Jan 21, 2022
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Britons reject "throwaway" fashion culture, but find sustainable shopping confusing

Jan 21, 2022

UK shoppers are increasingly thinking sustainably when it comes to the clothes they wear, but they still find choosing the most sustainable options when shopping rather confusing.

Phot: Pexels/Public domain

That’s the conclusion of a new study by trade body Leather UK. It spoke to 2,000 UK adults and found that 47% of them think about the potential impact on the planet when it comes to buying clothes and 35% buy clothing and accessories less frequently now than they did five years ago.

Yet 50% of those who buy with sustainability in mind admit that shopping in a way that has the least impact on the planet is confusing and it’s hard to know what the right choice is. Just over a quarter (28%) said they read labels carefully and do a lot of research so as to buy items they think have the least impact on the planet.

The research showed that 51% of UK adults still own and frequently wear an item of clothing that’s a decade old or more — even 17% of millennials and Gen Z. And 20% still wear something that’s more than 20 years old. 

In an apparent rejection of the wear-and-throw-away fast-fashion ethos that dominated at the start of the century, 63% believe it’s important to have clothing that lasts for years, even when worn regularly.

The items most often held onto for the long term are a pair of trousers/jeans (13%) or a leather coat/jacket (9%). Some 45% said they kept their oldest item because it was made of material with a long lifespan and still looked good.

The research also noted that 22% of adults are now more likely to buy clothing/accessories from a vintage store, second-hand shop or resale platform, such as eBay, Depop, Vestiaire Collective or Vinted, than they would have done before Covid two years ago. 

Renting clothes remains a minority activity but that minority is a sizeable one and young consumers are embracing the concept. Some 17% of those surveyed said they’d rented an outfit or accessories. However, this rose to 40% among 18-34-year-olds. Of those who’d used rental, most cited it as a more ethical, sustainable choice (32%) followed by the fact that it allowed them to experience luxury items they wouldn’t normally be able to buy (31%).

This focus on value and sustainability means that consumers are prepared to make an effort to keep a garment wearable. Some 74% said they would repair a garment, with 57% of women saying they would sew on buttons, mend torn fabric and stitch hems themselves. Others would enlist the help of family/friends (16%) or professional repair services (16%). Only 12% would throw the item away or take it to a charity shop or a recycling service. 

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