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Rethinking fashion and its packaging

  • Knowledge
  • 5 min read
Rethinking fashion and its packaging

The recent revelation that by 2050, the global textile industry is expected to be accountable for one quarter of all carbon emissions has pushed fashion houses everywhere into action.

Designer brands have called out fast fashion for feeding the globe’s landfills. Leading names like Gucci announced their efforts to go completely carbon neutral and Nordstrom have led the way on a ‘Sustainable Style’ online shopping category.

With the pre-owned luxury market predicted to grow 12% year on year, more and more resale and rental websites are coming to the forefront of fashion like Front Row, Amarium and Bagista. Top retailers like Selfridges are also addressing these statistics, and just last month they opened a permanent space dedicated to second-hand clothing in partnership with popular resale site Vestiaire Collective.

With more consumers choosing what to buy based on how a brand’s values match their own, Robert Lockyer, a packaging entrepreneur for the luxury retail sector and CEO of the company, Delta Global, believes these websites are crucial to the future of fashion if brands want to stay relevant. “Criticised for over-producing clothing, the fashion industry needed to address the requirement for resale,” he said. “These websites ensure authentic and value alternatives for those looking for luxury, but they target the secondary buyer market which allows a product to fulfil its life for longer.”

Noting that excessive waste is driven by the continual consumer demand for ‘new style’, Robert said the age of social media has also spurred the obsession of people’s want to ‘look different’ in every picture. He believes the responsibility sits with brands to encourage a change in consumer thinking.

“End-of-life and landfills should not be an option,” he said. “Brands should nurture the products they produce in a circular way. Think, how we can change our customer’s perception and buying habits?

“Fashion is beginning to become more ‘versatile.’ Wrap skirts are being restyled as scarves, reversible blouses can be worn back-to-front and pairing second-hand items with new season style are all ways in which we can adapt consumer mindsets.”

What trends have brands adopted regarding offering re-sale opportunity?

Robert champions this year’s efforts from John Lewis & Partners who have brought in a ‘reduce, reuse and return packaging’ operation, trialling the removal of 5p plastic bags and the return of unwanted hangers. “Not only will this lessen their environmental impact, but the company will effectively reduce their costs – not having to purchase hangers or bags,” Robert added.

The brand has also introduced an initiative whereby if customers return empty beauty packaging, they are rewarded with vouchers. They are also testing a ‘buy-back’ scheme, giving loyal customers £3 per clothing item for the return of preloved John Lewis & Partners stocked items. An eco-delivery option is available online, too, reducing their CO2 emissions as delivery will not run via slots and be made whenever a van is nearer their home.

What are brands asking for when it comes to packaging?

Robert says quality and sustainable assurance in materials is key, with brands looking for marks of accreditation, like FSC. “With the initial need to invest money and time into going green and waste-free, brands are looking to reduce costs or make money elsewhere,” he added.

“Even packaging should have a secondary life. Whether it’s salvaging paper cut offs into branded inserts or turning reclaimed cotton clothing into handles and tote-bags, we have to consider: how can everything offer a circular economy?”

A recent study revealed that 72% of American consumers say that packaging alone influences their purchasing decisions and more consumers are treating their own ‘customer experience’ as a top priority when deciding who to shop with. “Packaging is no longer there to simply protect the product,” Robert said. “It needs to offer an alternative use and provide a unique unboxing experience which communicates the brand’s core message and increase their long-term customer loyalty.”

Robert suggests that another dimension needs to be added to the purchasing journey with packaging, like scannable QR codes that can deliver a personalised message to the recipient, or a charitable contribution made in a customer’s name when they return unwanted goods. “The right packaging can open a brand up to a massive audience – from the delivery driver who carries it to the door, to colleagues in the office when it lands on your desk.”

Delta Global creates reusable packaging that offers a new life that’s also artistically designed and developed, with a magnetic removal system and anti-crush structures. Since they offer a luxury design, customers tend to be more likely to continue to use that packaging for both storage and display. “The luxury resale market is also affected by the quality of its packaging and can add value to your goods if you still have the original, designer packaging upon re-sale,” Robert said.

What other trends are shaping the future of fashion?

There has been a surge in sustainable collectives, like Positive Luxury and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. These organisations award and bring together like-minded brands for their sustainable efforts and movements in industries like luxury, packaging and fashion.

Robert considered how that togetherness is driving change. “It is more valuable to join and assist a collective agenda in order to educate one another and rethink our products purpose,” he says. “It isn’t just about reducing the impact of your individual brand. It’s about changing the impact of the brands around you, and the everyday customer.

“As the driving forces of our industries, collaborative working will help us to share and research new materials, open us up to new and more efficient processes and truly address our climate crisis.”

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Written by - Francesca Prince

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