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Experiencing fashion: the interplay between consumer value and sustainability

Elaine L. Ritch (Department of Fashion, Marketing, Events and Tourism, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 5 May 2020

Issue publication date: 2 June 2020




The purpose of this study is to explore consumers perceptions of sustainability, including how information is accessed, evaluated and practiced and how sustainability concepts transfer to fashion consumption.


The research adopts a phenomenological approach of unstructured interviews with 28 professionally working mothers. Garment labels indicating concepts of sustainability from UK fashion-retailers were used as a vehicle for discussion. Data was analysed through the theoretical lens of Holbrook’s (1999) typology of consumer value.


The findings identity that the participants struggle with understanding how sustainability is compromised within fashion-production and how their sustainability practice fluctuates depending on information, guidance and practical support. The findings also identify preferences for sustainability, where sustainable concepts are perceived as adding value.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations are assumed through the small focussed sample, however, the research does provide rich insight into micro-analytic idiographic lifeworlds to better understand how everyday deliberations of household management and sustainability concepts are practiced.

Practical implications

The findings illustrate pathways for retailers, producers and policymakers to guide sustainability and support sustainability through the use of labels and marketing which will enhance notions of value. Similarly, the findings can enable policymakers to position campaigns and practical solutions that advance the sustainability agenda.

Social implications

The research indicates that sustainability is filtering through society and drawing the attention of a broader consumer market, including passive mainstream consumers who are developing expectations that mainstream fashion-retailers address sustainability.


The research is novel in adopting a phenomenological approach that provides a unique insight into how sustainability is experienced in everyday households, through the adaptation of related behaviours and evaluating sustainability concepts.



The research was funded by a PhD scholarship from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.


Ritch, E.L. (2020), "Experiencing fashion: the interplay between consumer value and sustainability", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 265-285.



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