable fashion is still cutting-edge and perhaps even a little vague\. When major fashion brands enthusiastically express their opinions without a deep understanding of users, it can backfire by over-marketing.

Facing young high-end consumers in China, Luxe.CO recently conducted a small survey on sustainable fashion consumption and an in-depth study through one-to-one interviews.

Survey: What do you think is the biggest obstacle to buying sustainable/eco-friendly fashion products?

Among the 457 participants in the survey, at the top of the list, 26% said they "don't believe that brands’ actions are consistent with their words”. “Not knowing where to buy” is followed by 21%. 19% of people "don't understand what 'sustainable' is and what it means". The proportions who said sustainable fashion was "too expensive" (18%) or "styles too boring" (17%) were small, but not negligible.

Note: the result of option percentage is calculated by rounding.

One-to-one Sampling Interview ( a total of 8 people.) : 

Q: Do you recognise and accept the concept of sustainable fashion? What is your understanding of this?

Dora:"I agree with it. After all, it is good for the protection of environmental resources and other aspects. I think this kind of sustainable fashion has permeated from materials in the beginning to printing and dyeing methods, production methods, storage methods, etc."

Judy:"My understanding is that the production side reduces environmental pollution, uses environmentally friendly production methods and raw materials. Consumers buy environmentally friendly, long-life or second-hand fashion products. I actually really agree with it, but it may take some time for me to accept second-hand products."

Editor’s comment: Young Chinese consumers may be more aware of sustainable fashion than brands originally thought. Second-hand clothing trading is also a way for fashion brands to promote sustainable fashion. For example, a pilot project launched by fast fashion giant H&M group has created a second-hand clothing section for its & Other Stories brand on Sellpy, a Swedish second-hand trading platform invested by H&M group. Stella McCartney, a British designer brand, cooperated with The RealReal to promote customers to re-sell their Stella McCartney second-hand clothes through its platform to reduce the pollution caused by waste clothes to the environment.

Q: Are you willing to buy sustainable fashion products?

Dora: "I'm willing to support it, but it depends on the design. I didn’t buy any last year and the price is not right."

Judy: "Yes, if the style is nice and the price is acceptable. I would love to pay a little more to buy it, but the truth is that I have not bought any, because the price is really quite high."

Bai: "Reducing clothing consumption is also supporting sustainable development. But I think the sustainable fashion products in China are generally not stylish. But if you buy a brand that has a sustainable collection that looks good, that you pay attention to it, but it's mostly about whether it looks good."

Nuo: "I think if the price is reasonable, the style is nice and environmentally friendly, then that must be a priority. But sustainability alone doesn't seem to be a prerequisite.In fact, I can't see the difference between sustainable and ordinary materials. Maybe my contact is too limited, and after using it for a long time, I may feel it more deeply."

Q: How much premium can you accept for a sustainable fashion product?

Dora: "It depends, maybe 10-15% for a bag, but 5-10% or less for clothes because clothes change relatively quickly. The premise is a good design"

Diana: "I wouldn’t be able to take much if just for sustainability."

Judy: "Maybe 15%."

Bai: "If it looks good on me and I really like it and it's environmentally friendly, I don't care about giving a little more. 5-10% if it's an environmentally friendly brand, 15% or more if it's a limited edition."

Nuo: "Depending on the original price, 5-10% for clothes at most. This is my greatest love for mother earth."

Editor’s comment: For consumers, sustainability is a plus for fashion products. When launching sustainable products, brands should also take into account product design and cost performance. Consumers will not simply pay for the concept of sustainability.

Q: Where have you seen sustainability related information/brands?

Dora:”Brand WeChat official accounts”



Bai: “Website recommendation and brand’s official website, and then will receive email for new product launch.”

Nuo: “Seem to have seen, maybe from the introduction of new fashion products, they indicated the materials they used for the products.”

Q: What brands or groups do you know that practice sustainable fashion?

Dora:"I don't know much. I've heard Gucci, Stella McCartney don't use animal fur. H&M has a clothes recycling project, and Mango seems to have some similar practices."

Diana:“I like Vivienne Westwood,she has always been an environmentalist.”

Judy:“I remember that Kering group seems very concerned about sustainable fashion.”

Bai:”I like Stella McCartney, their fabric is very good, I bought their underwear. There's a US brand called Marine Layer that I like, which is one of those California slouchy clothes made out of recycled wood. I learned these brands from my work.”

Maier:“Stella McCartney and Freitag are very famous among architects and designers, they have a store in London, my friend bought clothes from there.”

Q:Do you know any Chinese brands who are practicing sustainability?

Dora: "ERDOS, JNBY, and All Comes From Nothing."

Judy:“I actually don’t know any Chinese brands.”

Editor’s comment: In the era of social media, where mass fashion information is available, consumers don't seem to get much useful information about sustainable fashion. In the ‘Global Sustainable Fashion Monthly Report’ from Luxe.CO, there are 30-40 global sustainable fashion measures in each issue on average. However, these measures are hardly reflected in brand day to day activities, and Chinese consumers still find it difficult to get this knowledge. 

ERDOS limited edition green set

Currently, many fashion brands and fashion e-commerces are increasing the exposure of sustainable fashion products. For example, Nordstrom, a high-end department store in the States, launched a summary of sustainable products, which summarized all the sustainable products for the convenience of consumers. At present, there are more than 2000 types of product in this category. Net-a-Porter has launched Net Sustain, an e-commerce platform for sustainable brands. All selected products must meet at least one of five key attributes, ranging from materials and processes to reducing waste in their supply chain. ASOS, the British fashion e-commerce company, has launched the sustainable products recommendation section, which summarizes the products in line with the principles of sustainable fashion and recommends them in the Responsible Edit column to help consumers find environmentally friendly products they need more easily.

Social media channels are important for Chinese brands that practice sustainable fashion. ERDOS, which has been mentioned by two interviewees, has been posting keywords such as "environmental protection", "sustainable fashion" and "recycled cashmere" on Weibo, WeChat and other social media platforms, and promoted it by using the spokesperson effect, leaving more impression on users that the brand is committed to sustainable fashion development.

Q: What do you think of brands promoting sustainable fashion?

Dora:“It's hard to keep... I think most of them are just meeting the demands of the market... And the pursuit of sustainable fashion, to some extent, is in conflict with the nature of the brand to make money.”

Diana: ”I sometimes worry about whether environmentalists are going too far. To be honest, fashion is built on excessive consumption to some extent. If people don't have the desire and demand of excessive consumption and only buy the basic style, then no one will buy the beautiful or unconstrained design, and the commercial use will be gone.”

Nuo: "If the gross margin of the brand can bear it, I think it's a good thing to invest in the development and promotion of sustainable fashion. But if you lose money for a long time, you may have to wait until the market is ready to make a decision. Business is business, the company needs to be profitable."

Q: Do you believe in brands’ commitment to sustainability?

Dora: "I think there must be some brands that matches words with deeds. But because it's such a hot topic now, it's hard to tell if a brand is really going to stick with it or follow suit. For example, for fast fashion, even recycling old clothes cannot hide the fact that they have a short turnover cycle and stimulate people's excessive consumption. It's hard to make them completely sustainable."

Judy: "80%  believe it, but sometimes a brand may be trying to build goodwill and fit in with the trend rather than actually practicing sustainability, so it may fall short."

Bai: "Maybe it's because I'm a bit of brand-obsessed. Luxury brands and big brands like H&M are definitely fine, but other new brands I will look at it. Because I think sustainability is a hot topic, there may be a situation of not living up to its name, also, it needs certain technology and capital to support, so I will wait and see."

A: "One example is Reformation, which got a lot of financing, but the sales saw that it couldn't have been using the 'leftover fabric'. If really have a reporter to seek truth from facts, can see a trick, the same hot style can be made tens of thousands...... That is how much cloth the garbage can pull out"

Lilian Sun: “I don't really believe that the brand will match words with deeds, especially the Internet/niche brands who like to claim that they are using environmentally friendly materials, zero waste, reducing carbon emissions and inventory. I feel this is a quick way for these brands to get closer to millennials/ gen Z. Further, there is no special regulation/organization management to test or monitor their claims"

Editor’s comment: Chinese consumers generally agree on the significance of sustainable fashion. But consumers also expect brands to be serious about implementing sustainable fashion principles, rather than just marketing to cater to current trends and increase consumer goodwill.


According to the “China’s New Generation Fashion Consumption Report 2018” released by Luxe.CO, 41.9% of young fashion consumers believe that social responsibility has a great influence on their perception of brands, while only 4.9% choose "completely unaffected".

But this small survey and sample interview made it clear that consumers are participants in sustainable fashion, not spectators. While practicing sustainable fashion, brands need to pay attention to consumers' right to know and increase the exposure and transparency of sustainable related measures.



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