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Study: Gen Z wants sustainable clothes but buys fast fashion instead

Only one in six could name a brand that makes sustainable clothing.

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Busy young woman has overflowing closet with outdated clothes focused above covered by huge stack of yellow apparels thinks about recycling. Disorder and mess in wardrobe. Fast fashion concept
All participants had a negative attitude towards the term ‘fast fashion.' (Cast Of Thousands/Shutterstock)

By Lilli Humphrey via SWNS

Generation Z (those aged between 9 and 24) wants sustainable clothes but buys fast fashion instead, according to new research from the UK.

The study reveals a “clear gap” between the ideals and practices of young people when it comes to shopping for clothing.

There are growing concerns around social implications of the global fashion industry including exploitation of workers, child labor and inhumane working conditions.

Fears are also growing over environmental implications including pollution, waste, and excessive water consumption.

The global fashion industry is valued at around $297 billion USD, and is expected to increase beyond around $345 billion by 2025.

Researchers from the Sheffield Business School at Sheffield Hallam University, surveyed 56 university students aged 18 to 24, and four over 24, interviewing six in-depth about sustainable clothing – pieces of clothing produced without exploiting workers or animals and using low carbon emissions.

Nine in 10 of the participants bought fast fashion, and only one in six could name a brand that makes sustainable clothing.

via GIPHY

Women are more likely than men to advocate for sustainable clothing, according to the findings that were presented at the British Academy of Management annual conference on Friday, September 2.

Researchers found that 63 percent of students agreed that they were concerned about the social implications of the fast fashion industry, while 48 percent said they were concerned about the environmental implications.

Only three percent said that they were not concerned about either.

Whilst being concerned about both social and environmental implications, 17 percent admitted to shopping at a fast fashion retailer each week, 62 percent monthly and 11 percent annually, with only 10 percent claiming that they had never purchased from a fast fashion retailer.

Less than half of those surveyed considered where and how their clothes were made before they bought them.

Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, are increasingly concerned for the planet, with 94 percent believing that action is needed relative to sustainability, according to the research team.

The participants who admitted to buying from fast fashion companies showed a gap between pro-sustainability ideologies and observed behavior.

Dr. Marc Duffy, who was part of the research team, said: “Generation Z are increasingly concerned for the planet, with 94 percent believing that action is needed relative to sustainability and that we need to come together to solve important issues.

"All participants had a negative attitude towards the term ‘fast fashion,' mentioning words such as ‘unsustainable, unethical and bad quality.'

“But the large proportion who admitted buying fast fashion demonstrates a clear gap between pro-sustainability ideologies and observed behavior.”

He added that the women surveyed: “Portrayed support for sustainable fashion by stating that they would be willing to pay more or even boycott unethical brands.

"All the women stated that they would be willing to pay more for sustainable clothing, whereas the males were not.”

By contrast, Dr. Duffy said the men surveyed showed a “lack of concern and knowledge around sustainable fashion."

However, he added: "Their buying habits were considerably more sustainable than females, purchasing fast fashion less frequently and sourcing clothes from more sustainable retailers.

"However, this was not intentional – they preferred these brands as they were deemed trendy and cool.”

The research team identified six key barriers to sustainable clothes shopping: price, lack of knowledge, lack of choice, lack of aesthetic choice, skepticism over business transparency, and social desirability.

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