Only recently the sustainable issues are in the fashion industry’s spotlight. Fifteen years into this new century, ethical and sustainable actions in the fashion industry have taken more space in the agendas of businesses, recognising how important it is to address this issues for a sustain-able future. Companies who are on this journey often fall short in communicating their efforts to their customer in the best way possible. Either the communication cannot be trusted or simply they don’t communicate their efforts as a real added value to a product. This study explores innovative ways to communicate in a transparent way the story of ethical and sustainable products by bringing to live their supply chains stories.

The aim of this study is to explore why transparency is important in the fashion industry and, show how to connect the story of ethical and sustainable fashion products with the millennial consumer.

Dissertation title and cover. Image by Bruno Pieters 2010

Dissertation title and cover.

Image by Bruno Pieters 2010

'Connecting the story of ethical and sustainable fashion products with the millennial consumer'

Through two carefully selected case studies this research will explore how transparency can be best applied at the heart fashion brands communications contributing to the research in the field of fashion sustainability and development as well as from business perspectives.

Furthermore, this study explores modern technologies specifically the block-chain, which has great potential to enable transparency communicated by companies to be trusted. This initial exploration could have major impact in how products are certified sustainable or organic today. Transparency will be a requirement in the near future, therefore, this study explores how companies could implement transparency ahead of these new regulations. It is a great moment in fashion’s history, to shift perspectives and understand the connectivity there is between sustainability and business, new technologies and the tech-savvy consumer and beyond.

The fashion industry’s spotlight is on the sustainability issues fashion is facing today. The fashion sector is ‘the second most polluting industry in the world’ (BOF, 2015). Fashion has the power to transform material into beautiful garments, but also to be an agent of change, to create a positive impact on the life of every human being, animal and on the environment. Fashion touches many corners of the globe, and if the retail supply chain can be reinvented it has the capacity to catalyze a positive impact on a larger scale, treading a new path in the history of clothes production.

As Vanessa Friedman, Chief Fashion Critic at the New York Timesenvisions: ‘Transparency has the power to transform the industry’. The moment a customer buys a product is vital to the whole supply chain. It is a unique moment, in which all the resources and efforts put into that one product are validated and with it, the stories that are carried throughout the lifetime of the item. The core of this research centers on the idea that every single product is unique, its journey will never be repeated. The components that make up the item are irreplaceable, along with the inspiration and design. The journey that products take is as important as the way this is designed and communicated.

From early 2012, transparency in fashion has received an increasing interest from the industry but also from the customer perspective. From the industry side new companies such as Honest in Belgium and Everlane in the United States, were founded with transparency as a core value. From the point of view of the customer, movements such as the Fashion Revolution Day have given a voice to consumers who are concerned about the well-being of who made their clothes born out of the frustration of resulting from incidents such as the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh on April 24th  2013.

 Today’s culture narrative is changing. Customers are looking for a story to share when buying into a brand. Hence, they want to know more about where, who and how their clothes were made. Customers are asking questions such as what their clothes are made from – and social media has played a mayor role in bridging the gap that used to exist between the customer and fashion brands. Paul Bailey, Director at 1977 Design, argues that there are also two reasons for this change: ‘The consumer need for a truer relationship and the emergence of a more responsible consumer type.’

The primary data for this research is focused on the millennial customer. They constitute 51% of consumers who were responsive to sustainability actions by looking into the packaging and labels to ensure positive, social and environmental impact, paying extra for products with considered sustainable design. (Nielsen, 2014). This research will contribute, with original observations and knowledge, in order to identify potential opportunities fashion brands have in order to respond to those demands from a generation of tech-savvy millennials, who desire their lifestyle choices to be an extended part of the solution not the problem – for a more sustain-able world.

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