Increasingly fashion companies are transforming their business models, improving supply chains and reducing waste to become more socially and economically conscious. The provenance of fashion is becoming increasingly important to consumers whose attitudes are changing from the phenomenon of cheap “fast fashion” sourced through global production chains, to “slow fashion” which is often higher priced but ethically sourced.
In April Adidas announced its creation of the 100% recyclable running shoes, known as the Futurecraft.Loop. Adidas which partnered with Parley for the Oceans, an environmental organisation fighting threats to the world’s oceans, has committed to producing 11 million pairs of shoes made from recycled plastics, collected by Parley from beaches and coastal areas. “Taking plastic waste out of the system is the first step, but we can’t stop there,” said Eric Liedtke, executive board member at Adidas.
But what does sustainable fashion mean? Does it mean it’s been made without harming animals? Does it mean there was no environmental harm in its production? Or that there was no waste and no pollution created? Currently there appears to be no common definition, with sustainability and ethics being applied to many different aspects of fashion, from the raw fibre, through to the use and disposal of a product.
How do we know where the products are made and under what conditions?
Ethical shopping isn’t easy. How do we know where the products are made and under what conditions? Social media appears to be a key driving force. Instagram has a number of fashion savvy but environmentally conscious influencers, all sharing their knowledge and experience of ethical fashion. Goodonyou is a free app that looks at how ethical fashion brands really are, by rating each of them to assess their impact on people, the planet and animals, thus allowing consumers to make informed decisions. The app, founded in Australia has rolled out across the globe and is now the largest app of its kind in the world.
The question is, with the demand for conscious clothing rising, will it drive M&A activity and investment? We believe it will and whilst there haven’t been a huge number of deals to date we expect there will be a rise in deal activity across all aspects of sustainable products. Already we have witnessed ethical kids wear brand Frugi, which has experienced a huge rise due to its ethical conscience - receive investment from private equity house True with a view to taking the brand global. Further examples include the American luxury brand dedicated to sustainability, Gabriella Hearst, which was acquired by LVMH Luxury Ventures, and Allbirds, the San Francisco based eco-friendly wool shoe brand raising c. €45m in fresh funding last year in a bid to grow globally. Since being founded in 2015, Allbirds has sold over a million pairs of trainers, raised more than €65m and boasts a value of €1.25bn according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal. Also San Francisco founded, Everlane, the ethical clothing retailer, which was launched with minimal investment (c. €1m) is now estimated to be worth over €220m.
On the smaller scale, there have been a number of crowdfunding campaigns such as Orange Fiber, the sustainable fashion start up brand recently announcing plans to open its equity crowdfunding campaign and Botann, the Scottish sustainable and vegan wellie brand, raising funds on Kickstarter to develop its brand.
So is sustainable clothing the future of fashion? Maybe not for everyone, but it is all steps in the right direction and if the recent Extinction Rebellion protests in London are anything to go by, it proves that it’s not just the tree huggers that care about and want to protect the environment, it’s the young and the old from all walks of life.