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How Apparel Brands Rallied Behind Earth Day 2021

Soaring cases of Covid-19 worldwide and the lifesaving need for PPE overshadowed Earth Day promotions in April last year. Apparel brands and retailers, however, were back in force last month with environmental messages and buzz about new sustainable collections.

Though sustainability is a year-round topic for the denim supply chain, new data from retail analytics firm Edited shows that Earth Day/Month became a core theme in retailers’ promotions beginning the week of March 21—one week earlier than in 2020. Email mentions of Earth Day, Earth Week, and Earth Month were up 41 percent year-over-year and were featured by 32 percent more retailers. Mentions of Fashion Revolution Week—an event intended to raise public awareness about the challenges facing the global apparel industry—also increased.

While Earth Day, or April 22, remained the most popular date for emails across the U.S. and U.K., April 20 and April 21 were also key dates. The earlier date, Edited noted, teed up opportunities for brands to center their communications around 420 and cannabis culture, including the growing number of hemp denim collections.

Edited extended a word of caution for weed-related campaigns. “With intersectional environmentalism in mind, retailers need to be conscious of capitalizing on the event while Black people are 3.73-times more likely to be arrested for possession than white people,” the firm stated.

Along with conscious edits and tips on ways consumers can be more sustainable in their everyday life, brand marketing for Earth Day covered topics on natural materials and zero waste. Brands like Madewell also shared their own progress in cleaning up their supply chain. Madewell announced it increased its commitment to responsibly materials by 67 percent and noted how it became the first U.S. retailer to offer Good Cashmere Standard-certified garments.

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This year companies fined-tuned their consumer-facing messages about circularity and transparency. Standouts included footwear brand Allbirds, which called on more brands to measure and share their emissions on labels as prominent as the price tag, and Levi’s, which launched its “Buy Better, Wear Longer” campaign that emphasizes the durability and timeless appeal of denim.

Through the campaign, brand president Jennifer Sey said Levi’s encourages consumers to be more intentional about their apparel choices, whether that means wearing clothing longer, shopping for pre-owned denim through its SecondHand platform or using Tailor Shops to repair garments.

Earth Day was an occasion for denim brands to tout their Ellen MacArthur Jean Redesign collections as well. Frame introduced the “Ellen” line—a three-piece range that included a jean jacket, cropped slim jean and a relaxed straight leg jean—designed in accordance with the foundation’s guidelines for circularity. The launch of Frame’s Jean Redesign collection followed the release of Gap’s and Tommy Hilfiger’s first collections that align with the framework.

Apparel brands and retailers ramped up their Earth Day promotions this year, focusing on circularity and giving back.
Frame’s “Ellen” collection Courtesy

Virtual events featuring sustainable influencers and giveaways and competitions were popular themes. Los Angeles-based Triarchy, for example, partnered with climate solutions company SimpliZero and apparel brand Uncle Studios to give away a “carbon neutral outfit.”

Universal Standard’s “Reset, Recycle, Refresh” email urged consumers to order a pre-labeled recycling bag for unwanted garments. In return, the size-inclusive company offers up to $100 for consumers to spend on new merchandise. Though an event not traditionally associated with discounting, Edited pointed out H&M offered membership points to shop its conscious range.

Other campaigns emphasized how companies are giving back. Case in point, Hunter teamed with World Land Trust to plant a tree to match every order made on Earth Day, while Cult Gaia partnered with TreePeople to do the same.