Why Changing The Shopper Mindset To Value Slow Fashion Is Key To Sustainability

Sharon Yourell Lawlor
Sharon Yourell Lawlor

Leading expert retail and shopper strategist, speaker & author

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IrelandsEye Knitwear

I often talk about the fact that to bring people on a journey around sustainability and encourage them to make more sustainable changes within their lives and importantly around their purchases, we must support the change of people’s mindsets. If we can change consumer and shopper mindsets, we can ultimately change their behaviours.  One of the most important ways to support behavioural change is to continuously educate people to understand the reasoning behind the ask when it comes to making sustainable swaps in their lives.

I had no better case study on the power of such education than when I visited the factory of IrelandsEye Knitwear  recently to learn more about this business, how each garment is ‘consciously crafted’ and why ‘sustainable slow fashion’ practices are embedded in everything that IrelandsEye Knitwear does .  What an amazing story this brand and its proud owners have to tell.

Let’s start with the business itself, set up by the O’Sullivan family back in 1988, with the investment in a knitting machine and a dream to craft high quality knitwear.  Over thirty years later, the business has grown to a team of over 50 people and it is now based in a 30,000 Sq. Ft. factory in Baldoyle, Dublin.

When it comes to production, this is ‘slow fashion’ at its best – the crafting of knitwear which is made to last and to be passed down from generation to generation. It was really fascinating to see how every point in the process of making the knitwear has been designed and evolved to be more friendly to our planet. This is a fashion business focused on ‘zero waste production’, where waste has successfully been removed along the production process, from the yarns that are re-spun to pallets and boxes that are repurposed.  The quality standards for each garment being crafted are exceptionally high. If products don’t reach their high quality standards, they are unwound by backwinding machines and any unusable yarn and other usable waste such as the cones the yarn is spun around, are donated to social enterprises such as ReCreate where the materials are used for art classes in schools and special needs facilities.

The level of detail with which the team in IrelandsEye Knitwear is going to in order to support more sustainable practices and create a sustainable brand is a real ‘eye opener’.  The marketing practices also align with a more sustainable approach with all labels and packaging designed to be plastic free.  The team also look to repurpose all point of sale materials, from in-store signage to events props.

What was also very interesting, as I followed the process to create the garments, was that many of the improvements along the way have been made by standing back, observing the issues and scrutinising where there was waste within the process, and then coming up with ways to design out this waste in some fashion or another- repurposing, or reusing some of the raw materials, from the machinery steam to the product yarn and oils.  Much of these practices are common sense but the point is that the effort has been made to turn knowledge and insights into sustainable action!

The result of all of this is an Irish business which is beautifully crafting fashion for the long haul.  Sometimes the more sustainable option may seem a more expensive one.  From a shopper’s perspective, with the average jumper from this company costing somewhere between €100 and €160, this may seem pricey compared to some of the high street alternatives.  But when you see the craft involved in the production of each and every garment and consider the quality of the end result, the price on a ‘cost per wear’ basis is actually great value.  Moving the shopper mindset from ‘cost per item’ towards ‘cost per wear’ will be a hugely powerful step in the battle to slow fashion down.  

IrelandsEye Knitwear
Beautifully crafted knitwear