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Fashion Management: Brands evolving with changing times

Gone are the days when fashion was a symbol of wealth and luxury. Brands are now evolving along with their consumers. Consumers are becoming more “woke”. This means, people increasingly value social justice and equality over the bourgie ideas that previous generations held as a status symbol. To be able to appeal to the informed millennial consumers have driven brands towards having their own unique voice in sustainability. For example,

  • Michael Kors prefers the luxe life with sustainability,
  • Forever 21 focuses on minimalism,
  • Abercrombie & Fitch caters to Eurocentric beauty ideals,
  • H&M has collections supporting LGBTQ Pride and Feminism.

But it’s not just designs that getting socially and politically inclined. Here are some of the ways how global brands are aligning themselves with changing times:

  • Toms: Well known for beingdedicated to a social cause, this footwear company has a One for One policy for each product sold. So for every pair they sell, they donate a pair of shoes to a child in need.
  • Asos: A global prêt retailer, this company has teamed up with SOKO Kenya for its “Made in Kenya” collection. SOKO Kenya is committed to ethical production in fashion and tackles issues like unemployment, prostitution and AIDS.
  • H&M: This clothing brand has a “Conscious Collection” dedicated to making clothing out of recycled fabrics.
  • Matt & Nat: Another retail brand dedicated to sustainability and cruelty-free fashion produces vegan bags and footwear. Their “Hope” line donates 100% of the profits to a charity of the buyer’s choice.
  • NAK: A globally renowned luxury footwear brand is famous for creating products from vegan, sustainable materials. These are waterproof, breathable and light products for the new-age conscious consumer.
  • Lacoste: This sporty casual designer brand has its own endangered species collection that drives global awareness to the cause.

With high-end brands leaving behind elitism and chain stores contributing to social causes, mainstream fashion has embraced political correctness and social justice in a bid to cater to the growing awareness in the consumer base. Unfortunately, that hasn’t ensured that the fashion industry operates ethically behind the scenes. The use of sweatshop labor has been a problem that is persistent in the fashion industry. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Feminist Apparel went out of business despite claiming to produce ethically and having a safe and feminist work environment when the CEO unfairly fired his entire workforce over issues of harassment.
  • H&M, being the second largest clothing retailer in the world, pays less than 25% of its supply chain workers a living wage.
  • Whistles has produced feminist slogan t-shirts made by underpaid women in sweatshop conditions in Mauritius.

The Whistles feminist t-shirt controversy sparked a discussion in the fashion industry and in feminist circles about whether fashion can truly represent humanitarian causes and the lack of intersectionality in western feminism. The persistent question lies in whether companies can actually live up to the values that they represent. Fortunately, there are plenty of brands whose entire business models are dedicated to social causes, not merely using them as marketing gimmicks.

  • The Parative Project not only creates t-shirts with slogans meant to start a conversation on specific social issues, but also donates a percentage of the profit from said t-shirts to charities that support the cause.
  • Humanity Unified has a similar business model where their inspirational socially motivated t-shirts are sold to raise money for charity, donating 20% of the profits.
  • Raven + Lily employs 1500 women in Pakistan, India, Cambodia, Kenya and Peru to produce fashion following fair trade guidelines. Their aim is to help these women break their families out of the cycle of poverty.
  • Being Human in India also contributes to social causes via the Being Human Foundation where a percentage of the sale proceeds go into making lives easier for people.

Brands like these continue to prove that, while there are pitfalls on the road to sustainable and socially conscious fashion, it is possible for the fashion industry to coexist with modern moral values.

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