Sustainable Fashion: Marketing Strategy Or An Oxymoron?

Sustainable Fashion: Marketing Strategy Or An Oxymoron?

In the late decade these two words, sustainable fashion, have become really popular in our everyday life: magazines, tv news or programs, radios debates, campaigns on walls, social media sponsorships or pages but also more in general speeches from any place – you can be waiting at the bus stop or while you’re eating in a restaurant or even in a line for the supermarket!

We talk a lot, we communicate in general, as human beings, a lot because in the end, we are social animals but not all the time we express with our words what we really think, sometimes we use terms that we believe we know the meaning of but they are just “false friends”, helping to create a global misunderstanding or something else, even a new meaning!

Sustainable fashion is for sure, a “false friend” and now we will analyze it!

Let’s start with

Definition Of Sustainable Fashion:

“It is a choice made by people to avoid every kind of inequity and problems concerning ecological integrity and social justice inside the fashion industry”.

What Does It Mean?

Let’s imagine a really simple case: Few people own a brand, a fashion one that produces just one really basic product.

This company exists outside a big town. This brand produces all the materials thanks to the spaces they own, the production is “100% homemade” because it is done inside their own factory from people who live in the closer areas (without any kind of internal discrimination), without using any form of electricity and the distribution is only super local.

The only problems they have is the fact that every week, someone has to drive a diesel car to another closer town to buy a specific color, used in the production (a color that used to be created inside the factory laboratory but nowadays to create that color they would have needed polluted chemicals, so they stopped).

Could we describe this brand as a sustainable fashion one?

Theoretically from what we listen to or what we read this company/brand would be the perfect example of a sustainable fashion brand.

Practically it is not because there are at least two contaminations:

  • Ecological pollution: from the drive;
  • Environmental pollution: from the purchase of the color made by another company with the most normalized and general ways of production that are not 100% sustainable.

This whole example to say: sustainable fashion doesn’t exist or, to better say, it exists but it is really rare and complicated!

So next time you will meet someone who would tell you how much that brand or product is sustainable, don’t believe those words because the person may not have any idea about the real meaning or that person has no idea about the reality and just follows what the marketing says!

After this incipit where we have underscored the almost impossibility to have it, where the two words sound more like an oxymoron than anything else, let’s now discuss:

One Of The Greatest Marketing Strategies/Inventions Of The Last Decade (even if the idea is as old as this planet!)!!!!

Sustainability Connecting The Industries With The Environment

The idea of sustainability connecting the industries with the environment is findable since the second part of the XX century, the first moment of world rebalance (after the Second World War), people restarted to focus on evolution, developments, and discoveries.

A popular expression of this topic is expressed in the 1962 book called Silent Spring by the American biologist Rachel Carson. In the book, Carson shows how the large use of pesticides badly affects the environment.

For most of the following decades, people’s minds were still affected from the sadness of the previous one so any idea of pursuing happiness, looking for happiness and anything that could have been associated as an object of happiness, ended up being glorified; in this huge pot of “happy objects/ideas” of course there were also the ones dedicated to the most ethical and sustainable projects but they did not emerge as main ones.

The reality started to change when the wealthier part of the population embraced a new lifestyle: people started to mix the philosophies and lifestyles of the late ’60s, 70’s and early ’80s, the new wave trends, the hippy stereotypes taken from their parents or from the parent’s friends with the big fluidity of money, typical of those years.

What Happens When You Mix Money & The New Wave?

You create a new trend, a trend that is looking for nature, “sustainability”, “ethic” but super niche, a trend made for the richer part of the population.

The late ’80s and ’90s are the years where people really started to travel all over the world, looking for “hidden treasures”, far from the main city tourism, people started to explore deserts, forests, or oceans, people moved, mentally, from a chill and slow life to a faster one, globalization was knocking everywhere, to anyone’s door and “nobody” wanted to open their doors to her!

People needed new kinds of garments to surf, to hike, to explore and brands like PATAGONIA or NORTH FACE started to become really popular.

Life is made by steps, as soon as you reach one, you want to fight to arrive at the new one, with “sustainability” it has been the same, we left the previous millennium with the niche ideas and values of sustainability made by a small group of people, to enter in the new one where thanks to the super-fast globalization, the “majority” of the wealthier people had the possibilities to have cheaper travels, cheaper experiences, cheaper hotels or any other form of resting place.

The “hidden” areas of this planet transformed themself to host people, people created jobs to work with these travelers, and the economy or the vision of fashion rechanged.

Fast, For and To Everyone and Cheap” became the status symbol of the first decade of the new millennial and, as 50 years before, people started to forget about the past and focused too much on the present, “losing their minds” on these new symbols of “equality”.

When something starts to become too popular, it is also the moment when something else changes, a perfect circle where the end of something means the beginning of something else where, in this case, the end of this globalized and stressed trend who was born from a niche minority gave birth to the next step, the one connected to the “big natural labels” like “ BIO, KM0, HOMEMADE, LOCAL etc etc.

The fashion marketing (but at the end any kind of industry) realized the importance of a change, the importance on how to attract more and new people, they needed to invest in something else, something that was in the mind of the generation of the 65years old and older because it was normal for them, in the mind of the generation from the 40 to the 65 years old because it was something findable in different trends of their childhood/teenage years but also something new in the minds of the younger generations.

People started to pay more attention and focused more on anything with those labels, people started to feel less guilty for the world’s situation and became promoters of a more “green” style of life!

Sustainable Fashion: Marketing Strategy Or An Oxymoron?

Countries wanted ethic, sustainability but more than everything local label products: it was not important if the product came from another country, was made or produced in another one, what was important was the end result and marketing with their tactics embraced this powerful horse (as sustainable fashion) and it started to gallop super fast!

Year after year the blindness of the ignorant became less and less strong, people realized the different forms of truth and lies and when they did that, they started to stop trusting these companies, these brands.

Fashion was good, it was selling well but without a new trend it would have stopped to sell soon because you can keep pushing a famous named brand for a long time but after a while, after too many lies even the most affectionate clients could become cold and distant.

So which could have been the new form of selling, which could give fresh air again to the loyalty of the brands clients?!

Here we are, here marketing gave birth to the last of the most powerful ideas, something that has been a consequence of a consequence: here we are with the SUSTAINABLE FASHION.

How Does The Marketing Idea Of Sustainable Fashion Work?

To promote a product of any kind, but in this case from the fashion industry a sustainable garment, as in a kitchen recipe, you need few ingredients:

  1. A local production: if you stay in a country and produce a garment in another one, there is not a lot of respect for the ethical standards, probably you do it because it is cheaper so you are profiting by taking advantage of laws, workers, borders, costs, etc.
  2. A connection with the identity of the company and the place: people express the desire to feel more connected.
  3. A small number of operations: fewer work steps in the production chain tend to make something rawer and the idea of sustainability binds a lot with nature and as consequence with raw products.
  4. Fewer components as possible: how can you create a sustainable product if you add several elements that are tied with other, possible, not sustainable producers?!

These are the main sacred points of a sustainable product (it doesn’t mean there are no more!).

Following these points, the factories could help the environment to be less contaminated and polluted: removing operations from the production chain, keeping the raw philosophy is going to eliminate chemicals, garbage, to avoid overuse machines, or energy or animals, preventing to waste resources, without filling the stores of overproduced garments.

But For A Brand, Is Sustainable Fashion A Way To Live? Is It A Profitable Form?

Sustainable Fashion: Marketing Strategy Or An Oxymoron? 1

If you want to follow the previous points in your company and your company is a fashion one you immediately realize something: if you are a really niche and small reality, you probably could pursuit the result to become almost sustainable but if you are a middle/big reality it’s really really hard, especially for the several and different costs (for example to maintain everything “under control”, respecting the majority of the ethical points, taking care of the environment) but also when you involve differences of any kind, you will have to deal with more generalities and this aspect imposes you to follow general laws that give you rules or make you play on a border where respect or disrespect of the sustainable reality is really thin.

So if you are wondering if it is profitable working as an almost profitable company, the answer is no!

It’s really expensive, full of risks everywhere and problems will be in your life more than anything else!

However there exists an alternative, an alternative that several brands are assuming/performing: going to a sustainable direction, so taking everything and moving in that direction but also creating a specific line, or a specific product that slowly has absorbed all the sustainable steps!

In this way, the brands will start to introduce the idea of this change and they will slowly understand the answer of the clients.

How To Support Sustainable Fashion?

Sustainable Fashion: Marketing Strategy Or An Oxymoron? 2
[Image Courtesy:]

Sustainable fashion is maybe a trend or maybe what this moment is asking for.

How are people thinking and planning their future?
If we have to think about this topic, first of all, we have to think of how to make our life most sustainable because I can buy a completely homemade, local, bio sustainable wool sweater but if I’m going to do it using a limo hummer that consumes a lot of gas, it may be better buying something online.

There is always a balance and we have to understand which is ours, we don’t have to forget the soul of respect to everyone and try to understand what are the important elements in our life – sometimes a really good and sustainable sweater is not in the color that we want it but buying it could be more helpful.

This global respect has started and it is working, more and more start-ups are working with what already exists, recreating or redesigning the use or the shapes; the new generations for a reason or another one, as long as they are raised in a more digital era, are looking more and more for those elements that are, right now, a little bit farther from them; new generations access data faster and easily they get information but as fast as they do this, they are starting to also miss any form in the middle, like communication, interactions, discussions.

We are social animals and as such we will always miss, at one point in our life to buy something that we can feel with our senses and our souls, at one point we will all want to have our tailor, our sustainable fashion shop that we know we help the environment by buying from it or even a huge mall made by big brands but where inside we know there are several forms of respect and education.

Ah, yes, one more question:  What will you buy now?


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