How to Design for the Conscious Consumer: Sustainability 101

How to Design For the Conscious Consumer

How to Design for the Conscious Consumer: It’s Not as Elusive as It Seems

Buzzwords like “sustainability” and “conscious consumer” have become quite ubiquitous in the fashion industry. But what do these words mean for you as a fashion designer?  While the environmental talk may seem like a fad; thoughtful, conscious design is evergreen and it’s here to stay. Sloppy supply chain management and open loop sales approaches are becoming antiquated as progressive business models like Everlane and Genussee lead the way into our future. Whether you’re repurposing plastic from water bottles, repeatedly renting out garments, or providing a free repair service—there’s a myriad of ways to reduce your collection’s carbon footprint. Learning how to design for the conscious consumer starts with creativity.

(Gasp) You Don’t Have to Be a Tree-hugger to Design Consciously

Maybe you genuinely care about the environment– maybe you don’t. It doesn’t really matter. Ask yourself these questions instead:

  • Do I want to create a thoughtful, high-quality product?
  • Do I want to produce my line in safe factories where workers are paid livable wages?
  • Do I care about the quality and durability of my materials?
  • Do I want to design a product that will withstand the test of time?

Most designers would answer yes to each of these questions. When you represent quality, you’ll attract conscious shoppers by default! The rest is a matter of innovation and foresight.

The Psychology of a Conscious Consumer

Practicality/Need

  • Do I really need this? Will I actually use/wear it?
  • Does it pair well with the pieces I already own?
  • Conscious Design is Simply Designing a Quality Product and a Thoughtful Business Model

Practicality/need aren’t within your control as it pertains to the individual customer; but merchandising is CRUCIAL. Provide staples along with the “show-stoppers” so you can meet ALL sartorial needs.

Uniqueness

  • Do I own something similar? If so, how is this variation different?

This is why your authenticity need to shine! We all need tops, pants, coats and outerwear, but what makes yours stand out? The construction? Fabrics? Prints? Color palettes?

Fit and Durability

  • Does this fit me well or will I need to spend more money for tailoring?
  • Will I wear this indefinitely?
  • Is this built to last? Do I like the fabric quality?

I can’t stress fit enough—it’s the number one reason why customers return clothing! This is where the conscious fashion movement merges with other social issues like accessibility and body inclusion. Using diverse models (pear, shape, hourglass, big-busted) for sample fittings can help your clothing accommodate more body types. Fabric quality is also very important. Pilling, fraying fabrics are a huge turn-off for thoughtful spenders.

Integrity

  • Was this locally/ethically made?

Conscious consumers look beyond the label. They’re more concerned about where and how the garment was made. After all, their dollars are ultimately funding your business practices, so it’s your duty to remain informed and ethical in regard to business partnerships. Instead of sourcing fabric just because it’s pretty, ask questions about how the fabric was developed. If you can’t afford to source locally, at least visit your factories once or twice a year and observe their conditions. There’s nothing worse than a fashionpreneur who’s clueless about what goes on behind the scenes.

Innovation and Forethought

  • How can I get the most use out of this product?
  • Is this fabric/material biodegradable?
  • Where will this product end up when I get rid of it?

If you’ve considered these questions, then congratulations! You’re a futuristic thinker!

I admit that most shoppers won’t consider the last three questions—so it depends on who you’re targeting. (Remember there are levels to everything!) Closed-loop systems like mending services or clothes swapping will maximize a product’s lifecycle. You can also resolve this on a supply chain level. Some designers only use natural, organic fibers that biodegrade easily. There are also companies like Evrnu who can break down your cotton fibers molecularly and create a whole new fabric. The solutions are endless! Get creative and explore what resonates with you.

Conscious Design = Quality product + Thoughtful Business Model

Fashion Angel Warrior

We all want customers who purchase our product with intentionality. Conscious consumers are intentional! Yes, they consider the socio-environmental impacts of their purchases; but at the core– a conscious consumer is a satisfied, returning consumer. And isn’t that what we all want?

In honor of Earth Week, download our free handout “How to Incorporate Sustainability Into Your Fashion Line.” If you have more specific questions about how to design for a conscious consumer, book a strategy session with us here. 🙂

And for weekly fashion biz advice join our Fearless Fashionpeneur Facebook Group.


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