In June, Topshop was brought back from the brink of collapse with an agreement that will see Philip Green’s brand, once the jewel in the crown of the high street, cut hundreds of jobs, over 50 stores. Putting in place poverty deals with its landlords, which will secure up to 50% rent reductions across the Estate. Meanwhile, Forever 21 is potentially filing for bankruptcy.
Well there’s the internet, untenably high rent on bricks and mortar stores and, obviously, Brexit (which can be blamed for pretty much everything, right?). All huge contributing factors. But is an underlying driver for all these high street fashion failures actually attitudinal shift at the heart of today’s young consumer? Is it simply – that fast fashion isn’t cutting it anymore?
Consumers are generally more environmentally conscious, with Gen Z and millennials extremely concerned about the way they eat, consume, and live impacts the environment.
With this consciousness comes a heightened awareness of the massive ecological damage that throwaway fashion mindsets have on the environment. And on people. Each year it’s estimated that the fashion industry sends 150 billion tonnes of clothes to landfill. Producing 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. And using up to 2.5 trillion tonnes of water. Not to mention cheap production techniques are devastating local environments, and are directly linked to child labour and trafficking. Far from its fun façade, in 2019 throwaway fashion has an increasingly dirty name.
Now, 2019 is also the year that the likes of Boohoo post record pre-tax profit increases. So clearly the ethics of fast fashion don’t concern everyone. But that shopper is sticking with Boohoo, Missguided, Pretty Little Thing… all faster, on point and cheaper than Topshop.
There’s growing evidence on a wider level that consumers simply don’t like the Topshop model anymore. They’re willing to pay more – or change their shopping habits to avoid it. A 2017 study from NDP Group found that Gen Z is willing to spend as much as 10 to 15% more on sustainably produced clothing. Whilst a recent Nielsen study found that 73% of millennials would pay more for a sustainable product. Also, it’s increasingly out with the new, in with the old as the second-hand clothing market booms. US online thrift store thredUP reports that resale has grown 21 times faster in the US than ‘apparel retail’ over the last three years.
This movement is very much in the cultural zeitgeist. Marie Kondo’s hugely popular series is teaching us to look to, and love, the clothes that we have. This summer, Vogue magazine was for the first time telling us to look to our own wardrobes, not to the catwalks, for this season’s fashion inspiration. Initiatives like Oxfam’s Second Hand September are helping to bring sustainable shopping ideals to more people. It feels like we’re turning our backs on the old model of disposable fashion and ‘trending’ styles.
How does all this wear with you?