Fashion is continuously evolving in order to adjust to the demands of the modern age. We can say, fashion industry is going through a seismic shift with the progression of technology and changing lifestyles of people to complement their current circumstances. The fashion industry needs to stay focus and agile amidst coping with external and environmental challenges while catering the needs and demands of its consumers in available resources.
The denim industry has been through numerous epitomes in last few decades and is again undergoing a major transformation. Denim has always adapted to ever changing trends in technology, innovation in fabrics and use of new shapes not typically designed for denim for more performance functionality and comfort with the development of innovative fabric blends and weaves. In starting, denim was used for work and streetwear as an everyday item. Later the designers started showing interest in evolution of denim and now denim especially blue jeans, has become the most sold textile product around the world. Every age group has developed a strong liking for denim across the globe which has heightened the need of bulk production. The major consumers can be divided in two categories; generation Y and the millennials. Most of Gen Y are not the main decision makers of the household so the millennials makes the basic group the industry can focus its marketing and design efforts. Gen Y is quick in decision making while millennials are slow and conscious decision makers yet are willing to spend on clothing and accessories according to Euromonitor International. These generations are also very health conscious which has set the trend for sportswear and athleisure in denim industry.
The popularity and bulk production of denim with sales of about 7 billion pairs around the world every year has strong and significant environmental impact. According to Technavio, the total worth of global denim market is about $60 billion and it’s projected to raise at a CAGR of over 6.5 percent from 2015 to 2020. The denim companies are trying to reduce cost and overall environmental impact by making improvements through research and development at each step of denim production. When something becomes mass produced the entire segment, the denim industry becomes more and more competitive, most of the companies are trying to standout themselves in the market. They work hard for sustainable, most efficient production patterns and strong corporate ethics. According to Sustainable Brands Community (2012), understanding of latest sustainability trends, consumer’s insights and best practices is needed to maintain competitiveness in the market.
Sustainability in the equation demands the procedures to be friendlier environmentally and socially while providing a new source of innovation and competitive advantage at the same time. (Hansen, Grosse- Dunker, Reichwald, 2009)
A durable and fashionable jeans pair is an important part of a modern day attire. Denim is the most worn garment yet worst polluting type of clothing. The denim manufacturing processes are complex and go through lots of chemical procedures which emits immense greenhouse gases. However, denim companies are consistently trying to diminish these environmental costs with their sustainable approach as they are facing lots of pressure to tackle environmental costs incurred.
In the world of globalization, we witness improved enforcement of environmental laws by regulatory authorities that clearly validates growing recognition of the prominence of moving towards a more sustainable model for the denim industry.
Production and Sustainability: Mass production of denim and the procedures used suggest major impact on health of workers and environment. The denim processes are toxic and might become cause of tuberculosis or silicosis in workers. Traditional production requires around 25 dyeing barrels and range of dangerous chemicals. Production of pair of jeans consumes more than 2,500 gallons of water, nearly a pound of chemicals and massive energy. Many denim companies are struggling hard to implement greener methods by developing new techniques of producing jeans needed to build a sustainable business. The companies must also keep in view the practices of its suppliers as it can compromise the ethical and environmental positioning of the company. The concept of sustainability has become global trend. Some of the example of methods used by companies to conserve water and reduce toxic waste are:
• Jeans are manufactured from 100% organic cotton without using bleach
o Wet process: enzymes are used to decrease water wastage
o Dry method. Techniques such as scraping, whiskering, grinding and distressing
o Vegetable dyes: to get the authentic indigo shade of denim.
• New techniques to manufacture ‘green jeans’.
o Recycle 1600 tons of materials into new garments while saving 50 million liters of water.
• Manufacturing jeans entirely from cotton and recycled water bottles.
o Each pair of these jeans contain 8-10 waste bottles and scrap cotton collected from factory floors which otherwise is waste
• Advanced Denim:
o This green process reduce 92% of water consumption, 30% of energy consumption and almost no wastewater
o The process also reduces cotton waste by 87%, which is usually burned that add to greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
• Vicunha launches stain resistant white denim
• Global Denim expands waterless options, performance fibers
• Kilim Denim’s – Turkey: post-consumer jeans- recycles jeans into new yarns
Prosperity Textile – Hong Kong: The New Blue- use sustainable indigo dye technology
• Chottani Industries – Pakistan: Smart washing- Fewer chemical use with less 70 % water usage.
• SOORTY – Pakistan: Organic cotton & Herbal Blue- Indigo dye made available from natural resources.
• Textil Santanderina – Spain: Refibra®, a Tencel® recycled from cotton waste fabrics.
• Denim International– Pakistan: Use laser technology from Jeanologia, Ozone (water-less processing)
Consumer Demand and Sustainability: Today’s consumer determine if the apparel products are fully sustainable for them at the point of purchase. Consumers are increasingly alarmed for the environment. Consumers are preferring denims such organic cotton, natural dyes, rivets and buttons made from natural or recycled materials avoiding washes that require harsh chemicals like distressed, stonewashed, bleached jeans. The new buzzwords are shaping consumers’ minds and purchases towards more sustainable choices. The key words are “Eco chic,” “environmentally conscious,” “ethical consumerism,” “sustainable fashion” and “clothing with a conscience” while more familiar, ‘natural,’ ‘organic’ and ‘green’ are adjectives used.
Social responsibility and sustainability gives the designer and manufacturer a chance to think more critically and produce environmentally responsible clothing. It’s the duty of the designers and manufacturers to manage and make sustainable denim which is still fashionable. The demand of sustainable fashion is based on awareness on the consumers end vitally as it forces the industry to make eco-friendly denim wear. It has been found that many companies had the perception that consumer think of eco-friendly fashion as more hippie than high end fashion. Designers need to ensure that the denim is sustainable yet high end fashion item. Consumers expect their clothes to be part of larger experience socially. Denim is more than a fashion trend as its symbol of comfortable fit, easy dressing and neutral outlook.
Sustainability: Sustainability shifts to circular economy. Shifts in the denim supply chain are making it fashionable for brands to be sustainable. As suppliers invest in eco-friendly practices they need to demonstrate value to offset the increased cost. More and more fashion companies are making circularity part of every point in their supply chains. From sourcing to product distribution, creatively explore recycling concepts, including fibers made from recycled plastic bottles and clothing takeback programs, denim industry is trying to make the value chain more eco-friendly. For many years denim companies come under one roof to exhibit denim products that are more sustainable, eco- friendly and innovative. They share valuable information with other brands and retailers to set new standards in denim design and production. Collaborative supply chain improves a product developer’s ability to compete in terms of product innovation, cost, speed to market, manufacturing expertise, sustainability, and access to technology and resources to be more flexible in its response to changing market needs. Today the collaborative supply chain is the most common and is the means by which the denim production industry functions.
The agile supply chain is also linked and unified through shared information with all players of the supply chain, which includes the denim fabric manufactures, garment makers, and retailers. It helps in keeping shelve well stocked and runs on co managed inventory. The agile supply chains are the coalitions of legally separated organizations such as: suppliers, designers, producers, and logistics distinguished by flexibility, adaptability, and quick, as well as effective, responses to changing markets. Retailers, manufacturers, and all other parties that are geographically dispersed and independent of each other can operate as one business (Christopher et al., 2004).
Sustainable Fashion and Denim: Sustainable fashion is living in agreement with nature and engaging skilled workers in a safe and civilized working environment (Partridge, 2011). A dynamic process to develop and device design ideas and business practices for managing the economic, social and environmental factors. These factors are known as the “triple bottom line” that assess sustainable improvement (Hacking & Guthrie, 2008). The sustainability of a denim is quantitatively assessed using Life Cycle Assessment tool that addresses only the environmental factor of the sustainable design of denim product.
Manufacturing/ Production: The process from fiber production to end product must be sustainable with minimal emission of hazardous and toxic gases and chemicals in air and water.
Distribution: Transporting the mass produced denim is a huge environmental factor in each step of product life cycle. It is extremely hard to quantify the transportation impact as packaging materials waste end in landfill ups. It also consumer large amount of petrol and gas which emits carbons.
Consumer Use: This is vital for sustainability though it falls out of production lines. It is significant in product life cycle as consumer must use the denim garment with care and to full extent. The denim companies need to educate the masses to use the denim garment to the fullest. They must also design and develop denim fabrics which are sustainable while in consumers’ use.
Designing and manufacturing with the care of garments in mind will encourage consumers to think responsibly and instill value into the wardrobes.
Recycling and Disposal: The denim companies need to educate consumers to give away denim garment at the right time of its life cycle so it can be properly recycled. There is a slight margin in type or condition of denim garment which can be recycled and disposed of.
To conclude there is increasing consciousness of the environmental impact of jeans’ life cycles. The new consumerism’ sees shoppers’ demand shift progressively towards sustainability and ethically produced fashion. Jeans, one of the worst product in terms of human and environmental production costs, will present some of the best opportunities to make a good business out of ethically produced apparel. The retailers and manufacturers will rush to quantify the commercial prospective of ethical and sustainable denim apparel.
It communicates the value of product and that the organization cares for the future generations too. The ecofriendly products cater the ever-growing production needs of the company and wins customer loyalty to the brand.
One aspect of sustainability marketing is that you need to keep the customer informed about the sustainability credentials of the product. It will help cement transparency and honesty in the value building of the brand and developing interest in dressing sustainably.
Greater awareness of global issues and organizational abilities to solve those problems has driven people towards sustainability fashion trends. It is giving growth to innovation and profits, making it a better business strategy. ( (Antoshak, 2017)
Here are few aspects we need to keep in mind while infusing sustainability in the business and marketing equation.
1. Marketable Designs: It is important for the manufacturers to first focus on the design of the denim and sustainability is secondary to it. Sustainability alone cannot guarantee better sales of the product.
2. Know your Market: It is important to have understanding of likes, dislikes, passion and values of different type of customer and niche you are designing for.
3. Connect with the customer: To develop a deeper connection with the customer it is of great significance that we create brand value through the sustainability journey of denim development and production process. This way customer can understand how buying a specific brand can make a positive change in society.
4. Keeping the message simple: The basic problem with sustainability messages these days is that organizations add too much information. The simple attractive slogan will do the job and rest can be told later through booklets and social media drives.
5. Get Online: Spread the word about your brand in public. Get the people accustomed to the brand philosophy. Information shared through social media can engage customers and informed about research and development of denim products.
6. Be direct: Use direct relative terms to define the denim products to send clear message
7. Engage the customers through online web forums about their ideas about new fabrics, usage, wash, recycling of their denim products. It will give better statistics about needs and demands of the customers.
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