Ever heard the argument that ecological or responsible fashion could not be considered good-looking, fashionable or sexy, even? Weecos has a wide range of sustainable men’s clothing brands, which prove that this claim could not be further from the truth.
Great cases in point are, for example, Weecos menswear brands Formal Friday, Vaella, FRENN and Mori Collective. Formal Friday offers functional men’s clothing from high-tech materials that look not only great but also offer advanced design features. Mori Collective makes clothes for men using recycled materials. The brand’s streetwear orientated apparel reflect how urban men dress or want to dress all across the Nordics.
Men’s clothing brands differ from women’s brands in many ways. Men’s clothing brands do not change or renew their supply in the same pace as women’s, and the design work is more material-orientated. As a womenswear designer, it is easier to gain a steady cash flow since there is more variety in merchandising: a brand can sell a range of jewellery, accessories and other products besides clothing more easily than menswear brands. In men’s clothing, there’s a lot more emphasis on the brand, and the product range and the material work must be consolidated holistically. Male consumers are a tough crowd and not as easily reached as female customers, so the message must be crystal clear from the first impression.
Right now there is a lot on offer in menswear fashion, and since the beginning of the noughties, the field has grown exponentially, making it challenging to build a distinguishable brand among competitors. In the last couple of years, there has been a growing number of brands that reflect a more responsible lifestyle. One might think that companies have found this as a way of differentiating in a diversified and full-fledged market, as well as a means of bringing added value to the brand.
The bigger truth is, however, that more companies have woken up to the idea that without a prosperous environment there are no prosperous societies that require consumer goods.
The current uncertainty and turmoil in the world are reflected in business and especially in fashion. In the midst of environmental and societal challenges, companies feel pressure not only to reflect deeper values but also to provide more information and alternatives. There is a strong desire among people and consumers to act on many of the issues, but at the same time, a feeling of powerlessness – especially as media and the internet bring problems on a global scale so close to our everyday lives. Companies know that consumers are looking for products that do good on one level, not just for them but also for other aspects of life.
Today’s consumers also have unprecedented power and awareness because of social media and the internet. Consumers and activists have pressed major players in fashion to greater transparency and sustainability through vigilant campaigning. Still, some argue that corporate responsibility is not doing enough, and sustainability is put into practice more through words and communication rather than action.
Responsible clothing brands also seem to have reached a consensus on how to communicate the brand to their customers. The typical man is usually represented as an urban pioneer, a bit like a contemporary counterpart of the classic hipster, who travels on a bicycle and favors communitarian entrepreneurs’ products. This type is usually carved out to be a person of good income mainly because he has the opportunity to make more sustainable choices in fashion and other consumer goods.
So how to serve this male customer? Product’s origin and sustainability of materials and production are key factors in his purchase decisions, but should they counteract with how a product looks? The responsible man still wants his t-shirt and sneakers, but he wants them ethically sourced from organic cotton or hemp and recycled plastic bottles. It could be considered that it is easier to sell sustainable products for this customer’s material and garment based needs rather than trying to cater to a certain sense of style.
Being a starting fashion brand is already difficult as it is, and when it comes to maintaining responsible operating models, additional challenges surface. Costs may increase because of ecological production methods or materials, which in turn create higher expectations for the turnover. This may lead designers to create more risk-free and generic commercial products.
This also creates an interesting setting in the industry. Should sustainable menswear brands be pushing forward men’s fashion in general or should they focus on implementing environmental and societal change? In the light of current political climate around environmental issues and the United States just having left the Paris Climate Agreement, some sustainable clothing brands have begun to take a stand through communication and campaigning, but there is hardly any advocating or involvement through the products or how they are presented.
Perhaps the world of responsible fashion might just be in need of a new eco-anarchy punk aesthetic right now to get the message across. Clothes that shout out ideology and values, but also contain commercial and sustainable practices in every fiber and stitch.
Then there is, of course, the question whether pushing fashion forward is a sustainable approach in itself. The fashion industry prospers of the people’s endless yearning for fashion, so maybe answering to a certain type of customer’s endless needs for the newest new, no matter how ecologically and ethically produced, isn’t the answer.
I would say that in the next ten years, the right approach will have less to do with designing the right sustainable product with the right, ideal customer in mind and more about acknowledging the customer’s mindset and behavior and how these might affect the lifespan of the garment. More design work will be put into sustainable practices after the customer has made the decision to purchase an item like repair work, recycling and so on. Eventually, this could be something that will push both fashion and sustainability forward.