Consumer Study


Initiated in 2008 in Kenya and Uganda on the basis of partnerships between the local governments and economic actors, as well as big names of the haute couture, the Ethical Fashion Initiative has entered the second phase in Ghana. It aims to connect Ghanaian producers with large retailers in Switzerland in order to more widely sell the clothes created in Ghana. To introduce a new type of fashion, it is important to understand how consumers respond to the concepts that are used to describe it. "Ethical fashion" is differentiated from the conventional methods and follows a set of specifications that call for criteria other than price and aesthetic or social conformity. But it is not the only one. Others, described with various terms, such as "sustainable", "fair", "ethnic", "organic", etc., are also trying to offer an alternative to industrial fashion considered socially, culturally and environmentally harmful. Indeed, European consumers, including the Swiss, are increasingly aware of the issues of international trade that better respects the fundamental rights and dignity of workers in developing countries. 


The problem that arises here is the difficulty in making the public understand what distinguishes "ethical fashion" from other kinds of approaches. 

In order to provide possible answers, ICV conducted a survey on the perception of the concept in Switzerland.

It sought to answer the following two questions:

  • How participants in the survey perceive design fashion in the broad sense and what are their habits when purchasing clothing? 
  • What is their understanding of ethical fashion and how do they see its promotion in Switzerland? 


This approach helps with the understanding of what the current references are, which reach the survey audience. These elements form the basis of a strategy to be taken into consideration when promoting the "Ethical Fashion Initiative" in Switzerland.


The survey was conducted between 2012 and 2014, through individual filmed interviews and semi-standardized questionnaires distributed online and in person. 

Thirty people were interviewed individually and filmed. As for the questionnaires, they brought together responses from 369 people. 97 responded to the English version, 233 to the French version and 39 to the German version. On average, the participants population is fairly young (20-50 years old), living in the French-speaking part of Switzerland in an urban environment, well educated (mostly having received post-mandatory technical or university education) and consisting of students and staff and a small proportion of entrepreneurs and technical professionals. 

The results are quite consistent with the type of respondents: young and still at the beginning of a professional career. Overall, fashion is considered quite important but not at any price. Quality  matters and originality determines whether a piece of clothes is fashionable or not, even though the status of the people who wear it is also a factor taken into account. The need to combine creativity and quality at a reasonable price probably explains why respondents are likely to make their clothing purchases in department stores, but also in second-hand stores, next to boutiques. 

Answers to questions about the concept of "ethical fashion" and its promotion in Switzerland show that it is difficult to translate it into terms that can be understood in French and German. Indeed, the answers indicate not only a misunderstanding of the concept, but also a confusion with other terms, such as "fair fashion", "organic fashion" or "ethnic fashion". The difficulty in distinguishing between these "labels" appears especially in the brands and names of stores where people think they have already bought clothes produced according to the principles of "ethical fashion" but are actually shops selling "organic clothes". 

Thus, the three approaches suggested to promote this new fashion are 1) intense information through the media and involvement of celebrities, 2) the need to have ethical fashion products more accessible in stores, 3) encouraging department stores to promote ethical fashion through more intensive marketing.  

Participants are divided on what "ethical fashion" should be, with some arguing that it should not be different from the current aesthetic trends, others, on the contrary, saying it should move away from standard trends and propose something new. The majority of respondents put more weight on creativity and quality. In addition, the clothing should be clearly identifiable as coming from the ethical fashion sector, whether by creating a label or special signs, allowing customers to easily find these products. Finally, although respondents understand that these clothes will probably cost more to produce and market than those from other sectors, the majority believes that this increase should be passed on to distributors, not to the end consumers.

It therefore appears that the challenge will be to inform the general public about what distinguishes "ethical fashion" from other labels already offering so-called "alternative" fashion in the three Swiss national languages.  Given that the concept of "ethical fashion" is more commonly used in English even by French- or German-speaking people, as evidenced by the results of search engines, it might be a better approach to stick to the English expression even when writing in French, German or Italian. 

Read more

©1998-2018 ICVolunteers|system mcart|Updated: 2014-09-21 03:22 GMT|Privacy | |