"More Than 83 Percent Consider Sustainability While Buying Fashion Products": Vernon Yeo

In an exclusive conversation with Vernon Yeo, Head Marketing and Branding - Asia, Middle East & Africa talks about how sustainable fashion is becoming mainstream fashion in India.
Vernon Yeo

LENZING AG, one of the largest wood-based fibre manufacturers of the world. In India, LENZING is expanding into sustainable apparel segments and have worked with high profile premium brands and ace designers including The House of Anita Dongre, Rajesh Pratap Singh and latest Abraham & Thakore.

Interview Excerpts..

Tell us about Lenzing Group. Also, tell us about the company’s India presence.  

The Lenzing Group is an international company that produces high-quality fibres from the renewable raw material wood with environmentally friendly and innovative technologies. These fibres form the basis for a wide range of textile and nonwoven applications and are also used in work and protective wear and in industrial applications. Lenzing’s quality and innovative strength set global standards for wood-based cellulose fibres. With 80 years of experience, the Lenzing Group is the only company in the world which produces significant volumes of all three wood-based cellulose fibre generations.

We began our India journey about 10-12 years ago. In all these years, we have developed key partnerships in India with various stake holders of value chain including spinners, supply chain vendors and retailers, so the consumer can have access to the best possible sustainable fashion. So far we have worked with mix portfolio prestigious brands including Global Desi (by Anita Dongre) and budget brands such as MAX and FBB which have adopted LENZING™ viscos fibres in their collections. We have also top worked with ace fashion designers in the country.

Globally, we have worked with many fashion retailers including H&M to develop sustainable products in fashion space.

Are you also working with any footwear retailer in India?

Not as of now, but we are scouting suitable retail partner in footwear space to work mutually to develop eco friendly footwear fashion. We are already in discussion with many leading footwear chains which I cannot name yet.

Our endeavor is to constantly explore new applications where our fabric can be introduced. India produces more than 16 bn pair of shoes every year, and leather constitutes only half of overall market. Therefore, we see a humongous opportunity here. We aim to develop bio degradable footwear solutions.

Sustainable fashion is expensive, primarily due to fabric cost. What initiatives you have taken to make sustainable fashion available to all in the price sensitive market like India?  

Based our internal findings, consumer understands well that companies to bring sustainable products in market required to shell out more. The cost to bring sustainable lines in market is slightly higher. However, we have developed less expensive options to develop sustainable fashion.  For example, we have introduced ECOVERO™ which is eco friendly viscose fiber which is catered to value consumer as it is priced slightly lower as compared to standard.

What are the underlying challenges when you approach a new brand to mutually work on developing sustainable line of products either in fashion or footwear space?

We are about to introduce footwear category in India; therefore, the team is spending a lot of time with entire value chain suppliers and introducing eco friendly concept to them. However, we do not see any challenge, for us, it is an unexplored opportunity. We are creating awareness among partners as well as consumers about environmental impact due to non eco friendly products.

We do run aggressive digital and social media campaigns to generate the awareness about eco friendly fashion. However, in our ordeal, at times, people do not understand about who we are and what we stand for? But, we are constantly making affords to teach about sustainability.

According to you, what is the tentative market size of sustainable fashion in India?

As of now, we do not have any exact data, but entire market has the potential to become sustainable. India is going towards becoming 100% sustainable in the time to come. Sustainable fashion India has long been perceived as niche. However contrary to this, consumer demand is paving the way for brands to adopt sustainability. A recent YouGov survey of consumers in India revealed that a majority of shoppers consider a sustainable manufacturing process as a priority while buying fashion items. The data reveals that more than 83 percent people consider sustainability while buying fashion products. This shift in consumer preference is paving the way for the Indian fashion industry to adopt eco-friendly clothing, footwear and accessories. At Lenzing too we are experiencing a growing curiosity in our sustainable products from brands in tier 2 and 3 markets. While there is still a lot of scope for Indian market to embrace a holistic sustainable approach, we believe the market is evolving.



Vernon Yeo