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The emperor’s old clothes : a consumer behaviour-based case study on second-hand clothing as a sustainable fashion consumption practice in Italy

Tafuri, Ilaria LU (2017) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20171
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
The current fashion system known as Fast Fashion (FF) is responsible for severe environmental and social impacts. Fashion democratisation has increased consumers’ appetite for new trends, leading fashion companies to design an increasing number of collections per year. Manufacturing is outsourced to developing countries, where workers’ rights and working place regulations are hardly respected. Additionally, garments are designed with material and stylistic planned obsolescence, in order to encourage rapid disposal and replacement. The result is a considerable waste of resources, human labour and accumulation of garbage.
Growing awareness of the negative impacts of FF has led to international movements, like Slow Fashion (SF), promoting a... (More)
The current fashion system known as Fast Fashion (FF) is responsible for severe environmental and social impacts. Fashion democratisation has increased consumers’ appetite for new trends, leading fashion companies to design an increasing number of collections per year. Manufacturing is outsourced to developing countries, where workers’ rights and working place regulations are hardly respected. Additionally, garments are designed with material and stylistic planned obsolescence, in order to encourage rapid disposal and replacement. The result is a considerable waste of resources, human labour and accumulation of garbage.
Growing awareness of the negative impacts of FF has led to international movements, like Slow Fashion (SF), promoting a radical change in how we consume fashion and encouraging adoption of more environmentally- and ethically-aware strategies, such as use of ecological or natural material and remanufacturing. One of such alternatives is second-hand clothing (SHC) consumption, as it diverts clothes from landfills or export to developing countries by extending their life-cycle.
The present thesis uses a case study approach to analyse consumers’ perceptions of SHC consumption in the Italian context. Here, the peculiar combination of sharp fashion sensitivity and the recent economic crisis has created a fertile ground for consumption of cheap FF clothing. Although clothing collection systems are in place, the majority of what is collected is directly exported to developing countries instead of being reintroduced in the national market. The aim of this thesis is to understand the reasons for this unexpressed potential of the SHC market by investigating if and what types of barriers exist at the consumer level. Semi-structured interviews with SHC shop owners and an online survey targeting Italian consumers were used to understand the motivations for and against SHC consumption and identify potential leverage points to develop it further.
Results show that a sizeable percentage of consumers resort to SHC because of its economic and environmental advantages. However, misinformation concerning this practice and lack of transparency in the supply chain contribute to emphasize a rooted prejudice concerning cleanliness and negative symbolic value held by SHC. Structural issues are also identified, such as aesthetic appearance and availability of SHC channels across the Italian peninsula. Growing awareness of the wastefulness of the fashion industry, eye for quality and decreasing spending capabilities are identified as potential leverage points to popularise SHC consumption. For this to happen, however, advertisement, education and awareness raising of consumers on economic and environmental advantages of this practice are necessary steps to take. (Less)
Abstract (Italian)
L'attuale sistema della moda, conosciuto come Fast Fashion, è responsabile di gravi porblemi di tipo ambientale ed economico. La democratizzazione della moda ha stimolato l'appetito dei consumatori per nuovi trend, inducendo le compagnie d'abbigliamento a presentare un sempre maggiore numero di collezioni ogni anno. La manifattura viene esternalizzata in paesi in via di sviluppo, dove diritti dei lavoratori e norme di sicurezza sul posto di lavoro vengono blandamente osservati. Inoltre, i capi vengono disegnati secondo un'obsolescenza materiale e stilistica programmata, che porta i consumatori a smaltire e sostituire i propri capi d'abbigliamento in maniera sempre più rapida. Il risultato è un enorme spreco di risorse e lavoro, nonchè... (More)
L'attuale sistema della moda, conosciuto come Fast Fashion, è responsabile di gravi porblemi di tipo ambientale ed economico. La democratizzazione della moda ha stimolato l'appetito dei consumatori per nuovi trend, inducendo le compagnie d'abbigliamento a presentare un sempre maggiore numero di collezioni ogni anno. La manifattura viene esternalizzata in paesi in via di sviluppo, dove diritti dei lavoratori e norme di sicurezza sul posto di lavoro vengono blandamente osservati. Inoltre, i capi vengono disegnati secondo un'obsolescenza materiale e stilistica programmata, che porta i consumatori a smaltire e sostituire i propri capi d'abbigliamento in maniera sempre più rapida. Il risultato è un enorme spreco di risorse e lavoro, nonchè l'accumulo di spazzatura.
La crescente sensibilizzazione in merito agli impatti negativi della Fast Fashion ha portato alla nascita di movimenti a livello internazionale, come lo Slow Fashion, il quale promuove un cambiamento radicale nel consumo di abbigliamento e incoraggia l'adozione di pratiche più responsabili dal punto di vista etico ed ambientale, tra cui l'uso di abbigliamento realizzato con materiale naturale ed ecologico. Una di queste pratiche è l'utilizzo di abbigliamento di seconda mano, che permette di recuperare ed estendere il ciclo vitale di capi altrimenti destinati alla discarica o a paesi in via di sviluppo.
Questa tesi si propone di analizzare la percezione dei consumatori italiani riguardo al consumo di abbigliamento di seconda mano. In Italia, infatti, la recente crisi economica, unita ad uno spiccato senso della moda, ha favorito l'espansione del mercato di abbigliamento economico e di scarsa qualità, rapidamente sostituito. Nonostante la presenza di sistemi di raccolta di rifiuti tessili, la maggior parte di quanto raccolto, sebbene in buone condizioni, viene direttamente esportato in paesi in via di sviluppo invece di essere reintrodotto nel mercato nazionale. Lo scopo di questa tesi è capire le motivazioni di questo potenziale inespresso del mercato di abbigliamento di seconda mano ed evidenziare eventuali barriere esistenti al livello dei consumatori. Metodi scelti per questo scopo sono interviste semistrutturate a titolari di negozi di abbigliamento usato e un questionario online rivolto ai consumatori italiani. I risultati mostrano che una cospicua percentuale di consumatori ricorre all'abbgliamento usato per i suoi benefici economici ed ambientali. Tuttavia, la disinformazione e la mancanza di trasparenza relativa alla filiera dell'abbigliamento usato contribuiscono ad enfatizzare il pregiudizio radicato in merito alla pulizia e al valore simbolico negativo legato all'abbigliamento di seconda mano. In aggiunta a questo pregiudizio, la scarsa attrattiva e accessibilità di canali di distribuzione di abbigliamento usato sono stati riconosciuti come problemi di tipo strutturale. Per rendere il consumo di abbiglaimento usato una pratica più diffusa, bisognerebbe fare leva sulla sensibilizzazione in aumento in merito agli sprechi legati al mondo della moda, nonchè alle capacità di spesa in declino dei consumatori italiani. Per fare ciò, è necessario potenziare l'opera di pubblicità, educazione e sensibilizzazione in merito ai vantaggi economici e ambientali dell'abbigliamento di seconda mano. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Tafuri, Ilaria LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20171
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
fashion, consumers’ behaviour, Italy, second-hand clothes, slow fashion, sustainable clothing, sustainability science
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2017:009
language
English
id
8912451
date added to LUP
2017-06-21 16:06:44
date last changed
2017-07-03 06:44:28
@misc{8912451,
  abstract     = {The current fashion system known as Fast Fashion (FF) is responsible for severe environmental and social impacts. Fashion democratisation has increased consumers’ appetite for new trends, leading fashion companies to design an increasing number of collections per year. Manufacturing is outsourced to developing countries, where workers’ rights and working place regulations are hardly respected. Additionally, garments are designed with material and stylistic planned obsolescence, in order to encourage rapid disposal and replacement. The result is a considerable waste of resources, human labour and accumulation of garbage. 
Growing awareness of the negative impacts of FF has led to international movements, like Slow Fashion (SF), promoting a radical change in how we consume fashion and encouraging adoption of more environmentally- and ethically-aware strategies, such as use of ecological or natural material and remanufacturing. One of such alternatives is second-hand clothing (SHC) consumption, as it diverts clothes from landfills or export to developing countries by extending their life-cycle. 
The present thesis uses a case study approach to analyse consumers’ perceptions of SHC consumption in the Italian context. Here, the peculiar combination of sharp fashion sensitivity and the recent economic crisis has created a fertile ground for consumption of cheap FF clothing. Although clothing collection systems are in place, the majority of what is collected is directly exported to developing countries instead of being reintroduced in the national market. The aim of this thesis is to understand the reasons for this unexpressed potential of the SHC market by investigating if and what types of barriers exist at the consumer level. Semi-structured interviews with SHC shop owners and an online survey targeting Italian consumers were used to understand the motivations for and against SHC consumption and identify potential leverage points to develop it further.
Results show that a sizeable percentage of consumers resort to SHC because of its economic and environmental advantages. However, misinformation concerning this practice and lack of transparency in the supply chain contribute to emphasize a rooted prejudice concerning cleanliness and negative symbolic value held by SHC. Structural issues are also identified, such as aesthetic appearance and availability of SHC channels across the Italian peninsula. Growing awareness of the wastefulness of the fashion industry, eye for quality and decreasing spending capabilities are identified as potential leverage points to popularise SHC consumption. For this to happen, however, advertisement, education and awareness raising of consumers on economic and environmental advantages of this practice are necessary steps to take.},
  author       = {Tafuri, Ilaria},
  keyword      = {fashion,consumers’ behaviour,Italy,second-hand clothes,slow fashion,sustainable clothing,sustainability science},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {The emperor’s old clothes : a consumer behaviour-based case study on second-hand clothing as a sustainable fashion consumption practice in Italy},
  year         = {2017},
}