Tesco clothing boss Terry Green has warned that the fashion industry faces a “new value equation” and urged retailers to embrace ethical and sustainable issues.
Speaking at Drapers’ sister title Retail Week’s annual conference on Wednesday, Green said retailers must make the provenance of their product transparent and “offer value with the right ethical background”.
He said: “In the past it was good enough to have the right stock and provide value for money. But now retailers need the right stock with the right provenance.”
Green, who this week confirmed he had collaborated with ethical womenswear label From Somewhere to create a diffusion range under the F&F sub-brand for the grocer, added: “Customers are saying to the industry: ‘Don’t make me feel guilty for buying your merchandise’.”
From Somewhere to F&F is a six-piece collection made from obsolete jersey stock, damaged end of rolls and textile waste in partnership with From Somewhere founders Orsola de Castro and Filippo Ricci.
The womenswear range launched on Tesco’s clothing website this week in sizes 8 to 18, priced from £16.
Tesco also pledged last month to become the number one retailer by volume of fair trade cotton clothing.
Green’s words came as ethical retailing was thrown to the fore this week after Marks & Spencer committed to become the world’s most sustainable retailer by 2015, promising that half of its 2.7 billion products would have at least one sustainable element by 2015 and all of them would have by 2020. Etailer Asos also launched an ethical sub-site called Green Room in January.
However, in general ethical sales have lagged in the recession as customers reined in their spending on what are perceived to be more expensive ethical items.
This week, ethical etailer Ascension, formerly Adili, was bought for £1 by dotcom entrepreneur Luke Heron, owner of ethical kidswear retailer Green Baby, after it failed to secure new funds. It came to the market in 2007 just as the consumer boom ended.
However, Green said: “The ethical issue has never gone away and retailers can’t just pick up the mantle and then drop it because times get tough.”