Public Perceptions of Sustainable Fashion


With the launch of Fashion Revolution's latest zine, LOVED CLOTHES LAST (find out about the first zine, Money Fashion Power here), I thought I would celebrate the ethical fashion movement by sharing the results of a large survey (210 people) I conducted in the summer to gauge from the general public how they perceive sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry. Here, look through the findings, then take my new survey about how we can move things forward even more.

Survey Results: Public Perceptions of Sustainable Fashion


First off, the good news! We can see that 65% of the participants would be willing to pay more money for a garment that they knew was ethically made. Although, that, of course, means that 35% wouldn't pay more, which means there's a lot of work still to be done in terms of whether reducing the cost of ethically made clothing or shifting public perceptions of fast fashion costs.

For the majority of people, it appears that the ethics of any given fashion brand is important to them, but only sometimes, and they only sometimes research the ethics of a fashion brand before making a purchase. How can we make information about ethics more readily available to the public? Should we have regulations in transparency and disclosing manufacture details, like we do in the food industry (think nutritional info, farm location, allergens etc)

In terms of defining  'ethical fashion', definitions given were broad, with a fairly equal focus on environmental/animal/human rights. Adjectives like 'conscious', 'considerate' and intelligent' were surprising and welcome suggestions, adding a more holistic, more personal edge to the usual perception of 'compliance' to regulations.


The majority of people chose fairtrade as being the most important 'category' of ethical fashion. I found this interesting because it shows that above all, people value human rights, and that should be perhaps what brands should be focussing on to attract consumers, rather than simply organic or recycled materials.

When disposing of unwanted clothing, 14% put garments into landfill, which is disappointing. Is this because recycling facilities are too hard to come by? 61% of people would resell unwanted clothes, which suggests that price is an important element of ethical fashion and getting your moneys worth.

What was interesting here was that the majority of people don't buy clothing in-store or online. The options for 'Other' included markets like vintage fairs, apps like Depop, eBay or Facebook, pop-up shops, direct from designers, or charity and vintage stores.The suggestions for ethical brands were fairly limited, with only a handful of people going outside of big names like H&M and Patagonia, which shows that we need to promote ethical brands more and more to the wider public.


Finally, 79% of people take some interest in the ethical fashion movement, which is brilliant, but there were several barriers to entry, such as high cost and lack of availability. Once again fairtrade, a living wage and worker's rights are the priority for people.