Ludmila Navrátilová: sustainability is sexy and profitable for brands

In recent years, sustainable development has gained growing support, and an increasing number of brands are opting for a more sustainable approach to their operations.. But what does sustainable business mean? According to Ludmila Navrátilová, it's about "meaningful business that has a chance for the future. It looks far ahead, considering its impact on the environment, but also addresses ethical aspects, including how we work with our employees and value their work." Slow fashion is also part of sustainability.

In an article titled "How Fast Fashion is Destroying the Planet," author Tatiana Schlossberg points out in The New York Times: "Over 60% of textile fibers are now synthetic fibers derived from fossil fuels, so when our clothing ends up in landfills (about 85% of textile waste in the United States goes to landfills or is incinerated), it won't decompose."

How to recognize a sustainable brand?

Even though awareness in the field of fast and slow fashion is spreading, it is often difficult to decipher where products come from and how they are made. Companies often engage in greenwashing practices. "It is certainly important to be interested in the origin of the brand itself. Where their products are manufactured, what their values are, or where they source their materials from. It is also important to critically think about how the brand presents itself and whether it aligns with its values," explains Anežka Jizbová, the owner of the Cameronni brand, which specializes in tailored women's clothing. Tereza Vurbsová from Bellou, which focuses on the production of garments made from organic and eco-friendly materials, also describes ways to uncover a sustainable brand. "There are apps where you can look up how a particular global brand performs in terms of sustainability. I like to use apps like Good on You or EWG's Skin Deep. If a brand willingly discloses its material sources, product origin, manufacturing locations, and other information, it has nothing to hide. In the Czech Republic, websites like Czech design, Dyzajnmarket, Biooo, and other stores, fairs, or websites contribute to this," explains Tereza.

Is the Czech market ready for sustainable businesses and slow brands?

The Czech market is becoming more and more prepared for sustainable businesses, and slow brands are taking the forefront. "We can see it in the growth of not only Czech brands in this industry but also in the definition of consumers who do not want to shop fast fashion, either because they do not want to wear the same clothes as others or because the cuts and materials are underperforming. Slow fashion buyers are often found in a more conscious generation with a higher budget for self-care, especially Generation X and Y, approximately customers aged 30 and above," describes Ludmila Navrátilová. The brand BEKBEK, which focuses on selling backpacks made from recycled materials, confirms this fact. "Customers are genuinely interested in the details of the product, the underlying idea, and its origin" confirms founder Eva Mauthnerová." The number of local brands and conscious customers is increasing as well. Specifically, in Cameronni, our typical end customer is a woman aged 28-50, working in middle or higher management positions," adds Anežka Jizbová.

How to be more sustainable?

I don't want to buy clothes from thrift stores, and products from local and sustainable brands are expensive for me. Do I have any other options to live sustainably? The high price often discourages end customers from sustainable brands. However, this high price is justified. According to Anežka Jizbová, high prices for local brands can be explained in two ways. "First, there are many local brands, but few people who can design, build and sew the garments. Some have waiting lists for months in advance, so the high demand for skilled individuals drives up labor costs.The second reason is the lack of knowledge of the target market and virtually no product validation, which leads to the need for high prices because otherwise the brand itself would not be able to sustain itself (the pieces are, for example, too extravagant to be worn every day)," she explains.

Sustainability is primarily an investment

Prices may be slightly higher, but they are usually a long-term investment. I won't buy ten cheaper shirts from a collection that I'll throw away after a year, but rather one more expensive shirt that will last me for years." Living slow is not something we solve overnight. Promoter of slow fashion, Kamila Boudová, works very well with this concept. It's not just about what we wear but also how we (slowly) change our self-perception, how calm we are, where we direct our attention, and how many things and people we want to surround ourselves with" describes Ludmila Navrátilová. "If we're talking purely about the fashion industry, I highly recommend visiting local trade fairs featuring Czech inspirational designers. We have many of them throughout the year," recommends Anežka Jizbová from Cameronni. "I can start by buying less clothing and more 'basic pieces' that can be easily mixed with multiple styles. Moreover, I can choose higher-quality materials that contain more cotton or linen, for example, rather than polyester," adds Tereza Vurbsová.

Slow fashion & the future of fashion in the hands of influencers

One of the reasons why fast fashion continues to thrive is influencers. In the fashion industry, they are significant players due to their tremendous influence on their followers, who often trust and emulate them unquestioningly. The fast fashion industry wouldn't be as lucrative without social media. Influencers often serve as role models for their followers, whom they aspire to imitate. "I think the same way about them as about 90s shows that appeared on Czech commercial television. It was trendy, all shiny, but deprived of meaning. So, for me, influencers often lack depth. However, from a business and marketing perspective, it works, for now," says Ludmila Navrátilová.

Hauls support fast fashion

Surely, you've heard the word "haul" before. It's one of the ways social media contributes to the increase in fast fashion consumption. Hauls are videos where influencers share a large amount of clothing they have recently purchased with their followers. Clothing for every season, for mountain or beach vacations, for spring breaks, or weekend getaways. Among the most widespread trends on social media is the phenomenon of Shein. It's a company that not only produces a massive amount of fast fashion products but also carefully wraps each piece in plastic. Other fast fashion companies include H&M, Zara, Bershka, and others. However, their volumes are not as significant because their products are usually considerably more expensive than Shein's.

After watching these videos, one immediately feels the need for the items shown. Influencers then receive money from brands, and their followers find satisfaction in adhering to what is popular and trendy. "It is important to be able to return to oneself. To wear clothing in which I feel good about myself because it's like my second skin. At the same time, to live a fulfilling life – at work, in relationships, and enjoy leisure activities that make sense to me. Not doing things because I have to but doing what nourishes me and aligns with my values. I believe that when you find joy in your life every day, influencers, in the positive sense of the word, won't have a significant impact on your life," says Ludmila Navrátilová.

A brighter future is raising 

Just as slow fashion and sustainability are on the rise, influencers who support and promote these trends are also emerging. It is possible to be an influencer, hold sustainable values, and promote only products and brands that align with these values. "Influencers supporting fast fashion are still people who get paid for their work, and the ethical aspect of things is probably not of great concern to them. Nevertheless, I get the impression that most people in the Czech scene promote sustainable fashion – or maybe I live in a bubble," adds Anežka Jizbová. We hope that Anežka does not actually live in a bubble and that this aspect of things is gradually moving in the right direction.

Ludmila Navrátilová's advice for more sustainable behavior:

"Revising your wardrobe is definitely great, working with what you already have, dividing it into seasonal rotations, regular wardrobe cleaning, and clothing care. I like to have something modified, repaired, or give it to a friend. It doesn't necessarily have to be just shopping. And if it is, I recommend following smaller emerging creators who are building their brand and offer affordable prices. A great piece of advice for clothing shopping is not to buy solely because we want to improve our mood or because something good just happened to us. Let's take a photo of it, save a screenshot from the online store, and let the purchase mature in our consumer’s mind," says Ludmila Navrátilová.

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