December 2019 saw a clear win for the Conservatives in the General Election. The certainty that this is expected to provide has been welcomed by fashion and retail bodies, but they have now called for clarity on Brexit. In a statement, the British Fashion Council, led by Caroline Rush CBE, said: “The British Fashion Council will keep on working with the government to make sure the interests of the British fashion industry are well-represented and heard. As an industry worth £32 billion to the UK economy, our aim is to make sure that the government is aware of our priorities and will help us move the agenda forward on topics including international trade, sustainability, education, training and talent.”
After a year in which fashion was heavily criticised for its environmental impact, the fashion industry continues to address its role in the climate crisis, with brands beginning to consider more seriously the ways they can offset their carbon footprint. For a brand to be carbon neutral, it must remove the same amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it puts into it. However, the mission for Edzard van der Wyck, one of the original co-founders of hosiery brand Heist, who launched knitwear label Sheep Inc, is to create the world’s first carbon-negative fashion brand. To do this, Sheep Inc works with the most sustainable suppliers it can find, from carbon-neutral farms, to manufacturers that run on 100 per cent renewable energy, and then offsets the remaining carbon footprint of each of its pieces, tenfold.
Reebok has announced it is releasing its first-ever plant-based performance shoes. The brand will elevate its Forever Floatride Energy running shoes to become Forever Floatride GROW. The sole of the trainer is built from sustainably grown castor beans and was exclusively designed by Reebok in Japan, while the upper is made from eucalyptus tree. The sockliner is made using Bloom algae foam and the sole comprises natural rubber sourced from rubber trees. In addition to these efforts, the footwear brand has also ‘committed to reducing virgin polyester from its material mix and eliminating it altogether by 2025’.
ASOS has become the latest retailer to sign the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, a global initiative rallying more than 400 businesses and governments behind a positive vision and targets to address plastic waste and pollution at source. In becoming a signatory, ASOS commits to three things: to eliminate all problematic and unnecessary plastic items from its supply chain; to innovate to ensure that the plastics it does need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable; and to circulate all the plastic items it uses to keep them in the economy and out of the environment. ASOS shipped 72.3 million orders globally last year in mailing bags that are already made from 25% recycled materials. This year ASOS is upping this to 65%. 2020 will also see ASOS beginning the trial of the reusable prototype mailing bag with its staff.
Mulberry has launched its first ever 100% sustainable leather bag. Named the Portobello Tote, the bag is made from start to finish in the UK, at the brand's carbon-neutral factories in Somerset, while the leather itself is a by-product of food waste. The company has also pledged to give 100% of net proceeds from sales of the bag to the World Land Trust, an organisation which works to protect and sustainably manage natural ecosystems around the world. Commenting on the launch, the brand's CEO, Thierry Andretta, said: "Through our Mulberry Green responsibility commitments, we are continuing our innovative approach towards design and manufacturing in a conscientious way."
As part of its transparency efforts, H&M has recently begun to roll out a new tab labelled ‘product sustainability’, to enable shoppers to learn geo-location information. The information includes which warehouse products were made in and how many staff it employs. Customers can also find details on materials, recycling and the name of the supplier or authorised subcontractor where an item is made. Those shopping in a physical store will have access to this information by way of the H&M app and scanning the product tag.
After a decade of being fur-free, House of Fraser has decided to restart the sale of clothing containing fur. This decision appears to have been made after the company was bought out by Sports Direct in August 2018. It has been met with consumer condemnation and campaigners from the #FurFreeBritain alliance targeting the House of Fraser shareholders meeting in the hope it will reinstate its fur-free ethos. Over the past two years high profile brands such as Gucci, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Burberry and Chanel have announced fur-free policies.
Harrods is set to open its first store outside the UK in Shanghai to capitalise on the country’s growing middle class. The store will be designed in the style of a Japanese villa.
In the hope of rejuvenating the high street, the first 14 of 20 pilot areas which will receive tailored support under the government’s Future High Streets Fund have been announced, including Rushmoor - Aldershot Town Centre; Croydon - Thornton Heath; and Sandwell - West Bromwich Town Centre.
Mothercare has signed an exclusive deal with Boots to make sure that its mother and baby clothes will continue to be sold in the UK after all its stores close down. Boots will stock Mothercare-branded clothing, home products, pushchairs and car seats. The deal has not yet been finalised, so it is unclear how many Boots stores will offer the goods.
A growing market trend is fashion brands partnering with video games, both of which market their products alongside each other. These brands sell the highest end clothing with a gaming twist. Contributing to the success of the trend earlier this year, EA Sports game The Sims partnered with fashion brand Moschino. They delivered high-end fashion to real life and virtual humans. League of Legends also announced a collaboration with Louis Vuitton to commemorate the 2019 World Championships.
Looking to the year ahead, Pablo Gomez, Kantar’s chief digital officer for the Asia Pacific region, has predicted that 2020 could see more brands taking action to support big causes as people increasingly favour businesses that engage in social issues. Gomez commented: “Brands will need to tread carefully and weigh the risks as well as rewards of taking up a social cause in today’s highly social and digital world.” He added that brands ‘need to get the word out in a way that feels authentic, not opportunistic’. Over the last year or so, Nike has taken a stand on racial injustice, Burger King on bullying, and Gillette on masculinity.
2019 saw brands using influencers more than ever for brand communications. However, Kantar’s report revealed the risks of influencer marketing, including inappropriate endorsements, lack of transparency and fake followers that most likely damage the credibility of the influencers and the brands that use them. According to Kantar, influencer marketing will reach maturity in 2020 and brands will move on from simply looking at likes, to more strategic metrics such as brand and sales impact.