London-based fashion and textile risk management consultancy texSture found that since 2009 even the most popular digital media terms related to sustainable fashion show a significant decrease in search intensities by internet users. The exact reasons are unclear as of yet, but it can be said with high probability that the economic downturn in Western markets is the root cause of this phenomenon.
This research allowed understanding which words consumers and, more generally, the market, use. Adjectives like “sustainable”, “green”, “eco”, “responsible”, “conscious”, “and ethical” are commonly associated with the word “fashion”. The question is: are certain words more popular than others? Or are some others nowadays outdated? How does consumer talk about sustainable fashion? And the industry?
For a brand willing to be recognized for its ethical credentials, using the right words is essential to communicate efficiently to stakeholders. Knowing which words are most popular allows to understand how consumers think, and communicate adequately and efficiently. Comparing the most used words to search for “sustainable fashion” between 2004 until today, texSture found that:
- “Green fashion”, recalling environmental credentials, has been the most popular search term since 2004. This trend is forecasted to continue this year.
-“Organic fashion”, with association to organic certifications, is the second most popular search term, indicating that the association with organic fibres like cotton is very strong.
- “Fair trade fashion’, stressing the maximization of the benefits of the people involved in its production and distribution, has never taken off as a term in popular internet searches. The term has remained niche. A peak can be observed in 2004 in concomitance with the launch of Fairtrade Cotton certification by Fairtrade Foundation. However, since then, the term has been continuously decreasing in online popularity until the present.
- “Eco fashion” has had its peak in 2008 when the discussion around sustainability in the fashion industry was going mainstream. A clear sign that major fashion brands started taking risks in their supply-chain seriously were the releases of corporate responsibility reports.
- Other terms, such as “conscious” or “responsible” fashion, have only emerged after 2007. These terms have the objective of giving a more comprehensive definition including both environmental and social issues. They remain however very niche.
All of these terms show decreasing search intensities since about 2009. It remains to be investigated what the exact reason behind the decrease is. It can be said though with high probability that the economic recession of Western markets is the likely root cause of this phenomenon.
In line with the relative popularity of “organic fashion”, “organic cotton” is still today the most searched for term related to clothing fibres. This is not surprising as all major fashion retailers have made a point of buying regularly organic cotton and indicate clearly on tags and label if a garment is made of, or includes, organic cotton.