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Report: European Millennials Will Pay for More Sustainable Fashion

If marketers haven’t been able to crack the code of millennial shopping habits, it hasn’t been for lack of trying.

But the majority of Europeans aged 18 to 30, at least, seem to lean toward greener fashion. They’re willing to hand over extra for it, too.

Indeed, of the 283 mostly young adults polled across seven European countries by the University of Applied Sciences of Jyväskylä on behalf of Spinnova, a Finnish eco-textile producer, 62 percent said they would pay more for a sustainable item of clothing.

“This is a great result, considering that the respondents are mostly young people [who] don’t have a lot of spending power,” Spinnova noted in a report.

While 54 percent of respondents said they would only pay a sustainability “premium” of 20 percent or less—meaning some of them would rather not fork out more at all—as many as 41 percent said they would be amenable to a 20 percent to 30 percent hike in price.

“In any case, there is an emerging determination to make more sustainable choices. This convinces someone like us, developing sustainable alternatives, and brands who are investing time and money in comprehensive sustainability programs,” said Janne Poranen, the company’s CEO, in a statement. “Our mission is also meaningful to the consumer.”

His assertion bore out elsewhere: Given only the briefest of introductions to Spinnova, 52 percent of those polled said they would be interested in its mechanically processed cellulose-based fiber, which can derive from agricultural waste, when it becomes available.

But the poll also revealed a gaping divide between the desire of millennials to buy better and their ability to do so. To wit, while 51 percent of respondents expressed interest in sustainable clothes, only 15 percent knew of brands or shops where they could be purchased.

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“This looks like an all-round awareness problem, both with general environmental knowledge and how retailers support sustainable choices or promote their sustainable selections,” Poranen said. “Some brands already have separate sections for conscious items. This is a very good start, but also a challenge to all of us in the textile industry.”

Even so, sustainability appears to be an easier sell to Europeans than, say, Americans, who make up the largest retail market in the world. In a recent survey by Ipsos-MORI, 34 percent of 1,000 Americans said they were troubled by the environmental impacts of their apparel purchases, compared with 42 percent of Britons, 47 percent of Italians and 63 percent of Spaniards.

Something Europeans and Americans can agree on, however, is that clothing cannot rely solely on sustainability as a selling point. Fifty-one percent of those polled by Spinnova said they based their buying decision on design, and 25 percent on price. Likewise, Americans overwhelmingly prioritize design and fit, quality and cost over any kind of ethical considerations.