A range of organic clothes are to be stocked by UK fashion retailer Oasis in response to growing customer demand for eco-friendly products. The trend has led other stores to launch ethically-traded products, however those hoping for an ethical fashion revolution may have to be patient.
This April Oasis will launch a toxin-free, certified organic line of jeans, jackets and tops, called The Future Organic, while Marks & Spencer will launch a Fairtrade clothing range in March.
Retailers are realizing that they can create a strong buzz around their brands via these product launches and be among the first mainstream retailers to grab hold of what is a growing market for Fairtrade and organic products. They may hope to increase consumer awareness, fuelling greater demand for these products, as well as associating themselves with ethical trading, but ultimately this is a good marketing opportunity.
We need to be cautious that these events are simply baby steps at the beginning of a 'revolution' that could take a very long time to come to fruition and could in fact, never really occur. Consumers are becoming much more concerned over the origin of products and environmental consequences, but clothing retailing is about fashion, price and wearability.
These factors must be present in organic/ethically produced clothing. Otherwise, getting the majority of shoppers to spend more on clothing that is not on par with latest fashions or practical to wear in their everyday lives will be very challenging, unless consumers begin to act on their consciences, which is highly unlikely. The current offer of ethical/organic clothing available in the market is not marketable to the masses because it is often more expensive and less fashionable than high street retailers' ranges.
The new eco-warrior high street clothing retailers can bring this fashionability along with lower prices to the table (Marks & Spencer is only charging GBP1 more for its Fairtrade T-shirt versus its normal one). However we expect only a very gradual uptake of these types of product rather than an eco-clothing revolution. The vast majority of consumers do not think about, wish to think about, or cannot afford to think about where their clothing is coming from or of the wider global consequences of their purchases.