Sustainable Fashion: First Quarter 2021 snapshot

  • INDUSTRY
  • 4 min read
  • 12 March 2021
Sustainable Fashion: First Quarter 2021 snapshot

Key Takeaways

Sustainable fashion has been less of a focus for Zara in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 2020. However, both H&M and Mango have increased their share of sustainable fashion collections.

Sustainable dresses are less hot this quarter than blouses and shirts. Sustainable denim, on the other hand, is gaining popularity.

Sustainable fashion does not necessarily mean expensive fashion —  especially at Zara and C&A. 

 

The last 12 months have radically reshaped the fashion industry, but sustainability remains one of the sector’s favorite buzzwords — and one of its most intractable challenges.

 

The fashion sector is under in-depth scrutiny from independent institutions such as the United Nations Alliance for sustainable fashion, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and the G7 Fashion pact — compelling retailers to focus more on reaching their sustainability goals. But are they on track to meet benchmarks? 


Retviews data lets us find out more about sustainable fashion collections from mass-market brands so far in 2021. 

 

 

Are There More Sustainable Fashion Articles This Year Than in 2020? 

Among mass-market top brands, only the Spanish names —  Zara and Mango — have increased their number of new arrivals in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 2020. H&M, Uniqlo, and C&A went in the opposite direction, and decreased their level of new-ins compared with 2020 by 30%, on average. 

 

 

However, we observe that brands that had a high share of sustainable articles in their collections in 2020 — like Zara and C&A — significantly decreased their sustainability share in favor of the regular collections this year.

 

In contrast, companies for which the sustainable collection in the first quarter of 2020 accounted for a smaller portion of new arrivals noticeably increased their share within their new arrivals of 2021. 

 

 

It’s essential to highlight that this analysis is based on the retailers’ “sustainable collections,” — the ones they label as sustainable fashion, such as JOIN LIFE, Conscious, Committed, Sustainable Choice, and Wear the Change. 

In the case of the global number-one retailer, Uniqlo, the brand doesn’t have one specific label dedicated to its sustainable collection. Still, it invests a lot in its materials, supply chain, and processes directly — recycling clothing, for one.  Is this part of the Japanese brand’s strategy to stand out from its peers? 

 

 

What’s Hot Among Sustainable-Fashion New Arrivals? 

As usual, we find lots of t-shirts, as this is the most-represented category in general within sustainable-fashion collections. 

 

 

Denim is gaining in popularity — especially at Mango, with its brand-new sustainable denim collection. Also, as we are still in the winter season, knitwear and outdoor articles are popular. 

 

 

In contrast, dresses, which are the number-one category for women, account for 3% of the new arrivals on average, while blouses and trousers are gaining assortment shares. This is most likely due to the effects of the pandemic — working from home is still the new norm.

 

Does Sustainable Fashion Automatically Mean Higher Price Points? 

One would expect that better fabrics — especially more sustainable ones — would lead to higher price points.  But at Zara and C&A, we’re seeing the opposite. Though these sustainable collections comprise less fashion-oriented articles, the offers still primarily include basics that can be worn all year long — thus lowering the price compared with the regular collection, which included trendy articles made of materials that are not necessarily sustainable. 

 

 

As a relatively new player in the sustainable-fashion game, Mango’s sustainable collection shows that sustainability can work with its regular target price, without appearing too expensive or cheaper than its usual price strategy. Only H&M offers a sustainable-fashion collection at a higher price than its regular collection.

 

 

Sustainable Fashion Is Here to Stay —but There’s Still Work to Be Done

The sustainability issue includes many different challenges, such as resale, supply-chain optimization, and sourcing, to name a few. Still, what consumers see first are the new collections. In this area of hyper-consumption, it’s essential to demonstrate that sustainable fashion collections do not necessarily mean un-trendy nor too expensive. 

Find out more about how to optimize your collections. Get in touch to speak to one of our fashion specialists today. 

 

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