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Sustainable Fashion and Millennials

by Shalini Mohanty

It’s the age of the rising power of millennials who are the new segment in the consumer market. Altagamma’s Consumer and Retail Insight describes them as “the new protagonists of the luxury consumer market [who] are between 18 and 34 years old: global, digitalised, optimistic, open to new things, prone to recommending and sharing products, and sensitive to sustainability. They have further noted that apart from values like brand exclusiveness, the importance of sustainability has also been steadily increasing in the minds of these consumers (mostly younger generations). Accenture Millennial Outlook, states that brands today are “under-delivering against millennials’ expectations.”

There is no doubt, that these shoppers with an increased expenditure power are the new players in consumerism and the future stores are being moulded by the new behaviour, needs and demands of these shoppers. Brands would be able to stay ahead in the game in the coming future if this target segment’s needs are met in the near future.

According to MSL Future of Business Citizenship Report, both millennials and GenZ believe strongly in the importance of good citizenship. 78% of the survey takers would actually recommend a company with good citizenship; 74% of them would feel proud to be associated with it; and a staggering 71% of them said they would be loyal to such a business. These are the key insights into the minds of the millennials and GenZ because their shopping behaviour has the potential to influence not only others’ but also make businesses shift their focus onto some values that would be ensure brand loyalty in the long term.

PETA Plays the Business Game with Hermes and Prada

In February 2016, when Hermes and Prada were hit with the shocking videos by PETA of how ostrich skin bags were made for the two brands, the world did not waste time in making those videos viral, generating a lot of negative buzz around the brands for months to come. Not only that, but Jane Birkin voicing her opinions caused an even bigger uproar in the media. While the world took it upon themselves to make this viral on social media, PETA decided to become shareholders at Hermes and Prada, shortly after. This only goes to show how the tactics of the socially and environmentally conscious group of people have evolved in a world that is focused on capital generation and thinks less of the repercussions of not upholding a sense of responsibility while doing business. 

Louis Vuitton’s “See Now Take Now” Incident

Another case to be noted would be the recent robbing of the Louis Vuitton store in Rio de Janeiro just days after their exotic cruise collection show took place in the city, following a new template of “See Now Buy Now.” It’s hard not to pin the chain of events as being not a coincidence since the country is a hotbed of volatile economy. While the parent group LVMH has a page on their website dedicated to “Corporate Social Responsibility” and how they are committed to “the fundamental principle of respecting people and on making excellence a lever for social and professional inclusion, in solidarity with our host communities.” Perhaps, in this case, what started as a show of showing “solidarity” with the luxury market of Brazil, ended up leaving a few communities of the country furious with the exotic, ostentatious runway show.

Millennials and GenZ are gradually growing in numbers in the fashion and luxury market, and their demands for complete transparency and sustainability in business models shows with the existence of brands like Honest By. Honest By is a brand that shows complete transparency in its supply chain that’s proving to be sustainable for the business. It’s not just a corporate social responsibility campaign for the brand, but it’s exactly how their business model works, because in the long term, they are targeting the right kind of consumers. Bruno Pieters, the designer of the brand thinks “it’s wiser to be a leader who’s ahead of the rest rather than being behind because … it (transparency) will become mandatory one day. People who have doubts about this are the same sort of people who once believed women wouldn’t have the right to vote and gay people wouldn’t have to right to marry. Buying a mystery will be an absurd concept soon. There’s no luxury in a riddle.” Therefore, more power to the brand.

By 2020, when millennials will form a large segment of the consumer pool, brands would need to start integrating themselves as a positive member of the society, or these customers will start disappearing from their stores. A major insight into such consumer behaviour is the fact that they do not like feeling “guilty” while shopping. Thus, to avoid that, brands would need to be transparent about their business models and how they contribute to their customers, society and the environment. Otherwise they would simply be losing accordance with today’s and tomorrow’s consumers.