Sustainable Fashion Is the New Social Video Movement

By Linda Freund · October 01, 2019

Sustainable Fashion Is the New Social Video Movement

Try-on haul videos are a lot like Levi’s 501 jeans — they never go out of style. And the latest theme to emerge? Sustainable fashion hauls!

The fashion haul genre consistently culls high cross-platform engagements (10.1M in 2019 so far) and is the lifeblood of many brand-influencer collaborations. Most of all, it’s a window to society, from fashion trends to cultural movements.

More recently, creators are engaging with eco-friendly products and modeling sustainable fashion choices and viewers are actively seeking them out.

  • Web searches for “sustainable fashion” have increased by 46% over the past five years, according to Google trend data.
  • The number of sustainable try-on video uploads across social platforms increased by 300% between 2018 and 2019 YTD. In that same time, engagements doubled!
  • When it comes to views, sustainable try-ons perform slightly better, on average, than the standard fare. In 2018, sustainable haul videos averaged 51.3K views per video on YouTube whereas a standard fashion haul averaged 47.1K views per video.
  • YouTube appears to be where this niche genre resonates most with the ideal runtime falling between 10-15 minutes.

Read on for a closer look at the top-performing sustainable fashion haul videos. Plus, we’ll explore:

  • Who are the influencer-beloved brands in the sustainable fashion space? 
  • How are audiences engaging with sustainable fashion content? 
  • And what are some key pointers for brands looking to join the conversation and cause?

Ethical Fashion to the Rescue!

The uptick in sustainable video content is a direct response to this political and cultural climate.

A growing number of consumers are worried about the devastating consequences of fashion on the planet. The apparel industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters. Clothing production emits 10% of global carbon emissions, according to a recent UN report (that’s more than the emissions from all international flights!).

Brands are taking action. At the 2019 G7 summit, 150 fashion brands signed on to French president Macron’s fashion pact. Prada, Burberry, Gucci, Nike, Chanel, and Stella McCartney, among others, have vowed to produce zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

There’s been a tremendous groundswell of established apparel brands launching sustainable products in the past year:

  • Adidas released Futurecraft LOOP, its first-ever fully recyclable shoe. The brand’s corresponding video campaign earned more than 3.4M views and has ignited a flurry of UGC, like this unboxing video.
  • Converse has a series of sustainable shoes made from recycled bottles and upcycled jeans. Its most-engaged Converse Renewal campaign video featured a team of fashion influencers sporting their Chucks while thrift-store shopping!
  • Prada is using nylon, derived from reusable materials, for its iconic purses and launched a corresponding doc series that follows global upcycling initiatives.
  • Ralph Lauren unveiled the Earth Polo, the brand’s iconic shirt made out of 12 recycled plastic bottles.
  • Tommy Hilfiger teamed up with F1 Racer Lewis Hamilton to create the Tommy X Lewis line, made from organic cotton, regenerated down, and using only “vegan” animal-free leather. The brand released several launch videos, including scenes from the recent Milan fashion week.
  • H&M is promoting its conscious collection (fashion made from recycled bottles). Videos detailing the 2019 autumn line saturate the brand’s most viewed video content over the past 90 days.
  • Zara is broadening its apparel sourcing to incorporate eco-friendly materials, like organic cotton which it details in an associated video campaign.
  • Nordstrom just introduced a sustainable clothing section to house these emerging products.

Learn more: Prada, Adidas, and Everlane champion sustainability

And there’s a goldmine of sustainable-first fashion brands. The following are routinely praised by influencers in ethical fashion video content:

  • Reformation, a sustainable fashion brand beloved for its rectangular necklines, belled sleeves, and flowery prints, is completely carbon neutral. They only use eco-friendly materials and recycled fabrics. This brand is mentioned in multiple sustainable haul videos and is the centerpiece of the #1 most-engaged sustainable haul video.
  • Stella McCartney, the brainchild of luxury vegan “leather” goods, draws exclusively on sustainable and recycled materials, which means lower emissions. This video of the luxury brand’s 2019 summer fashion show (its most sustainable ever) quickly became the brand’s most-viewed video in the past 365 days.
  • Everlane upcycles and recycles high-quality materials for its clothing and shoe lines. This includes cashmere, which it dishes about in this short doc. Influencers often celebrate the brand in hauls for offering economical sustainable clothing.
  • Re/Done, a brand which takes discarded Levi’s and upcycles them to create new pairs. They are embraced as a staple by several sustainably-minded influencers, such as fashion influencer Victoria in this fast-paced Instagram reveal.
  • ThredUp, the world’s largest online thrift store, which will soon launch inside select Macy’s and JCPenney stores.

The list goes on and on. Now that we’ve established at least some of the players, let’s get to the vegan meat of everything. Bring on the videos!

What Makes a Rockin’ Sustainable Fashion Haul Video

“Hi, guys. It’s time for another haul. This time, with clothing that doesn’t suck for the environment,” said fashion YouTuber Ashley in a recent sustainable haul video sponsored by the RealReal, an online fashion marketplace.

Ashley’s video is the #1 most engaged and viewed in the genre over the past 365 days (737K views and 39.1K engagements on YouTube).

For the most part, it follows the standard haul formula: Ashley praises clothing on camera and then models them. Ashley models Stella McCartney “vegan” leather boots, a floral dress from Reformation, and her Re/Done jeans made from upcycled Levi’s.

But the creator’s monologue goes deeper. It includes details on each company’s sustainability credentials and the materials used. Plus, she offers a case for paying more to go sustainable (even as a mostly broke college student).

Truth be told, unless you’re thrifting, sustainable products are expensive. And buying these items requires a paradigm shift. To go from spending $50 each on several pairs of jeans to $250 for one ethical, well-constructed pair is a lifestyle change.

Some creators use the high price point as a prestige marker with headlines like “I spent $1000 on sustainable fashion. Here’s the try on haul” (#17). Other influencers coach squeamish consumers through this, like fashionista Hitomi Mochizuki who models Jonesy’s sustainable cotton underwear (#4).

“I feel like my Yoni can breathe in them,” she said. At $75 for a three-pack, they are mighty pricey. Mozchizuki’s takeaway: since bras, underwear, and yoga leggings are harder to thrift, you’ll have to budget more if you want to go sustainable.

Of course, there are also a good number of sustainable thrift store haul videos populating social. Often they celebrate the lucky clothing find, like this back to school thrift haul (#8), where thrifter Diana Chamomile celebrates bold and floral apparel victories.

How Do You Engage Eco-Conscious Consumers?

The fifth most-engaged video of the last 365 days plays devil’s advocate. It’s actually an anti-haul that calls out various brands for greenwashing. Greenwashing is the act of presenting an ethical or eco-friendly image but not actually practicing this image on the production line.

Consumers are attuned to this. When a sustainable product is presented in a video, they often have questions about the company’s credentials or choices. As is typical with social media, most of these questions populate the comments section. The leading brands reply to questions head-on.

Consider Tentree, a sustainable apparel company that plants ten trees for every product purchased. In a recent video, the brand introduced its new eco-friendly material Tencel.

When asked about why this is better than cotton the company responded to each comment with several facts behind its choice. This appears to impact overall engagements. A handful of Tentree’s recent videos are among the top-performing sustainable fashion videos.

For brands looking to increase engagement, documentaries and product videos are a start. But it’s critical to follow up directly with customers who are questioning your green products. Even if this means another video campaign wherein you field those difficult Q&As.

Can Fast Fashion Ever Be Sustainable?

One of the more surprising ethical fashion haul videos is this goodie shot in the heart of the fast fashion empire: a dressing room at Old Navy (#10). The idea? If you’re going to shop fast fashion (which is seen as the bigger of the industry’s polluters), here’s some solid info on the most eco-friendly options.

It’s important to investigate the materials, explained fashion creator Karla Reed. Throughout the video, she checks tags for polyesters (which pollute the environment and pill easily) and seeks out natural fibers.

“It’s not perfect but it’s a start and it’s approachable,” Reed wrote to her followers on Instagram.

The Next Step: From Sustainable to Slow Fashion

Finally, the most sustainable haul isn’t a haul at all. It’s going to your own closet and rewearing what you already have.

Slow-fashion creator Alyssa Beltemp is a rockstar in this space with her shop your closet video series. She also teaches viewers how to prolong the life of their fashion collection, like “One Shirt Dress: 20 Ways” or “Chic Pre-Fall Looks you Already Own.”

Brands (especially ones known most for fast fashion) can easily embrace this white space by offering up creative ways to work with a closet, upcycle, or even refashion last season’s product line.

Want to learn more about social video and the fashion industry? 

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