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What is sustainable fashion?

Claudia E. Henninger (School of Materials, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Panayiota J. Alevizou (Management School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Caroline J. Oates (Management School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)

Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management

ISSN: 1361-2026

Article publication date: 3 October 2016




The purpose of this paper is to examine what the term sustainable fashion means from the perspective of micro-organisations, experts, and consumers.


This research is qualitative in nature, utilising a multi-methods case study approach (semi-structured interviews, semiotics, questionnaires). Grounded analysis was applied to analyse the data.


Findings indicate that interpretation of sustainable fashion is context and person dependent. A matrix of key criteria provides the opportunity to find common elements.

Research limitations/implications

Due to the nature of this research the sample size is limited and may not be generalised. Data were collected in the UK and are limited to a geographical region.

Practical implications

An important implication is that defining sustainable fashion is vital in order to avoid challenges, such as greenwashing, which were faced in other industries that have a longer history in sustainable practices. Micro-organisations should take advantage of identifying key sustainable fashion criteria, which will enable them to promote their fashion collections more effectively.

Social implications

The criteria identified provide assurance for consumers that sustainable fashion is produced with social aspects in mind (fair wages, good working conditions).


The paper proposes a matrix that allows micro-organisations to clearly identify their collections as sustainable.



Henninger, C.E., Alevizou, P.J. and Oates, C.J. (2016), "What is sustainable fashion?", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 400-416.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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