Nov 20, 2020
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Boomers lead slow fashion uptake but Gen Z face affordability/style barriers - UK survey

Nov 20, 2020

Slow fashion is being embraced by older consumers but young shoppers who want to get involved “suffer from participation barriers”, according to a new study.

Older consumers are embracing slow fashion but it's often unaffordable for Gen Z

AW Hainsworth, the luxury woollen mill, said its research revealed the need for “more education to support the movement and encourage behaviour change in the fashion industry.”

It worked with Censuswide to survey 2,017 respondents who bought clothes in the last two months and found that younger consumers don’t have enough accessible alternatives to fast fashion.

It also found that “a lack of understanding about the concept of slow fashion could be preventing wider uptake”.

The survey showed Gen Z respondents being most likely to say they buy fast fashion regularly (24%), with 28% saying that it allows them to wear the latest trends affordably.

However, this age group was also most likely to agree that they would like to buy less fast fashion, but struggle to find alternatives. Some 30% said they “rarely see ethical, sustainable clothes that they like” and 31% of them said sustainable clothes are often too expensive for them to consider.

That’s one of the fundamental dilemmas of sustainable fashion, as Julie Roberts, Marketing Manager at Hainsworth, explained. “Higher purchasing costs are part of a slow fashion approach, and are a good sign that the supply chain is transparent, people are being fairly paid at all levels and the environment is being cared for. However this is likely to present an access barrier for younger people who have lower earnings and a lower disposable income,” she said.

“Younger people are also likely to be more invested in trends, which means that regardless of income level they are less likely to see the long-term benefit of investing in a well-made, classic item of clothing designed to last for many years. We need to help consumers understand the ethos and the benefits of slow fashion, leading to a mindset shift and ultimately a behaviour change.”

Yet there was hope for the future. Apart from the larger number of affordable fashion firms being more eco-focused, the survey showed 73% of Gen Z respondents saying their clothes shopping “is more thoughtful now that it was five years ago”.

So what about those older consumers? The survey showed those aged 55+ were least likely to purchase fast fashion (only 11% do so regularly) and most likely to rate many principles of slow fashion as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to them.

These Baby Boomers highly rate the fact that a garment is well made (92% think it matters) and that the people making their garments are treated well and paid fairly (75%). They were most likely to agree that the fashion industry needs to change to protect the future of the planet (46%) and that personal style is more important to them than fashion trends (58%).

But while a significant umber of consumers were supportive of slow fashion, a sizeable minority (13% of surveyed shoppers) were unable to identify its main principles. This supports AW Hainsworth’s view that more education is needed.

And consumers do seem keen to get more information. Some 83% of those surveyed agreed that the fashion industry needs to be more transparent about how clothes are made and 22% of respondents said that when they buy fast fashion, they worry about who made their clothes, rising to 30% in respondents aged 16-24.

Hainsworth said it’s doing its bit overall and is working on its first run of recycled wool, created using the waste products from its existing production line. It has also recently partnered with Reshore Apparel to launch Studio H, a partnership that offers the unique service of creating garments from raw fibre to finished piece under one roof.

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