Sustainable Fashion Rises to Prominence: The Shifting Trends and Most Wanted Ethical Products 

A renewed consumer consciousness, driven by environmental concerns and the increasing popularity of veganism, is steering the fashion industry towards sustainability. As a result, some environmentally conscious products and brands are gaining traction, reflecting the rising demand for eco-friendly and ethically produced fashion.

Sustainable fashion has long since transitioned from a fringe movement to a mainstream priority and the surge in interest is not only influencing consumer buying patterns, but also reshaping the fashion industry’s focus. According to a comprehensive study by global fashion search platform Lyst, an increasing number of fashion-conscious consumers are actively pursuing more sustainable options for their wardrobes.

Lyst’s report in 2019, Searching for Sustainability, delved into the intricate relationship between a burgeoning vegan trend, the mounting concerns over plastic pollution, and the resultant drive towards eco-friendly alternatives. Over a one-year period from February 2018 to 2019, the platform saw a remarkable 66 per cent surge in searches for ‘sustainable fashion’. These searches extended beyond the central phrase to include related terms such as ‘ethical brands’ and ‘econyl’, a form of nylon made entirely from waste products.

Lyst’s latest report on Conscious Fashion in 2021 saw a 146% uptick in searches for brands that actively offer repairs and 103% increase for searches for ‘repaired styles’, year on year. The Conscious Fashion goes on to say that: The notion of clothes for life is not new in luxury: pieces that last are the opposite of disposable fashion. But in recent times, this concept has expanded, with luxury fashion houses like Brunello Cucinelli and Hermès actively offering repairs, and a new generation of contemporary brands adopting a model of timeless products that could be repaired. Patagonia, Nudie Jeans, Raeburn, Barbour and Levi’s are some of the names who are incorporating repair services.

Platforms like The Restory partnership with Farfetch while Fixing Fashion are removing the stigma of wearing mended garments, by giving sustainability advice and infusing creativity in visible mending: the popular stitch technique of sashiko being an example.

While in 2016, popularity of specific environmentally friendly materials saw a significant uptick with ‘Organic cotton’ experiencing a 16% boost in searches year on year, new eco-conscious materials emerged to sate the public demand for sustainable fashion.

An emerging preference for eco-friendly brands was evident as well. For instance, the padded vegan leather designs by Nanushka, a brand that had been gaining popularity since 2018, saw a 30% rise in search queries. High-profile celebrities, including models Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, were noted supporters of this brand. The quick sell-out rate of their eco-friendly collections demonstrated that style and sustainability can exist symbiotically, a point reiterated by Morgane Le Caer, Lyst’s fashion insights reporter, as reported by The Independent.

Luxury brands are also taking note of the demands of an increasingly eco-conscious and knowledgeable customer, who reads clothing labels carefully. Stella McCartney and Hermès are introducing mushroom leather in their collections, and Salvatore Ferragamo has created a capsule collection using orange fiber. As customers demand vegan and non plastic alternatives, this industry is growing fast, with a series of companies manufacturing materials from fruit to potatoes or coffee. At Lyst we noticed that the offer of products made from fruit based materials like Pinatex (pineapple), Vegea (grape) and orange fiber have consistently grown this year.

A 131% spike for plant-dyed pieces and a 178% jump in page views for vegan leather and a 38% increase in searches for garments made out of mushroom-based materials (e.g. Mylo), compared to the year before show just how much sustainable fashion is advancing into the mainstream.

Outdoor clothing company Patagonia also featured prominently in the study. Known for its steadfast dedication to minimal environmental harm and proactive solutions for the environmental crisis, Patagonia’s 100 per cent recycled polyester and water-resistant Nano Puff Hoody jacket and the Classic Retro-X fleece jacket topped the most sought-after sustainable products list.

Back in 2016, the spotlight was on the British fashion label Stella McCartney. The brand released a collaboration with Adidas: a vegetarian iteration of the Stan Smith trainers. Made from vegan leather and 100 per cent recycled polyester, these shoes, characterised by stars running down the side, led to a 21 per cent rise in brand searches on Lyst six months post-launch.

The data analysed by Lyst, collated from more than 80 million shoppers over the past year, offers a clear indication of a significant shift towards a more eco-friendly fashion landscape. The study accounted for search and social impressions across a mammoth inventory of five million fashion products from 12,000 designers and online stores. It also included social media metrics and sentiment analysis, providing a comprehensive overview of the sustainable fashion trend.

As Lyst’s report and the broader industry movement suggests, the march towards sustainable fashion is well underway. Whether driven by consumers’ growing environmental consciousness, compelling marketing campaigns, or the expansive reach of Instagram, the reality remains – the push towards an eco-friendlier fashion industry is gaining unstoppable momentum.

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