Fashion marketers as the key to a new narrative
The UN says fashion needs to stop promoting overconsumption. Indeed, we are perfectly aligned since we focused more on this evolved path, about four years ago. Though a selection of pieces to wear for a lifetime has always been part of our viewpoint.
Specifically, the UN Environment Programme and UN climate change have just released new recommendations for those who work in fashion marketing and communication.
“We are draining humanity’s lifeblood through vampiric overconsumption and unsustainable use, and evaporating it through global heating,” said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (source)
UN against overconsumption: a systemic issue
According to the UN, mass consumption is a systemic issue. So, they identify marketing as the key to fostering cultural change. That is how: leading consumers to change consumption rates, increasing consumer knowledge and shifting consumer behaviours. The idea is to tackle misinformation and greenwashing through science-based communication and transparency.
Although we agree with the idea of fighting overconsumption and overproduction, we are afraid that many of the words suggested in the playbook are buzzwords hiding greenwashing.
Marketing is an ensemble of activities finalised to sell products or services. So far, fashion marketing has contributed to creating confusion through deliberate operations. It isn’t likely that corporations are ready to leave behind their growth pattern. Ethics over money sounds weird from a capitalistic view.
Fashion industry: overproduction & overconsumption
Overproduction and overconsumption are two faces of the same coin, capitalism. In other words, a vicious and exploitative economic system which triggers toxic behaviours.
Overproduction leads to overconsumption: this point was clear to us. So, as a fashion retailer, about four years ago, we thought it made sense to reduce the quantity of clothing we ordered each season dramatically. That allowed us to avoid overstock and end-of-season sales while promoting a reduction of consumption based on fewer products but good quality. And so, a timeless selection of non-trend-based garments with great design value.
Also, getting familiar with the concept of degrowth as an effective strategy to drive change, we trust our choice was valuable.
However, it’s not enough, and we need to do more. But it’s complicated to work since most fashion industry players still promote growth, perhaps hiding it behind traceability QR Codes. Now they call it green growth. Which, as clearly explained in Kevin Anderson’s video, is meaningless. It leads nowhere.
Furthermore, it’s hard to find solutions when consumers shop from retailers who still work on an overproduction basis. How can these retailers stop promoting overconsumption with shops full to the brim of clothes?
Most importantly, does the UN leave the fight against overconsumption to the good heart of marketers? Of course, fashion marketing is part of the problem. And an ethical approach could work. But expecting redemption without regulations and strict controls in a rotten system seems a bit naive.