Why sport can help fashion showcase its sustainability credentials
Fashion is just one of many industries with an environmental impact as far-reaching as its popularity.
The subjects of sustainability and ‘fast fashion’ – a term used to describe the high rate of low-cost fashion production and consumption – are firmly under the microscope in the current cultural climate. Synthetic fibres account for almost a third of all microplastics in the ocean.
We buy more clothes per person in the UK than any other country in Europe, feeding an industry worth around £32bn to the national economy. By 2050, the UN says the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles given the growth in global population.
The stats are a little dire. The quest to become greener is on.
Activating in sport through partnerships based on sustainability could be a unique way for premium apparel brands to differentiate themselves and show they care. Particularly as consumers are placing greater value on brands which demonstrate responsibility in all stages of the chain, from production to recycling.
Premium apparel brands are quite literally the trendsetters of the fashion industry. Some labels create sports collections that are designed to look as good in the clubhouse as they do on the course. They cater to a premium audience at premium prices for people partial to afternoons of ‘athleisure’. The impact of collaborations at this industry level are innately influential and where these two worlds meet means pounds in the sponsorship budgets. It’s a chance to inspire the audiences of both sport and fashion to make their own responsible choices.
“Clubhouse” brands which share the sustainability-quest, whether or not altruism already features in their strategy, should look at partnering with sports rights holders to help them make steps towards demonstrating their social and sustainability credentials. We take a look at some of the brands already making moves and the sports which could help them showcase their brand story through sponsorship.
In January 2019, Tommy Hilfiger announced it would offer 100% recycled cotton denim styles in its Tommy Jeans global collection. “We have a responsibility to future generations to manufacture products in a more thoughtful way to protect the environment. We want to make sustainable changes,” said the founder. “We want to inspire consumers to make more sustainable changes.”
In recognition of the negative impact of plastic pollution in the oceans, Ralph Lauren debuted its Earth Polo in April this year, featuring a cotton-like material made from recycled plastic bottles.
During the same month, GANT released its Beacons project, seeking to integrate greater sustainability into its established sea-side vibe. The project incentivises the removal of plastic from the water by fishermen.
Lacoste unveiled the second edition of its Save Our Species collaboration with ICUN to raise awareness of conservation projects. The brand synonymous for its crocodile polo shirt released a limited edition collection with tailored logos reflecting 10 threatened species including the Black Whale and 5cm long Opal Goodeid, of which only 150 are left.
Sports leading the charge
In addition to brands becoming more green, sports are also aligning themselves to environmental issues. Sports like surfing and sailing take place in environments needing protection from the pollution which not only poses risk to the marine habitat but also to the health and safety of the athletes themselves. For brands running low on altruism in values, rights holders like these could play a huge part in building brand empathy.
Only last week, The World Surf League (WSL) launched its PURE pledge to help protect the environment by reinvesting the cost of the tour’s carbon footprint into projects that work to safeguard marine life. The body has also banned plastics from its events, partnered with local communities which host tour events to mitigate damage and is encouraging the public to share their own pledges to #StopTrashingWaves. In the UK, Surfing England works with Surfers Against Sewage and the 2-Minute Beach Clean to actively improve the environment.
Sailing has a legacy in highlighting the importance of ocean protection. Events such as The Ocean Race, previously sponsored by Volvo, is the premium round-the-world test of sailing prowess and endurance which declares “Sustainability is at our core. Nature drives us.” The stark fact that by 2050 there will be more pieces of plastic than fish in the oceans was raised in Will McCallum’s book “How To Give Up Plastic” and sailing is on the front line.
Cricket’s commitment is global. Cities across India have adopted a new green protocol which sees an army of volunteers sort recycling from waste and educate spectators during Indian Premier League matches. Closer to home, The Kia Oval Cricket Ground, home to Surrey, announced in 2018 its intention to become plastic free by 2020, banning single-use plastics, introducing compostable coffee cups and phasing out plastic bags from its shops. It partnered with Fidelity Energy which provided power from sustainable-only sources.
Thus, partnerships based on sustainability should be much more of “a thing” going forward, not least because they’re a win-win-win solution. It’s an opportunity for clubhouse apparel brands to look more responsible, for sports to receive greater visibility and promotion whilst both promote and support their commitment to sustainability. In today’s ever cluttered environment, authenticity has never been more important when it comes to building consumer trust.
And the third winner is the most important one – the planet.
For a more in-depth look at brands in the Clubhouse Apparel sector, check out caytoo’s Brand Landscape.