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Use of #SustainableFashion Hashtag Spiking on Instagram

Forget trends; consumers are increasingly values-driven when buying clothes.

The evidence is all over Instagram, where mentions of #sustainablefashion have quintupled since 2016, according to French tech startup Heuritech, which reviewed 25 million posts and 400 hashtags from U.S. and European consumers and influencers over the past three years.

Other popular hashtags linked to #fashion included #vintage, #handmade and #handcrafted, #ethicalfashion and #slowfashion, which “translate into a trending dynamic of a more sustainable way of living that goes all the way up to how we think about fashion,” Heuritech noted in a report.

But not all hashtags are universal. Despite many overlaps, hashtags can have unique appeal in either Europe or America, Heuritech found. European Instagrammers, for instance, favor #vegan far more than their trans-Atlantic cousins, perhaps reflecting concerns about the production of leather that are more divided across continents.

Similarly, the use of #recycle vis-à-vis fashion was exclusive to the United States, which may stem from use of the term in relation to platforms like ThredUp and TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box.

Certainly #secondhand is outstripping #vintage in popularity, Heuritech said. While promotion of the former has increased 15 percent in American and European posts since January 2019, use of the latter has slid 8 percent.

“While vintage has always been around, it is interesting to notice the recent rise of the secondhand trend,” Heuritech wrote. “Secondhand appears to be a more activist trend since it is directly correlated with fighting fast fashion, while vintage appears to be more of a lifestyle. Secondhand generates a virtuous cycle, a real, new way of consuming better by buying used clothes to reuse them.”

Don’t pour one out for #vintage just yet, however. Six times more present in posts than #secondhand overall, #vintage “remains part of the sustainability movement,” Heuritech said. Influencers in both continents, especially, have a yen for #vintage, applying it roughly four times more often than other hashtags as they “increasingly show their commitment toward a more sustainable vision of fashion.”

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In addition, Heuritech noted, the presence of #climatechange reveals a burgeoning desire by influencers to be viewed as activists and to “build environmental awareness among their community of followers.”

Even #fashionrevolution, a hashtag declaring support for the grassroots movement Fashion Revolution, is no longer pegged to Fashion Revolution Week in April—which coincides with the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster—but is used year round, analytics show.

As for brands most tied to sustainable fashion, emerging direct-to-consumer companies such as Everlane, Veja and Reformation are leading the pack because the have “sustainability at the core of their DNA and engagement,” Heuritech wrote. Ralph Lauren is the top dog for vintage, outperforming even Levi’s despite widespread demand for classic 501 jeans. In terms of #environment, Nike, Patagonia and The North Face maintain their footholds, although H&M and Zara are “making their way in” as their sustainability commitments gain greater publicity.