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Will people buy sustainable fashion?

Adriene Hill Sep 13, 2010

Will people buy sustainable fashion?

Adriene Hill Sep 13, 2010


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: It’s fashion week in New York City. Later today Donna Karan and Perry Ellis will introduce new collections. And eco-friendly designers will kick off their own fashion show. So we asked Marketplace’s sustainability reporter Adriene Hill to talk a little bit about fashion that’s better for the environment. Good morning, Adriene.

ADRIENE HILL: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: So help me out here. What is sustainable fashion?

HILL: Well it’s a lot of things depending on who’s defining it. Everything from clothes made from organic cotton and natural dyes to clothes made from fair-trade fabric. And the ultimate in environmental friendliness? Vintage or hand-me-downs. Some of it’s really good for the environment and the people who make the clothes. And a lot of it’s just green washing.

CHIOTAKIS: And what’s the market for this type of clothing?

HILL: Well, more and more products and fashion lines calling themselves eco-friendly and sustainable are putting products out there. So designers and producers seem to think the interest is there. Companies are lining up big-name stars like Emma Watson to help push the lines. But the real question is whether or not people are going to buy them.

CHIOTAKIS: And will they?

HILL: That’s tough to say. I talked to an analyst who told me that consumers are interested in eco-friendly and socially-responsible clothing, but they really don’t want to pay much of a premium for them. And that will be tough, considering how cheap the clothes we buy at Target and H&M are. It can be more expensive to make eco-, socially-friendly garments if you’re paying people a fair-trade wage or using cotton that costs more to grow. In other case, retailers might just be jacking up the prices because they think they can away with it. I did find a study that says retail sales of clothing and home products made from organic cotton was up to over $4 billion last year, which is a 35 percent jump from the year prior.

CHIOTAKIS: You know, Adriene, I don’t want to sound totally like a jerk here, but are any of these clothes actually good looking? Do they look like, I don’t know. I think of, like, burlap or something like that, there’s got to be some sort of eco-fashion look.

HILL: With tree bark from all that tree hugging, like clinging on it?

CHIOTAKIS: Yeah, exactly.

HILL: No. Some of them I think are pretty fashionable. It’s not just t-shirt and jeans or burlap. Though the stereotype is a hurdle for the industry. But I’ll let you judge for yourself. I put up a slideshow.

CHIOTAKIS: All right, we’ll go and check it out. Marketplace’s Adriene Hill joining us here in the studio. Adriene, thanks.

HILL: Thanks.

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