If the Eco-Friendly Shoe Fits…
Consumers, especially Millennials, are clearly increasingly focused on the environmental and social impact of their purchasing decisions, and the fashion world is no exception. The demand for sustainable and ethical fashion products continues to grow, with new entrants into the apparel market trying to balance consumers’ desires for eco-friendly clothing and accessories while also creating beautiful, wearable products.
Companies such as Rothy’s, which manufactures women’s and children’s shoes, including flats, loafers, and most recently, sneakers, primarily out of recycled water bottles, are at the forefront of the movement toward popularizing eco-chic fashion. Not only are the shoes made out of recycled materials, but they are also durable and machine washable, ensuring longevity of the product. Allbirds is another example of a hugely popular footwear line that has seen exponential growth over the past few years, in part due to the use of natural fibers (primarily wool) and a focus on comfort. Beyond sustainability, other companies, such as Everlane, are focusing efforts to ensure their fashion products are ethically sourced from factories that pay fair wages and maintain reasonable hours and working conditions.
While these companies have met with success marketing fashion items that are either sustainably or ethically sourced, rather than relying on these attributes to sell their goods, these companies have also had to ensure broad aesthetic appeal for the consumer. By remaining tightly focused on relatively limited core product offerings (a few lines of shoes in the case of Rothy’s and Allbirds and “everyday basics” in the case of Everlane), these apparel companies have been able to hone their product lines into offerings that look and feel good to the consumer. Notably, many of these companies are initially utilizing the direct-to-consumer model to build their brands and develop a loyal customer following – disrupting not only the types of clothes and shoes being marketed, but also the way in which they are marketed to the consumer.
The apparel landscape will continue to evolve in the coming years, as consumers demand more than just fit and function from the brands and retailers they shop, a trend we are keenly following as a consumer investment bank.