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SHEFFIELD – 9 out of 10 university students surveyed had previously purchased fast fashion clothing, a new survey found. Despite this, 63 per cent said they were concerned about social implications of the fast fashion industry, while 48 per cent were concerned about environmental implications. Four researchers from the Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University, surveyed 56 university students aged 18–24 and four aged over 24, and interviewed six in-depth about sustainable clothing.

They found that while most purchased fast fashion, only one in six could name a brand that made sustainable clothing. This in itself is hardly a surprise given many experts within the industry struggle to identify a truly sustainable brand.

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The study found that women were more likely than men to advocate for sustainable clothing, but less likely than them to actually buy it.

17 per cent of participants admitted shopping at a fast fashion retailer each week, 62 per cent monthly and 11 per cent yearly, with only 10 per cent claiming that they had never purchased from a fast fashion retailer.

Women surveyed “portrayed support for sustainable fashion by stating they would be willing to pay more or even boycott unethical brands,” although, as so often with these surveys, the sentiments appear incongruous with the actions.

All the women stated that they would be willing to pay more for sustainable clothing, whereas the males were not.

Men showed a “lack of concern and knowledge around sustainable fashion,” yet their buying habits were considerably more sustainable than females, purchasing fast fashion less frequently and sourcing clothes from more sustainable retailers.

Dr Marc Duffy, who was part of the research team, said: “Generation Z are increasingly concerned for the planet, with 94 per cent believing that action is needed relative to sustainability, and that we need to come together to solve important issues.

“All participants had a negative attitude towards the term ‘fast fashion’, mentioning words such as ‘unsustainable, unethical and bad quality.

“But the large proportion who admitted buying fast fashion demonstrates a clear gap between pro-sustainability ideologies and observed behaviour.”

He added that the women surveyed, “Portrayed support for sustainable fashion by stating that they would be willing to pay more or even boycott unethical brands.

“All the women stated that they would be willing to pay more for sustainable clothing, whereas the males were not.”

By contrast, Dr Duffy said the men surveyed showed a “lack of concern and knowledge around sustainable fashion.”

However, he added: “Their buying habits were considerably more sustainable than females, purchasing fast fashion less frequently and sourcing clothes from more sustainable retailers.”

“However, this was not intentional – they preferred these brands as they were deemed trendy and cool.”

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