Consumers interpreting sustainability: moving beyond food to fashion

Elaine L. Ritch*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    54 Citations (Scopus)


    The purpose of this paper is to explore consumer perceptions and understanding of sustainable concepts within the context of fashion consumption.

    Phenomenological interviews provided a platform to explore fashion sustainability and garment labels from current UK high street fashion retailers were used to stimulate discussion.

    The findings identify confusion of how sustainability applies to fashion, particularly for environmental issues and there was scepticism regarding higher pricing for organic cotton. However, motivation to avoid fashion produced under exploitation resulted in avoiding retailers alleged of such practice, paying more for garments and purchasing from established UK retailers.

    Research limitations/implications

    The idiographic nature of a phenomenological approach may be considered as a limitation, yet this in-depth exploration of participants with similar socio-demographics enables a rich understanding of the discourse experienced within their lifeworlds.

    Practical implications
    The findings illustrate that consumers are transferring sustainable principles from one context to another, and that by addressing sustainability, fashion retailers could obtain a competitive advantage.

    Social implications
    The findings demonstrate consumers’ increased involvement with sustainability and the role expected from fashion retailers.

    The research uniquely positions consumers’ reliance on heuristics to guide sustainable preferences, due to the lack of information and this implies that sustainable concepts are increasingly incorporated into everyday behaviours.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1162-1181
    Number of pages20
    JournalInternational Journal of Retail and Distribution Management
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2015


    • sustainability
    • fashion consumption
    • retailing
    • marketing activities
    • decision-making


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