What’s the latest trend in one-size-fits-all crises? You guessed it: inflation. With rising prices becoming the new black, CivicScience sought to understand whether the sustainable fashion market is holding its own in these turbulent times after a notable increase in popularity only a few short years ago, or if consumers are backsliding into fast-fashion consumption to offset economic pressures. Here’s what we know:

When we first examined consumer sentiment towards sustainable fashion in early 2020, more than half of U.S. adults said sustainability practices held some level of importance in deciding where to shop for apparel. Two years on, that majority sentiment dropped by three percentage points, which may indicate that shoppers simply can’t afford to be so discerning in this economic climate.

Aligning with the previous insight, likeliness to invest in eco-friendly and sustainable clothing is also on the decline, but not all that significantly over a two-year period. It appears as though consumers aren’t itching to fully jump ship on environmentally-minded business practices, though U.S. financial conditions are prepared to challenge that sentiment.

So, who’s still fighting the good fight in the fashion world? Younger people by a long shot, though that’s no surprise given the marketing angle of the most popular sustainable brands is laser-targeted to Millennials and Gen Z. Older Americans simply aren’t interested in compromising price for conscious design.

The trend-aware also give sustainable fashion their seal of approval, though just over one-quarter of respondents with no interest in style trends still express interest in eco-friendly wardrobe pieces.

Interestingly enough, there’s an inverse relationship between income and sustainable fashion investment. As earnings increase, the likelihood of spending more on eco-fashion decreases.

The gender divide also paints a clear picture of purchasing priorities in this category. Respondents who identify as female are almost two times likelier than their male counterparts to toss extra cash at sustainable clothing.

As far as clothing types are concerned, tops and shoes are the most popular categories for sustainable fashion investment, among those who partake. Denim is notoriously aggressive on the environment to produce, between water usage, chemical pollution, and pesticides, yet bottoms are a tertiary priority for consumers.

Here’s a look at six popular sustainable fashion brands, ranked from highest level of respondent engagement to lowest:

While it looks like sustainable fashion is in a bit of a slump for generating interest, it does still have some pull in the clothing world. In fact, one-fifth of participants said they’re more likely to try a new brand with a sustainable angle over a fast-fashion brand.

Since interest in sustainable fashion is currently declining, it seems safe to assume that fast fashion is gaining greater traction in the market. One could then further assume that consumers who are loyal to trendy, low-cost, mass-manufactured clothing would be less concerned about the environment in their other purchasing habits. Or does it? Our data show that’s not quite the case — respondents who make frequent fast-fashion purchases also put forth the greatest effort to purchase environmentally friendly products and services. 

Does inflation signal the end for upmarket clothing with eco-friendly intentions? Probably not, as concerns about the environment and mindful purchasing efforts continue to ripple through the public consciousness. At the end of the day, the most sustainable way to shop is secondhand; you can check out those findings right here. And for insights that are always in style, you can request a demo here.