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HONG – New research has noted distinct variations in attitudes to sustainable fashion around the world. KPMG, together with Hong Kong Fashion Summit and HSBC, polled 1,000 people in each of Hong Kong, London, New York, Shanghai and Tokyo, collecting views on people’s definition of ‘sustainable fashion’, their support for it, their willingness to pay for it, and their ideas on possible measures the fashion industry should adopt to promote sustainability.

The researchers found significant variations in attitudes among the cities. For example, according to the survey, respondents from Shanghai seem to be the most enthusiastic supporters of the idea. There were also some noticeable East-West divides, with London and New York viewing socioeconomic factors as crucial to sustainability, while Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo tend to be more focused on environmental factors.

Net support of the concept of sustainable fashion stands at 49 per cent in Tokyo, 55 per cent in New York, 54 per cent in London, and 71 per cent in Hong Kong, with Shanghai in the lead at 90 per cent. Higher income groups and more frequent shoppers in the survey tended to be more supportive of sustainable fashion across all cities, with young people – especially those aged 18-24 – the most supportive of sustainable fashion.

According to the responses, the primary feature defining sustainable fashion is high-quality, durable products, followed by a pollution-free production process that does not use hazardous chemicals. In the two Western cities polled (London and New York), ethical and fair trade/labour practice is seen as a major component in sustainable fashion, while the three Asian cities (Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo) tended to focus mostly on environmental concerns.

Worldwide, few people say they are willing to pay more for sustainable fashion. Even in Shanghai, the city most supportive of the concept, only 22 per cent of people said they will pay a premium for sustainable fashion. It was also apparent that respondents consider the product (46 per cent) much more than the brand (11 per cent) when purchasing sustainable fashion. 

Potential opportunities to boost sustainable fashion, according to the research, include providing more labelling or other information about the sustainability of a fashion product, which could encourage people to pay more attention to its environmental footprint. Companies could also be encouraged to define their brands as sustainable brands that people can trust, rather than having shoppers focus on individual products.

When clothes come to the end of their lives, more than half of respondents polled in London and New York tend to give them away to those in need or to others, similar to respondents in Hong Kong, with those in Shanghai and Tokyo less likely to do so.

The survey polled a total of 5,269 people, receiving more than 1,000 responses from each of Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, New York and Tokyo

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