Mythbusters: Which Gender Is More Sustainable?

Fashion search engine Lyst has released a new report based on the online search behaviour of 80 million shoppers last year, revealing a 66% increase in searches for sustainable fashion. It predicts that by 2020, 10% of all fashion purchases on Lyst will be made with sustainability in mind.  But who are more inclined to make sustainable fashion choices – women or men?  Glenn Ebert analyses the report findings in order to debunk the myth that women are the more conscious consumers. 

“Women are more conscious consumers, seeking out and purchasing sustainable retail brands more often than male customers”.

If one was to judge the sheer volume of PR headlines, hashtags mentions and seemingly countless new entrants of brands entering the market (and Instagram feeds) each day, you would be hard-pushed to disagree with this statement. A quick Google search might provide enough shallow data to further prove this hypothesis true. “Sustainable Fashion” yields over 286 million returns. Add “women” to that search term and you get nearly 53 million results. Yet, when you replace that gender term with “men” in the mix, the number of searches drops all the way down to 14 million.

In a quest to not only debunk this hypothesis as false, but also assess where the market and consumer trends is shifting as a whole, I talked to several leading industry voices across different corners and stages of the fashion industry; including speaking with e-commerce powerhouse and tech unicorn Lyst, who released its annual report on the state of sustainability in consumer search and shopping in 2018. 

Lyst analysed the online shopping behaviour of more than 80 million shoppers over the past year, browsing and buying fashion across 12,000 designers and stores online. The report also factors in social media metrics, taking into account multi-platform mentions of products, brands and related keywords, plus sentiment analysis.

Is there a fairer sex in the advocating of sustainable fashion

Amidst all the data and conversations, here are a few things we know to be true about the state of sustainable fashion and the male consumer:

Sneakers, Denim and Outerwear are Leading the Way 

If Lyst’s data proves anything about sustainability and the male customer, it’s that functionality and performance are two of the biggest hallmarks motivating this new audience of customers. Trainers are the “most wanted” sustainable product category among male consumers, with Allbirds, an environmentally friendly footwear brand, seeing searches for its ethical shoes grow a massive 170% YoY on Lyst. Further proof also comes from eco-powerhouse Patagonia, whose fleece was ranked amongst the world’s hottest men’s products worldwide this quarter in the Lyst Index. Searches for men’s fleeces are up 44% in the last two months, with the Patagonia Classic Retro-X™ fleece jacket being the most sought-after choice. 

Sustainable denim is another category capturing the attention and purchase power of menswear consumers. Weekday saw its  organic cotton line jeans as the most wanted among sustainable denim, surging 72% in demand for the year-over-year on Lyst. G Star Raw and Nudie Jeans, both early innovators in the category of sustainable denim, also showed continued dominance as preferred denim labels popular among male shoppers. 

The Resale Market and Sneaker Culture Collide 

If there is one category agnostically undeniable in its impact in driving the sustainability movement in retail it’s the growing juggernaut of resale fashion. While male customers were an equal contributor to the growth of category’s interest and share of sales, the most noticeable takeaway was the overlap this growth has had with the equally exploding sneaker resale market. According to data provided from Lyst resale partners, Off-White x Nike, Raf Simons and Supreme were the most prevalent brands male customers are seeking out, as well as the social media catnip that was the travel and weekender bags from Virgil Abloh’s latest menswear collection for Louis Vuitton. All saw an increase in demand in the last quarter of 2018, revealing that male consumers are playing their part in accelerating the circular fashion economy too. 

The Future is Post-Gender

Beyond the data and one of the biggest takeaways from this past year’s rise in sustainable fashion is how both designers and consumers are abandoning gender forms and aesthetics all together in their vision for the future. While more qualitative than quantitate, there is an exceptional dedication from emerging brands to marry the principles of sustainability of gender neutrality in their designs to focus on a new future aesthetic. Examples abound, including London-based as ZILVER by Pedro Lourenço, TooGood and New York darling OneDNA.  Matthew Drinkwater, Head of the Fashion Innovation Agency at the London College of Fashion and an early advocate and voice in the of sustainable innovation conversation, isn’t at all shocked by this trend.

“I think they absolutely do. Is there anyone in the world who isn’t talking about the effect we’re having on the planet? We’ve just been through a summer and winter of extremes in both hemispheres – it seems wherever I travel, it’s all that people (both men and women) want to discuss!! Everyone is becoming much more aware that we need to consume differently. I think when you look at the catwalks now, and in society in general, there is such growing acceptance of fluidity that it seems strange to continue to attach gender labels to collections.”

While it is encouraging to see the interest and intention for consumers to seek out sustainable, ethical garments and brands is now a united front, including the rise of more gender fluid labels, there still are tremendous industry challenges which are agnostic of consumer battle of the sexes. Yet, as with the parallel rise in customer interest and options, there is also hope for future producers and designers.

Drinkwater elaborates further: “I think true transparency in supply chains still remains elusive but there is far more access to new materials and when I think back to the Future Fabrics Expo in London earlier this year, I was elated to see the huge numbers in attendance both from suppliers and designers/brands. It’s becoming more and more accessible to build a sustainable business.” 

As with many other cultural movements and friction points of the past which culture advanced beyond to now view in hindsight as archaic, it is encouraging to see a more united front taking a stance for sustainability across all focal points and spectrums of the fashion industry. It should also be no small wonder why many of those emerging forces and pioneers in sustainable design are also choosing to remove the gender element from their offering all together. It might be the most powerful metaphor for the urgent times we live in today. That being said, just like the ethos and ambition perpetuating the designs they produce, it’s a stark reminder we’re all in this together.


Read our guide for where to start when it comes to dressing ethically.