A dress is for life, not just for Christmas

As the UK Environmental Audit Committee officially rules that UK fashion brands and retailers are “failing to promote environmental sustainability and protect their workers”, it seems that the relentless pressure to ‘shop till you drop’ and to treat yourself to some ‘retail therapy’ has taken its toll on the fashion industry.


The rise and, in some eyes, the looming fall of fast fashion is a topic that has been covered heavily in the media over the past few months. We need only cast our eyes back to the early 2000s, when a huge cultural shift in consumer demand led to fashion brands doing all they could to meet the rising expectations of shoppers for on-trend pieces at affordable price points. Fast-fashion tapped firmly into the zeitgeist with the rise of social media, and most recently, the age of the influencer. Fast-fashion and relentless consumer demand has certainly had its part to play in the decline of the British High Street.


As the market heavy weights started to flounder in the digital age with their more traditional offering, a series of online only retailers rose in prominence delivering precisely what customers wanted, and more importantly, at a price and time they wanted it. The online fashion group Boohoo is a great example, emerging as a winner this Christmas after young shoppers made a beeline for its PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal websites, with total group sales jumping 44% over the last four months of 2018. The bubble is far from bursting. UK shoppers spent approximately £3.5bn on Christmas party clothing last year, with 8 million of those sparkly numbers already on their way to landfill after just one wear.


BUT there are signs that the tide is starting to turn, as a new breed of shoppers, who are as socially conscious as they are fashion conscious, are staging a quiet revolution. Millennials and Generation-Z shoppers now make up over 30% of all luxury spending, with market analyst Neilsen reporting that 73% of millennials are willing to pay extra for products from sustainable or socially conscious brands – more than any other generation recorded.


With our ever-changing social landscape,  a new window has been opened up into the lives of those with a disposable income much higher than our own, shifting the aspirations of a generation in the process. The money that you may have once spent on a new dress or shirt to wear only once or twice may instead be saved to buy a much-coveted item that will continue to deliver for seasons to come. This, teamed with an increased awareness of the environmental impact of the industry as a whole, is resulting in an interesting counter-movement that retailers outside the realm of fast fashion can user to their competitive advantage.  In short, buying less, buying better, and buying consciously.

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Made To Last

John Smedley, a knitwear brand that claims to produce ‘the world’s finest knitwear’, choose to celebrate the legacy of their pieces. Investment in content advises customers how best to look after and care for their purchases to prolong their life span, building trust and confidence with their customers. A luxury purchase involves consideration, so doing the groundwork for the customer and establishing why it should be purchased in the first instance is key.

Similarly, iconic French cookware manufacturer Le Creuset have cultivated a reputation for quality and luxury by actively promoting the message that once you purchase an item from them, it will never need replacing. A lifetime guarantee on a product, instead of encouraging repeat purchases from customers and fuelling the ‘buy more and more’ mentality, instead contributes to a brand’s cult status and helps build brand trust.


We’ve seen time and time again, that trust is key to many a brand’s success, and confidence in a brand’s product quality ultimately leads customers to return for additional items as and when they need them.


Brands must work to establish content focused on core products that appear in their online or physical stores across seasons, especially if they want to convert shoppers from first-time buyers into loyal, return customers. Thinking outside of the changeable seasonal collections and focusing on the items that best embody their products’ ability to stand the test of time, will strike a chord with those looking to invest in longevity.


In short, tell them why they need to buy. Establish a legacy. Celebrate the differences.



Grant Wilkinson - Senior Research Executive

Annabel Gerrard