How brands are capitalising on the ‘Markle Sparkle’ and consumer trends to push sustainable fashion

In a climate where there is increasing pressure from both consumers and industry leaders for retailers to be sustainable, The Iconic has launched its 'Considered' tool. Mumbrella's Brittney Rigby looks at the motivation and strategy of the launch, and hears from brands who are pushing into the space.

Clare Press, Vogue’s sustainability editor at large, asks the founder of Outland Denim to explain what she calls the ‘Markle sparkle’. James Bartle laughs, then responds with the numbers: Within 24 hours of Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, wearing a pair of Outland jeans, the style sold out. Within a week and a half, website traffic increased by 958%, and sales by 1,000%. Within a few weeks, Outland had made 46 new hires.

Meghan Markle on her tour of Australia and New Zealand last year

“[We] couldn’t have had the same advertorial impact spending $5m,” Bartle says of the media relationships that “opened up” in direct response to Markle wearing Outland jeans for multiple days of her Australian tour last year.

“We were being stocked in stores we never even dreamed about being stocked in. When [a sustainable] option is presented to them, people inherently want to be part of the change.”

New Zealand-based Maggie Marilyn saw a similar impact when Markle, and Kendall Jenner, also wore founder Maggie Hewitt’s designs.

“Why are we here? It’s not just to make beautiful clothing. It’s to, hopefully, change the world,” Hewitt says.

“I think we can’t underestimate the power of someone like Meghan or Kendall wearing your product, but that’s just a starting point.”

Bartle and Hewitt are speaking in front of a room of journalists, models, stylists and brand representatives at the launch of Considered by The Iconic, a first-of-its-kind tool that allows shoppers to filter items on the site in line with their values. For example, a pair of Outland Denim jeans is tagged with the attributes of “sustainable materials” and “community engagement”, since the company is built on the purpose of providing employment and training to women in Cambodia who have been victims of sex trafficking.

This tagging system aims to demystify and democratise the process of shopping sustainably, whatever that looks like for an individual consumer.

“Sustainability means different things to different people, and for many, understanding this space and its complexities can be overwhelming,” explains Jaana Quaintance-James, The Iconic’s head of sustainability and ethical sourcing.

“By simplifying sustainability credentials into five easy to understand categories, our customers now have the ability to shop by what’s important to them. Concerned about climate change? Shop eco-production. Animal person? Shop animal friendly. Want to have a positive impact on society when you shop? Shop community engagement.”

Considered launched yesterday with a catalogue of more than 6,400 items across 300 brands, but The Iconic is pushing for this to increase to 10,000 in the near future, in a climate where there is increasing pressure from both consumers and industry leaders for retailers to be sustainable.

Speaking at last month’s Mumbrella Retail Marketing Summit, a former Nike environmental consultant said that sustainability isn’t a fad, but an ethos brands need to embed in order to “run smart businesses”.

The Iconic itself acknowledges that it’s not about one company or person being perfect, but every company and person doing one small, good thing. As part of the launch, Quaintance-Jones premiered the documentary ‘Who Made My Clothes?’, in which The Iconic shows the people who live in Guangzhou, China, and make the clothes for its own brand Atmos and Here.

“We’ve been disconnected from humans … [The documentary was about] seeing an opportunity to deepen that conversation with our customers and where they buy that product and how they connect with that item,” Quaintance-Jones says.

“When you understand where something comes from, you’ll look after it better and you maybe wear it with a little bit more pride. The people who made our clothes care about the product that they’re making and they have a story to be told.”

She concedes that, although connecting consumers with the people who make their clothes is a good start, The Iconic’s factories aren’t perfect, adding that while its packaging is currently 100% recyclable, she’s also investigating alternative materials and options. Citing the introduction of Australia’s modern slavery laws, Quintance-Jones says that Australia is still “lagging” on areas like packaging and waste.

“A lot of the changes we’ve seen in China have been a result of the way that people in China have demanded a change.”

Melinda Tually, Australia and New Zealand coordinator for Fashion Revolution, an organisation that partnered with The Iconic to produce ‘Who Made My Clothes?’, adds that individual responsibility is paramount.

“The Modern Slavery Act came about after two to three years of hard advocacy from the business community and the NGO sector. It didn’t just happen,” Tually says.

“If you’re unhappy with the situation … use your voice and actually communicate that to the politicians that you vote for. At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to.”


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