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International Market for Sustainable (Green) Apparel

The greening of the apparel industry is a significant and evolving trend that is likely to affect every facet of this enormous global industry. Under both internal and external pressure to reduce the environmental impact of growing, processing, treating and dyeing fibers and to eliminate exploitation and inequities in labor practices, textile and apparel companies are eager to show consumers a new, sustainable approach to fashion without sacrificing style or profit.

At the consumer and retail level, this trend is evident in a growing number of designers, manufacturers and marketers making sustainable claims. “Sustainable apparel” is an umbrella concept that includes some or all of these practices:

  • Use of certified organic natural fibers (wool, cotton, linen)
  • Use of highly renewable fibers (bamboo, soy)
  • Use of low-impact synthetic or recycled fibers
  • Use of non-toxic or reduced-toxicity fiber processes and treatments
  • Use of low-impact or natural dyes
  • Design and color choices aimed at longevity rather than planned obsolescence
  • Fair trade, ethical labor practices, and elimination of child labor and other exploitation
  • Reduced energy use throughout the product life cycle
  • Minimal or environmentally appropriate packaging

Consumer awareness, grown through the organic foods movement (and more recently, the local foods drive) and other health and environmental concerns, is creating a heightened sensitivity to all dimensions of ethical production. As a result, companies must avoid “greenwashing” and create transparent, consistent and substantive sustainability and social responsibility initiatives. However, lack of standards and regulation, and a proliferation of claims and labels, leaves room for very broad interpretations of sustainable apparel.

In this environment, manufacturers and marketers of all kinds -- tiny boutiques to huge mass-market chains, low-end to high-end pricing, brand identities including yoga clothing, infant clothes, glamorous designer fashions, menswear, outerwear - are seeking to identify themselves as sustainability minded and authentic. Wal-Mart is the largest purchaser of certified organic cotton, but many emerging designers are also aiming in the same direction. There is pressure on the supply chain, and pressure to quickly develop new technologies and systems that will demonstrate an environmentally and socially conscious commitment.

Though sales figures are hard to pinpoint in this rapidly growing and emerging market, the report quantifies international figures. The report also estimates the growth of the market and identifies both opportunities and challenges for existing and new market entries.


  • Executive Summary
    • Scope and Methodology
    • Packaged Estimates 2007 Retail Sales of Sustainable Apparel at $3 Billion
      • Table 2007 International Sustainable Apparel Market, by Sales Estimates per Fabric Type, in Millions of Dollars
      • Table 2007 International Sustainable Apparel Market, by Percentage of Fabric Type
    • Defining Sustainable Apparel
    • Fibers and Materials for Sustainable Apparel
      • Organic Cotton
      • Organic Trade Association Voluntary Fiber Processing Standards Give Way to GOTS
      • Organic Cotton Grows Worldwide to Meet Greater Demand
      • Historic Sales Estimates for Organic Cotton Market
      • Organic Wool
      • Other Organic: Linen, Leather
      • Hemp
      • Commercial Hemp Market for Fiber Is Growing, But Not Without Obstacles
      • Bamboo
      • Silk
      • Eco-Friendly Lyocell
      • Recycled Fibers
    • Dyes, Processing and Finishing
    • Social Justice and Ethical Labor Practices
    • Packaging and Distribution
    • Design and Life Cycle
    • Categories of Sustainable Apparel
    • Standards and Regulatory Framework
      • Organic Standards
      • National Organic Program Standards
      • Labor Standards
      • Oeko-Tex Standards
    • The Marketers
      • Characteristics of Marketers
      • Shift Toward Sustainability for Existing Apparel Designers and Brands
      • Pioneering Organic or Sustainable Marketers
      • Twenty-First Century Sustainable Apparel Companies
    • Marketing, New Products and Trends
      • Sustainable Apparel Market Now Attracting Designers
      • Sustainable Apparel Event at New York Fashion Week
      • Media Coverage Accelerating
      • Trade Magazines Focus on Industry and Supply Chain
      • E-Media Presence Via Sustainable Fashion Blogs
    • New Products, Trends, and Emerging Designers and Entrepreneurs
      • Developing New Materials for Sustainable Apparel
      • New Trends in Fiber Processing, Dyes, Finishes, and Fabric Treatments
      • Environmental Awareness in Production Facilities
      • Who's Making the Clothes, and How Are Workers Treated?
      • New and Emerging Designers, Entrepreneurs, and Collections
    • Sustainable Apparel Supply and Distribution Chain
      • Organic Cotton Production Concentrated in India, Turkey
      • Hemp Production in China, Europe
      • Organic Wool Production Centered in Australia, New Zealand
      • Farm-Retailer Partnerships
      • Global Production Capacity Projected to Grow With Constraints
        • Table Global Sustainable Fiber and Garment Production Capacity (2007-2012)
      • Mass Market Consumer Goods Retailers Become Major Players in the Market
      • Department Stores Implement Sustainable Apparel or Organic Cotton Programs
      • Outdoor Retailers Lead in Sustainable Apparel
      • Fashion, Baby Clothes in Specialty Boutiques and Shops
      • Marketer Websites and Online Eco-Boutiques Making Inroads
      • Market Share by Type of Retail Outlet
        • Table Market Share by Retail Outlet of Sustainable Apparel
    • The Sustainable Apparel Consumer
      • The Sustainable Apparel Consumer is a Values-Based Shopper
      • IRI Data Show Viable Market for Sustainable Products and Packaging
        • Table Sustainability Factors Influencing Brand Selection: Percent of Consumers
        • Table Sustainability Factors Influencing Store Selection: Percent of Consumers
      • Ripening Marketing Opportunities
    • Future Trends and Opportunities
      • Opportunities for Growth and Market Penetration
      • Evolving Design Concepts
      • Evolving Technologies and Practices
      • Evolving Consumer Expectations
      • Consumer Education Essential to Success
    • Conclusion: The Future of Sustainable Apparel
  • Market Definition, Size and Growth
    • No Consistent Meaning for "Sustainable"
    • Fibers and Materials for Sustainable Apparel
      • Organic Cotton
      • Organic Certification
      • Organic Trade Association Voluntary Fiber Processing Standards Give Way to GOTS
      • Organic Exchange Creates Blended Standard
      • Organic Cotton Grows Worldwide to Meet Greater Demand
        • Table Leading Producers of Organic Cotton by Country
      • Organic Wool
      • Other Organic: Linen, Leather
      • Hemp
      • Commercial Hemp Market for Fiber Is Growing, But Not Without Obstacles
        • Table Qualities of Primary Hemp Fiber
      • Bamboo
      • From Bamboo Plant to Fabric: Imperfect Technologies
      • Silk
      • Man-Made Fibers and Sustainable Apparel
      • Fabrics Made From Soy and Corn: The Biotechnology Conundrum
      • Eco-Friendly Lyocell
      • Recycled Fibers
      • Patagonia's Common Threads
      • Recap: Fabrics for Sustainable Apparel
    • Dyes, Processing, and Finishing
      • Natural and Fiber-Reactive Dyes
      • Using Undyed Fabrics
      • Finishes and Treatments
      • Water and Energy Use
    • Social Justice and Ethical Labor Practices
      • Fair Trade Cotton
      • Anti-Sweatshop Initiatives
    • Packaging and Distribution
    • Design and Life Cycle
      • "Slow Fashion" and New Design Approaches
      • The Nau Experiment
      • Categories of Sustainable Apparel
      • Clothing for Infants and Children
      • Women's and Men's Yoga Clothes and Casual Wear
      • Socks, T-shirts, Underwear, Jeans
      • Outdoor and Athletic Apparel
      • Women's High-End or Boutique Fashion Apparel
      • Menswear
    • Standards and Regulatory Framework
      • Organic Standards
      • Organic Resources
      • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
      • Organic Certification
      • Sustainable Textile Standards
      • Labor Standards
      • ISO Standards for Production Facilities
      • Oeko-Tex Standards
      • Cradle to Cradle Certification
    • Organic Exchange Blended Standard
      • Anticipate Additional Standards Models and Regulations
    • Size and Characteristics of the Sustainable Apparel Market
      • Sales Estimate Methodology
      • Sustainable Apparel Within the Global Apparel Market
      • Comparisons to Growth and Mainstreaming of Organic Foods Movement
      • Size of Organic Cotton Sector
      • Organic Cotton Sales Increase at Runaway Pace
      • Hemp Market Growing at 10 Percent Annually
      • Use of Other Sustainable Fibers Also Growing
    • 2007 International Sustainable Apparel Market Estimated at US$3.04 Billion
      • Table 2007 International Sustainable Apparel Market, by Percentage of Fabric Type
      • Table 2007 International Sustainable Apparel Market, by Sales Estimates per Fabric Type, in Millions of Dollars
      • Packaged Facts Projects Strong Growth Through 2012
        • Table Projections of Retails Sales for International Sustainable Apparel Market, in Billions of Dollars 2007 - 2012
      • Sustainable Apparel Small Fraction of Global Apparel Market
      • Mass Market Retailers Have Greatest Share of Market at 30%
        • Table Market Share of Sustainable Apparel by Retail Market
  • Sustainable Apparel Marketers
    • Chapter Highlights
    • A Highly Fragmented Young Industry
    • Characteristics of Marketers
      • Pioneering Organic or Sustainable Marketers
      • Twenty-First Century Sustainable Apparel Companies
      • Shift Toward Sustainability for Existing Apparel Designers and Brands
    • Marketer Profiles: Women's Fashion Clothing
      • Linda Loudermilk
      • Bahar Shahpar
      • John Patrick Organic
      • Stella McCartney
      • Katherine Hamnett
      • Under The Canopy
      • Stewart + Brown
      • Seasalt
      • Earth Speaks
      • Eileen Fisher
    • Marketer Profiles: Women's and Men's Yoga and Workout Wear, Denim and Casual Wear
      • Blue Canoe
      • Gaiam
      • prAna
      • Loomstate
      • Levi Strauss
      • Rawganique
      • Edun Apparel and Edun LIVE
      • Hanes
      • Coca-Cola
      • Wal-Mart/Sam's Club
      • Hess Natur
    • Marketer Profiles: Outdoor Wear
      • Patagonia
      • Nike
      • Nau
    • Marketer Profiles: Clothing for Infants and Children
      • Hanna Andersson
      • Kate Quinn Organics
      • Go Natural Baby
  • Marketing, New Products and Trends
    • Chapter Highlights
    • Fluid and Not Well Developed
    • Marketing Sustainable Apparel
      • FutureFashion Show Puts Focus on Green
      • Other Fashion Events Target Sustainability
      • Celebrity Participation and Presence
      • Reaching Fashion Magazine Readers
      • Trade Magazines Focus on Industry and Supply Chain
      • Niche/Specialty Magazines Focus on the Art of Sustainability
      • E-Media Presence Via Sustainable Fashion Blogs
      • Advertising Sustainable Apparel
      • Car/Fashion Connections
    • New Products, Trends, and Emerging Designers and Entrepreneurs
      • Developing New Materials for Sustainable Apparel
      • New Fiber: Lenpur
      • Regulatory Trends
      • New Trends in Fiber Processing, Dyes, Finishes, and Fabric Treatments
      • Environmental Awareness in Production Facilities
      • Who's Making the Clothes and How Are They Treated?
    • New and Emerging Designers, Entrepreneurs, and Collections
      • New Mass Market Collections
      • New and Emerging Designers and Entrepreneurs
  • Sustainable Apparel Supply and Distribution Chain
    • Chapter Highlights
    • A Complex Network Spanning the Globe
    • Textile Industry Relationships and Structure
      • Industry Organization
      • Organic Cotton Production Concentrated in India, Turkey
      • Hemp Production in China, Europe
      • Organic Wool Production Centered in Australia, New Zealand
      • Farm-Retailer Partnerships
      • Sustainable Fabric Producers and Wholesalers
      • Model of Fiber Pools Developing for Organic Cotton
      • Global Production Capacity Projected to Grow With Constraints
        • Table Global Sustainable Fiber and Garment Production Capacity (2007-2012)
      • The Bluesign Standard and Software for a Sustainable Textile Supply Chain
    • Distribution and Sales of Sustainable Apparel
      • Mass Market Consumer Goods Retailers Become Major Players in the Market
      • Department Stores Implement Sustainable Apparel or Organic Cotton Programs
      • Outdoor Retailers Lead in Sustainable Apparel
      • Can Groceries and Fashion Sell Side By Side?
      • Fashion, Baby Clothes in Specialty Boutiques and Shops
      • Spas, Yoga Studios in Sync With Sustainable Apparel
      • Marketer Websites and Online Eco-Boutiques Making Inroads
      • Eco-Retailing Supported By Green Blogs
      • Market Share by Type of Retail Outlet
        • Table Market Share by Retail Outlet of Sustainable Apparel
  • The Sustainable Apparel Consumer
    • Chapter Highlights
    • The Sustainable Apparel Consumer is a Values-Based Shopper
      • The Evolution of the Values-Based Shopper
      • Stated Values and Actual Consumer Behavior
      • IRI Data Show Viable Market for Sustainable Products and Packaging
        • Table Sustainability Factors Influencing Brand Selection: Percent of Consumers
        • Table Sustainability Factors Influencing Store Selection: Percent of Consumers
      • IRI Recommendations for CPG Manufacturers
      • IRI Recommendations for CPG Retailers
      • Consumer Education Has Room for Improvement
        • Table Attitudes Toward Sustainability: Percent of Consumers
      • Water Issues Top of Mind Among Environmental Concerns
      • BBMG Conscious Consumer Report Warns Against Greenwashing
      • Magazines, Newspapers, and Certifications Inform Shoppers
        • Table Conscious Consumer Sources for Information About Marketers
      • Drinking Water, Air Pollution Top Concerns
        • Table Conscious Consumer Top Environmental Issues
      • High Expectations for Sustainable Companies
        • Table Desired Company Practices by Conscious Consumers
      • Marketer Lessons: Trust, Personal Benefits, Works in Progress
      • Generation Y: Will They Buy?
      • Iconoculture Identifies Gen Y Groups as Driving Force in Market
      • Natural Marketing Institute Segments Consumers
      • Conclusion: Ripening Marketing Opportunities
  • Future Trends and Opportunities
    • Chapter Highlights
      • Unlimited Growth Potential
      • Trends in the Global Market
      • Opportunities for Growth and Market Penetration
      • Challenges to Sustainable Apparel Industry Growth
      • Conclusion: The Future of Sustainable Apparel
    • Special Focus: A Conversation with Apparel Manufacturing Expert Kathleen Fasanella
    • Special Focus: A Conversation with Textile Designer and Organic Fabric Producer Harmony Susalla of Harmony Art
    • Special Focus: A Conversation with Textiles Professor and Sustainable Fashion Expert Janet Hethorn, Author of Sustainable Fashion: Why Now
  • Addresses of Selected Marketers

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