The emperor’s old clothes : a consumer behaviour-based case study on second-hand clothing as a sustainable fashion consumption practice in Italy
Sammanfattning: The current fashion system known as Fast Fashion (FF) is responsible for severe environmental and social impacts. Fashion democratisation has increased consumers’ appetite for new trends, leading fashion companies to design an increasing number of collections per year. Manufacturing is outsourced to developing countries, where workers’ rights and working place regulations are hardly respected. Additionally, garments are designed with material and stylistic planned obsolescence, in order to encourage rapid disposal and replacement. The result is a considerable waste of resources, human labour and accumulation of garbage. Growing awareness of the negative impacts of FF has led to international movements, like Slow Fashion (SF), promoting a radical change in how we consume fashion and encouraging adoption of more environmentally- and ethically-aware strategies, such as use of ecological or natural material and remanufacturing. One of such alternatives is second-hand clothing (SHC) consumption, as it diverts clothes from landfills or export to developing countries by extending their life-cycle. The present thesis uses a case study approach to analyse consumers’ perceptions of SHC consumption in the Italian context. Here, the peculiar combination of sharp fashion sensitivity and the recent economic crisis has created a fertile ground for consumption of cheap FF clothing. Although clothing collection systems are in place, the majority of what is collected is directly exported to developing countries instead of being reintroduced in the national market. The aim of this thesis is to understand the reasons for this unexpressed potential of the SHC market by investigating if and what types of barriers exist at the consumer level. Semi-structured interviews with SHC shop owners and an online survey targeting Italian consumers were used to understand the motivations for and against SHC consumption and identify potential leverage points to develop it further. Results show that a sizeable percentage of consumers resort to SHC because of its economic and environmental advantages. However, misinformation concerning this practice and lack of transparency in the supply chain contribute to emphasize a rooted prejudice concerning cleanliness and negative symbolic value held by SHC. Structural issues are also identified, such as aesthetic appearance and availability of SHC channels across the Italian peninsula. Growing awareness of the wastefulness of the fashion industry, eye for quality and decreasing spending capabilities are identified as potential leverage points to popularise SHC consumption. For this to happen, however, advertisement, education and awareness raising of consumers on economic and environmental advantages of this practice are necessary steps to take.
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