Ruonan Zheng of the Jing Daily writes: “There is no luxury without China, there is no sustainability without China,” said François Pinault, Chairman and CEO of Kering, at the K Generation Talk & Award Ceremony in Shanghai recently. He was emphasizing how important China is strategically for luxury’s future both in terms of sales and sustainability.
China has been the biggest supplier of raw materials for the fashion industry for decades, and raw material accounts for 70 percent of the total fashion industry’s carbon footprint. The country is held responsible for eliminating carbon emissions in these areas. After speaking to a group of experts in the eco-fashion industry, we found that these changes are slowly taking place in all of China’s sectors through its consumers, brands, and government.
Consumers: Sustainable Lifestyle Before Sustainable Fashion
One of the biggest differences between the sustainability movement in China and the West comes down to self-interest versus altruism. In the West, sustainability is associated with the greater good, such as using recycled materials to save the forests. But in China, the idea of buying green fashion is more of a trophy choice, it has yet to become a factor in their daily shopping decisions among mainstream consumers. They are practical shoppers who are much more concerned with safe or natural “organic” materials than how carbon emissions are accelerating global warming.
For example, a Chinese mom might purchase organic food for her babies and plant-dyed, organic cotton clothes for her family as safety precautions. But does that mean she’ll go on to become an eco-fashion lifestyle devotee? Brands are certainly making them so. “Many eco-fashion brands choose to address a healthy lifestyle instead of the garment material,” says Vincent Djen, director of Cheng Kung Garments and Chief Strategy Officer of the fashion circular solution company REmakeHub.
“Over the years, the rise of Muji-like brands represent the idea of eco-fashion brands for Chinese consumers.” Muji’s minimalist style, quality branding, and versatile categories — from clothing to furniture, kitchenware, and skincare — are big attractions to those who prefer to go “all-natural.” Similar homegrown brands include The Green Party and OCE, both brands advocate green and natural qualities and have struck a chord with consumers that are starting to adapt to this lifestyle.
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