Consumer Attitude towards Recycled Fashion Garments. Which factors make recycled fashion more appealing to consumers?

Master's Thesis, 2021

85 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

Table of Figures

List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction
1.1 Problem Statement and Relevance of the Present Study
1.2 Objective and Research Question of the Present Study
1.3 Delimitation ofResearch
1.4 State of Research

2. Theoretical Frame of Reference
2.1 Sustainable Fashion
2.2 Recycled Fashion
2.3 Exploration of Consumer Attitude and Behavior towards Recycled Fashion
2.3.1 Value Drivers behind Sustainable Fashion Consumption
2.3.2 Other Influencing Factors in the Fashion Buying Decision
2.3.3 The Emotion ofFear and Disgust in the Context of Recycled Fashion
2.4 Advertisement Effects in the Context ofRecycled Fashion
2.4.1 Messaging Effects and Norms
2.4.2 The Attractiveness Factor

3. Empirical Part
3.1 Research Design
3.2 Sampling approach & data collection
3.3 Method ofData Analysis
3.4 Results

4. Conclusion

4.1 Interpretation of Results

4.2 Managerial Implications

4.3 Limitation

5. Outlook


Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Statement of Certification


In the present master’s thesis, two experiments, a survey and A/B-testing, examined consumer behavior and attitude in the context of recycled fashion in order to accept or reject five different hypotheses.

One of the objectives of the survey conducted for this master's thesis was to investigate whether consumers prefer certain recycled materials over others. The materials studied were recycled cotton, recycled plastic and recycled pineapple leaves. With the help of several statistical tests in RStudio, it was found that recycled cotton is the most popular recycled material in comparison. In addition, the aim was to investigate whether consumers also prefer certain garments over others when buying recycled fashion and whether the proximity of the garment to the skin has a particular influence here. Here, too, an analysis in RStudio revealed that it is not necessarily the proximity of the skin but rather the level of intimacy that is decisive. Finally, the survey was intended to investigate whether and to what extent consumers feel disgust towards recycled fashion and how consumer disgust can be avoided. Practical and theoretical management implications, especially for fashion companies, were being discussed in order to provide companies with a way to implement recycled fashion most effectively focusing on the right choice of materials, fashion type and communication.

The A/B-testing completed on Instagram with nine different ads examined the effectiveness of different messaging approaches that encouraged consumers to buy a t-shirt made from recycled plastic. Story ads using social norms (e.g., "Over 10,000 people in Frankfurt are already helping to protect the oceans from plastic. What about you? ") proved superior to a standard environmental appeal (“Help protect the oceans from plastic!”). In addition, the story ads were used to investigate whether the attractiveness level of the models used had an influence on consumer appeal. Surprisingly, the control group that promoted the recycled t-shirt without models performed best, followed by the story ads with the attractive models.

Table ofFigures

Figure 1: Google Trends Analysis

Figure 2: A/B-Testing 3x3 Matrix

Figure 3: R-Output Conjoint Analysis

Figure 4: Mean Ranking - Recycled Plastic

Figure 5: Mean Ranking - Recycled Pineapple Leaves

Figure 6: Mean Ranking - Recycled Cotton

Figure 7: Evaluation A/B-Testing

List of Abbreviations

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1. Introduction

Sustainability is currently a much discussed and controversial topic. Hardly any other term has gained so much importance in recent years. It has become necessary for society, the economy and politics to deal with sustainable action and thinking. This century is characterized by major changes with enormous social, economic and ecological developments and challenges. The constant growth of the population, the advancing technical possibilities and the increasing material demands of people are causing global changes in the environment. Especially due to climate change and species extinction, an intensive examination of future-conscious action is indispensable. It can be assumed that movements such as "Fridays for Future " (FFF) or activists such as Greta Thunberg will motivate more and more people to commit themselves or to pay attention to the fact that the resources of our earth are used and employed more consciously. This careful use of limited materials affects all areas of life - from energy, transportation and food to cosmetics and clothing. In the fashion industry, one of the major contributors to environmental pollution making up 11% of all human carbon emissions, sustainability issues have seemingly gained in importance (Martus, 2020; World Economic Forum, 2020). The reasons for this include the environmentally harmful methods of cultivation and production of raw materials, as well as the long transport routes of textiles (Heinrich, 2018). The production of fast fashion products records a drastic consumption of resources and proves to be ecologically highly polluting. Many toxic chemicals are used in the production process to dye and design a garment (Martus, 2020).

1.1 Problem Statement and Relevance of the Present Study

The fashion industry has undergone a vast transformation in recent years. Fashion trends are changing faster than ever, fast fashion designers such as ZARA or H&M create up to 24 collections per year and are already thinking about the next fashion show before they have finished the previous one (World Economic Forum, 2020). Fast fashion clothing chains have been offering their garments and collections at ever lower prices for many years. The particularly low price of the goods makes it possible for consumers to buy more clothing than is necessary (Fenzel, 2018). According to statistics, the average consumer in Germany buys around 60 new items of clothing every year (Martus, 2020).

Studies show that up to 40% of these garments are never worn (Fenzel, 2018). But the conditions under which such fashion products are produced are disregarded by many consumers. "Textile companies are increasingly hitting the headlines because of inhumane production conditions" (Heinrich, 2018). This environmental damage is not only caused by the production, but also by the consumption behavior of consumers, i.e., by the amount of clothing that is purchased and the way it is disposed of. But there are also positive trends in the industry. Consumers are increasingly asking for sustainable fashion as a Google Trends analysis of the past 17 years shows (Google Trends, 2021).

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Figure 1: Google Trends Analysis (Own Illustration according to Google Trends, 2021)

Similarly, fashion companies are also responding to the trend and are currently in a growing process of integrating sustainability and recycling strategies. Offering products sustainably is a particular marketing and consumer behavior issue for both large and small fashion companies. Nevertheless, a discrepancy between the desires and attitudes of consumers and their final actions is apparent. It is somehow challenging for individuals to translate their attitudes into in-store or online purchasing decisions resulting in the attitude-behavior-gap (Heiny & Schneider, 2021).

1.2 Objective and Research Question of the Present Study

Based on the problem statement displayed above the question arises how recycled fashion items can be made more appealing to consumers to reduce the prevailing attitude­behavior-gap. This is relevant as consumers play an essential role when it comes to reducing the environmental impact of the textile industry. They have control over which garments they buy, how long they wear certain clothes and in what way they dispose of these. Thus, the goal of this thesis is to investigate the attitude of consumers towards recycled fashion garments as consumers possess the full range of purchasing power. Thereby, a focus is placed on the emotion of disgust to find out to which extent consumers associate this specific feeling with recycled garments and what can be done to reduce it. Additionally, potential material and product category preferences (with consideration of the closeness-to-skin) are to be elaborated. Are there recycled materials which make consumers feel disgusted when they are recycled and what can be done about this? Are there recycled garments or materials that consumers feel particularly good about buying?

Furthermore, the effect of communication on the attractiveness of recycled fashion garments is analyzed. Thereby, it will be determined whether different recycled clothing items should be communicated differently and whether different messaging types have an influence on consumers' attitude and purchase intention. If this is the case, a closer look will be taken at which messaging types are most appropriate for which recycled garment. Moreover, it will be investigated if the attractiveness of models used to promote recycled fashion has an impact on the attractiveness of the product perceived by the consumer.

Overall, the aim of the present study is to provide insights about which factors make recycled fashion more appealing to consumers. The findings are then supposed to serve as a useful guideline for fashion companies and provide information on what they should pay attention to in order to offer consumers an appealing product.

1.3 DelimitationofResearch

To have a clear delimited subject area, this study only investigates the attitude of consumers towards recycled fashion items, all other types of sustainable fashion such as secondhand, vintage, fair, on-demand, high quality, timeless design, and ethical garments are not separately analyzed and considered. Furthermore, to avoid gender-specific preferences and due to the great complexity of fashion items only the following, gender­neutral recycled garments are being considered in the empirical study: bagjacket, pants, shoes, socks, sweatshirt, t-shirt, underwear, wallet. Special product clothing categories like sports, outdoor or other functional clothing are therefore not considered.

1.4 StateofResearch

Since recycled fashion is not yet a firmly established trend among consumers and in the fashion industry, there is little valid research on consumer attitude and behavior in relation to recycled garments. Solely the study “It might be ethical, but I won't buy it: Perceived contamination of, and disgust towards, clothing made from recycled plastic bottles” conducted by Meng & Leary (2019) has investigated the emotion of disgust in this specific context and examined how it can be eliminated. Additionally, a more ancient study by Dolnicar & Schäfer (2009) investigated the acceptance of recycled and desalinated water. Nevertheless, no studies analyzing the preference for different product categories or materials in the context of recycled fashion have been conducted. This in turn confirms the relevance and importance of this study as a rising trend of recycled fashion is to be expected due to the pressing environmental and social circumstances. Also, the effectiveness of several types of communication has not been investigated for recycled fashion garments. Only Meng and Leary (2019) have explored to which extend the attractiveness of the opposite sex in the promotion of recycled fashion items can eliminate or reduce consumers disgust. But studies such as "A room with a viewpoint" by Goldstein et al., (2008) have already analyzed different messaging effects aiming to encourage more environmentally friendly behavior among guests in hotels. Thereby, environmentally themed messages were used to make guests reuse their towels more often. In summary, while not a lot of fashion specific research exists, there are studies from other areas that examine recycling in the context of consumer behavior that can be used as a basis for the purpose of this study.

2. Theoretical Frame ofReference

Chapter two of this study will provide a theoretical foundation which is essential for the subsequent empirical analysis. Thereby the term of sustainable fashion and the concept of recycled fashion will be explained as well as a selection of relevant consumer behavior theories that will be applied in the empirical part.

2.1 Sustainable Fashion

Sustainable fashion which is also called ecological, green or ethical fashion is a part of the occurring slow fashion movement of the last years (Henninger et al., 2016). It is not a novelty and first emerged in I960 as a result of conscious consumers who started to be acquainted with all environmental destruction caused by the clothing industry (Gonzalez, 2015). Sustainable Fashion is understood as fashion that shrinks environmental demolition and is inspired by the general sustainability concept which aims to align the social, economic, and environmental angle in such a way that future generations can still carry out their needs in a sustainable way (Niinimäki, 2015).

Depending on the context and situation the term “sustainability” can be defined in many ways as there is no universally acknowledged definition available. But according to the „International Institute for Sustainable Development“, sustainability is described as the „development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs“ (Fletcher, 2014; Sustainable Development, n.d.). Thereby, the three aspects of planet, people and profit must be considered. (Niinimäki et al., 2013). Based on this universal concept, the relevant literature states that a clothing product can only be entitled as sustainable, if all associated phases of the product lifecycle are sustainably designed (Strähle, 2016). As fashion is subject of consumption and change and based on consumer’s wants, the concept and purpose of sustainable fashion is sometimes perceived as confusing and paradoxical (Muthu, 2016). This contradiction was named “The Fashion Paradox” by Sandy Black (Professor of Economics and International Public Affairs at Columbia) (Black, 2012). However, such a complete holistic process is still rare and only adopted by a few players in the market, such as “PANGAIA” or “Patagonia.” But more established businesses have understood the urgency of sustainability in fashion and accordingly adjusted their business model to reduce environmental impacts and satisfy their consumers who increasingly request environmentally friendly alternatives (Strähle, 2016). The renowned retailer H&M for example was able to increase its usage of sustainable and recycled resources up to 64.5% and simultaneously reduced 24% of its plastic packaging in recent years (HM-Group- Sustainability-Performance-Report-2020.pdf, n.d.).

2.2 Recycled Fashion

Recycled Fashion, which belongs to the group of sustainable fashion, is building the field of observation for this thesis to enable a concrete empirical assessment later. Therefore, this section deals with the terminology of recycled fashion and will highlight three commonly used recycled materials.

Recycling is the reprocessing of waste products and can be divided into upcycling and downcycling. Recycling uses waste as a raw material in order to create new products. One assumes that a product does not lose all its value when it ends up in the trash and is no longer considered useful by the former user. In this process, waste, mostly plastics or glass, but also other materials that are no longer used because they are broken or old, are brought back into the production cycle, that is, reprocessed and then sold again as a new product. Likewise, one can transfer this to the topic fashion. Old clothes are collected, sorted, shredded, unraveled, sewn, dyed and brought back to the stores for sale (Martens & Goldmann, 2016).

By now a vast variety of recycled textiles is already available on the market. The most used material in fashion is “cotton”. But its production has considerable negative impacts on the environment. As part of the sustainability movement, a recycled variant has therefore been developed and increasingly used in recent years. This fabric consists out of post-consumer or post-industrial waste and is classified as the most sustainable textile available (Recycled Cotton, n.d.). The use of energy, water and dye and the resulting CO2 emission are much lower since already existing materials are used in the production process. The Spanish fast fashion group Inditex for example, was able to augment the usage of recycled cotton by 91% in 2020 (Sustainable Materials, n.d.).

Besides cotton, polyester is another widely used material in the fashion industry. Here again, environmental concerns have led to the evolution of recycled polyester which is also called „rPET“. This fabric is usually made from recycled plastic bottles and claims less assets than the traditional variant resulting in around 54% fewer CO2 emissions and 70% less energy used (Recycled Polyester, n.d.). Many famous brands such as Vaude or H&M, among others, have successfully started to substitute the virgin polyester with the recycled alternative (Recycled Polyester Commitment, n.d.).

Another quite innovative fabric is pinatex - a vegan leather alternative made from wasted pineapple leaves which otherwise would be burned. By using them instead of burning, 264 tons of CO2 emissions are saved. Also, no added resources are needed for production (About Us - Ananas Anam, n.d.). Several well-known brands, among other „HUGO BOSS” Bourgeois Boheme“, already use this vegan leather alternative and it is to be expected that in the future even more companies will do likewise (Sagnoli Gabardi et al., 2018). Just a couple of weeks ago the well-known sportswear manufacturer „Nike“ has also announced a cooperation with “Ananas Anam” - the producer of pinatex - for a plant-based shoe collection (Ho, 2021). However, there are limits to the recycling process. Not all waste products are recyclable, as are many plastics. In addition, the value level of the recyclate decreases with each processing stage, so that the quality deteriorates as the number of recycling cycles progresses. This devaluation is referred to as downcycling (Schimanek, 1997). A countermeasure is the addition of primary raw materials, but the disadvantage here is the high energy input. Contrary, the concept of “upcycling“ avoids these negative side effects by not aiming at reprocessing but creating completely new products or finding a new use for used goods. The focus is not only on resource conservation but also on value enhancement. This idea of upcycling develops based on the cradle-to-cradle concept, the limits of recycling as well as mass production and the resulting abundance in today's Western world (McDonough & Braungart, 2002).

With the research topic in mind, the question arises whether the type of material has an influence on the appeal of a fashion item. As there are currently no studies available that cover this specific subject, the following hypothesis was made, which will be tested within the scope of this work:

Hl: The type of recycled material for fashion garments has an effect on consumers' attitude.

2.3 Exploration of Consumer Attitude and Behavior towards Recycled Fashion

After having set the theoretical context of sustainable fashion, this part focuses on consumer behavior in the field of sustainable fashion. Thereby the shopper’s perception of sustainable and especially recycled attire will be pointed out to get a feeling for the current attitude towards this newfangled fashion.

Attitude is considered as a cognitive condition possessing the power to influence certain behaviors. It thereby expresses the consumers' individual association with a particular attitude object and has the power to push a person towards or away from a certain behavior. It can be seen as a long-lasting assessment. Every human possesses hundreds of attitudes with different attributes (Olson et al., 2001). According to the universal consumer behavior framework “ABC Model of Attitudes, every attitude is composed of the following three components: affective, behavioral, and cognitive component (Ajzen & Fishbein, 2004). While the affective component is based on emotions thus describes how a shopper feels about a certain attitude object, the cognitive element is based on information and knowledge and the resulting thoughts and beliefs regarding it. Lastly, the behavioral component points out the resulting behavior under the attitudes influence. Overall, it helps to connect the dimensions “knowing,” “feeling” and “doing” (Bagozzi, 1992). In science there are already some applications of the ABC model on recycling in the field of consumer behavior. A closer examination of recycled fashion consumption, however, has not taken place yet. Nevertheless, there are some sources analyzing those attitudes toward sustainable fashion. According to Zalando for example consumers care about sustainability, but environmental-friendly clothing consumption scores significantly lower. A study conducted by the online fashion retailer has shown that around 72% place importance on reducing their waste in the areas of food, plastic, and water, but only 54% think similarly about clothing. Recycling fashion is only considered by 38% of all participants (Heiny & Schneider, 2021). Anyhow a shift in consumer behavior with regards to sustainable fashion could be noticed within the past few years. According to recent studies, among other a survey on the “Consumer's sentiment on sustainability in fashion” conducted by the McKinsey Company in 2020, a clear shift in consumer behavior towards sustainability was observed. 57% of all participants in the McKinsey study have already started to adjust their way of acting to reduce their environmental impact by paying more attention to recycling and sustainable packaging.

An increased sustainable commitment among European customers has been observed, particularly during the COVID-19 epidemic, with shoppers expecting the textile sector to take countermeasures for its negative environmental implications. (McKinsey, 2020).

“It might be ethical, but I won’t buy it.” (Meng & Leary, 2021, p. 298)

Nevertheless, some consumers feel rejection and were found to have negative associations with recycled fashion. To be more precise, feelings of fear and disgust could be detected. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised increased concerns about contamination with recycled garments especially for items made from recycled plastic bottles. These emotions have an impact on the attitude and buying intention and thus discourage consumers from making a purchase (Meng & Leary, 2021).

In general, the attitude of consumers towards sustainable and recycled fashion is predominantly positive. However, a discrepancy between an environmentally conscious, sustainable attitude and sustainable consumption behavior can be observed (Yildiz et al., 2015). This phenomenon is described in science with the term, Attitude-Behavior-Gap" (Auger et al., 2003). It is also referred to as knowledge-behavior-gap, intention-behavior- gap, or value-behavior-gap (Caruana et al., 2016).

This discrepancy can especially be observed in the field of sustainable fashion. Although the right values are present, purchases are not made (Belk et al., 2005). This insufficient sustainable garment consumption thus harms the overall development of sustainability and represents an important problem to be understood and solved (Joshi & Rahman, 2015). The prevailing gap between attitude and behavior again highlights the relevance of the underlying research question of this study wherefore in the further course, the responsible influencing factors and possible elimination actions will be identified.

2.3.1 Value Drivers behind Sustainable Fashion Consumption

To answer the above stated research question, it is crucial to first understand the underlying values of sustainable fashion consumption, particularly as those can have a major impact on consumers' behavior (Hitlin & Piliavin, 2004). According to the “consumption value theory” values can be assigned to the following five categories, that might influence the buying decision of consumers: functional, conditional, social, emotional and epistemic value. Purchase decisions might be influenced by one, some or all the drivers. Meaning that each value is self-reliant and independent from the others. Also depending on the consumption context, the perceived impact can vary (Sheth, 1991). The consumption of fashion is predominantly driven by two vital humanitarian needs - the functional and the social need. The functional need is the sensed basic need to protect the human body from cold and cover intimate body parts. In contrast to this there is the second, socially influenced need, which is about self-actualization, displaying status and social acceptance and applies to consumers of non-sustainable fashion (Fletcher, 2014; Jin, 2011). Contrary, the sustainable fashion buyer is motivated by a distinct set of values that encourages the purchase of environmental-friendly attire (Lundblad & Davies, 2016). Nowadays fashion is about much more thanjust functionality, especially within the field of sustainable attire. (Lundblad & Davies, 2016) In general, it can be said that the sustainable fashion consumer is more navigated by emotional than functional or social values. Especially the perceived impact on the earth as well as the contribution to a long­term sustainable environment are leading the buying decision (Strähle 2016). Additionally, there are moral concerns and the emotion of guilt on the consumers side that have a major influence (Ha-Brookshire & Hodges, 2009). This was also validated by Louise Lunblad and Iain A. Davies (2016) who have conducted a study on “The values and motivations behind sustainable fashion consumption“ finding out that one of the main motivators is the will to protect the environment and to act responsively. However, the greatest influence according to Lunblad and Davies has the feeling of accomplishment. Consumers feel the urge to do something good and seek validation for it which is also paired with the feeling of gratification when purchasing sustainable fashion items. Another emotional value that was discovered to drive sustainable fashion consumption is the one of social justice. Consumers place importance on fair working conditions in factories and the adherence of human rights which is not necessarily ensured in fast fashion (Lundblad & Davies, 2016). Also, the need for self-expression could be identified as motivator for the purchase of environmentally friendly attire. Compared to non- sustainable fashion consumers, who attach considerable importance to their outer appearance to please others, sustainable fashion buyers want to feel and look good for themselves and don’t seek social acceptance. Nevertheless, there are some sources that report on consumers seeking for group conformity and ways to manifest their individual values (Kim & Damhorst, 1998; Lundblad & Davies, 2016).

2.3.2 Other Influencing Factors in the Fashion Buying Decision

Besides the underlying values of a consumer, there are many additional situational decision reference points that have an influence on the purchase decision. Therefore, the following paragraph sums up a variety of studies on specific influencing factors in the buying decision of clothes. Thereby influencing factors that direct the buying decision towards non-sustainable or sustainable fashion arejuxtaposed.

Predominantly purchase decisions are influenced by the attire itself as well as individual cognitive and social drivers of each consumer (Chan & Wong, 2012). According to Beckmann, who has investigated several influencing factors in the fashion purchase decision of non-sustainable fashion items, the characteristics fit, look and price play a more important role in consumers purchase decision than environmental aspects. (Chan & Wong, 2012; Strähle 2016). However, there are many more factors that influence the purchase decision of consumers. As per Rohlfing and Ahlert (2010), the most important ones are the brand itself, the price, the quality as well as product specific features such as design, material and skin compatibility. In addition to that the immediate access is a factor not to be underestimated and significantly important to the Generation Y (Morgan & Birtwistle, 2009). It is also proven that buyers are disposed to pay higher prices in return for better quality (Fernie & Perry, 2013). Another equally important driver in the decision-making process is the impulsiveness of the consumer. Especially fashion items are more frequently bought during an instinctive action than other consumer goods and decisions are made in milliseconds (Aruna & Santhi, 2015). This phenomenon is observed among young shoppers and can be promoted further through the communication of discounts and attire shortage/limitation (Cook & Yurchisin, 2016; Morgan & Birtwistle, 2009).

Consumers who seek sustainable garments purchase their items in a quite similar fashion. McKinsey found out in a survey from 2020 that 67% of all participants perceive sustainable and environmentally friendly materials as a crucial buying aspect. Nevertheless, the main reasons to buy sustainable clothing are still connected to the product features itself. Meaning that the design must be perceived as fashionable and alluring to be considered by consumers (Diekamp & Koch 2010). Studies have also discovered that consumers rather consider known and trusted brands when it comes to purchasing sustainable fashion (Granskog et al., 2020). However, the relevance of the price is debatable among scientists. While some say that it is the main driver for sustainable fashion consumption, especially among younger generations, who expect the prices to be similar to those of non-sustainable garments (Chuahiock, 2016). Various other studies prove that environmental-conscious fashion consumers show a higher willingness to pay for sustainable products (Chan & Wong, 2012; Hartmann, 2009)

To find out what makes sustainable fashion more appealing to consumers, it also makes sense to look at barriers to purchase. As already mentioned in the previous paragraph, price sensitivity plays a key role and keeps many consumers from buying environmentally friendly fashion alternatives. Not only the willingness to pay but also the financial means are decisive for a purchase and create certain barriers leading among others to the attitude­behavior-gap. Another major cause of rejection is insufficient transparency. Many consumers doubt the credibility of sustainable labels as greenwashing occurs commonly. In addition, the difficult access and the lack of alternatives often leads to a decision against sustainable clothing. Consumers also doubt the product lifetime since materials have previously been used. In some cases, recycled garments were also rejected since reusing items used to be linked to being poor and accompanied by the fear to be rejected by society (Jin, 2011).

To sum up the existing studies and research it can be said that main drivers of purchasing fashion items are highly related to the product itself and its characteristics such as design and tint. Environmental and social aspects therefore are thus secondary and not considered as main drivers within the purchase decision making process of sustainable fashion consumers (Kozlowski et al., 2012).

2.3.3 The Emotion ofFear and Disgust in the Context ofRecycled Fashion

To make specific statements about how to make recycled products more appealing, it is important to understand which (negative) emotions consumers may experience, as these have a significant impact on the preference, as well as the purchase intention. (Williams, 2014) Therefore, this section deals with the appraisal-tendency-framework in the context of recycled attire. The motivation for a more in-depth consideration of this topic is based on studies reporting on negative consumer perception, especially of recycled and reused garments. Thereby, the most frequently mentioned emotions are disgust and fear (Wagner & Heinzel, 2020). The connection between these emotions and certain recycled products is thus relevant and a more profound analysis is worthwhile and is therefore provided subsequently.

The underlying concept in consumer behavior that helps to understand consumers and their feelings is the appraisal tendency theory which deals with the influence of emotions on the evaluation of a product and the purchase decision. Accordingly, emotions evoke an immediate cognitive reaction or assessment which finally affects the judgement of a certain product (Han et al., 2007). Valerie Curtis describes the term disgust as a powerful sentiment possessing the ability to bring out affectively driven actions and results from the encounter with the threat of infectious illness (Curtis, 2011; Han et al., 2012). In the context of consumption, disgust evokes rejective behavior to protect oneself from potential dangers which results in a decreased consumption and devaluation of the product (Lerner & Keltner, 2010). Meaning that the feeling of disgust has the power to reduce the overall desirability for food and consumer goods (Izard, 1993). As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and based on the information from this section the following hypothesis is retrieved:

H2: Consumersfeel disgust towards recycledfashion items.

Connected to this feeling and often confused by consumers is the fear of contamination as it also belongs to the category of negative emotion and results in the same appraisal tendency (Izard, 2013). Science has introduced the theory of the law of contagion, which states that consumers evaluate products that have previously been touched by others as less desirable (Argo et al., 2006).This can be applied to the concept of sharing clothes such as recycling or reusing them as the fear of contamination hinders potential buyers from consuming them (Becker-Leifhold & Iran, 2018). In this context it could be observed that the fear of contamination varies widely between diverse cultures. Americans for instance are less worried about potential contamination cues in clothing than Chinese (Baek & Oh, 2021). In general, however, it can be deduced that people with a lower tolerance for contamination cues tend to have a lower purchase motivation (Murray & Schaller, 2016). Especially in course of the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it could be observed that an increased risk of contamination through recycled fashion is feared by consumers (Meng & Leary, 2021). Interestingly, there seem to be differences in this perceived threat depending on the type of garment. A global study by Meng and Leary (2021) discovered that French, Polish and Spanish buyer perceived a t- shirt consisting out of plastic bottles to be disgusting and suspected an increased risk of contagion with the Corona Virus, while a regular plastic bag did not evoke any negative feelings among the participants. Finally, a correlation between the proximity to the skin, as well as the perceived level of disgust and fear of contagion was suspected (Meng & Leary, 2021). This phenomenon could also be observed in a series of studies investigating the acceptance of several types of water. Most relevant in this case was the finding that desalinated water was favored over recycled water for all activities in close skin contact like water consumption for example. While the recycled opponent was more preferred for purposes that do not require physical contact (Dolnicar & Schäfer, 2009). Based on these study results another hypothesis is derived for the empirical study of this thesis:

H3: Thefashion product category and the degree to which the garment encounters the skin, has an effect on consumers'preference.

2.4 Advertisement Effects in the Context ofRecycled Fashion

According to the dictionary, advertisement is “a picture, short film, song [...] that tries to persuade people to buy a product or service [...] “ (Cambridge Dictionary, 2021). A good, recycled fashion product can only be sold if it is advertised and communicated well and appropriately. Advertisement is a powerful method for attracting clients to a product, thus it is critical for any firm to improve its performance graph (Malik et al., 2013). An effective advertisement and framing of the message depend on many factors such as target group, effective usage of videos and pictures, and the goal of communication. As discussed in the previous chapter, factors such as disgust and closeness too skin of the clothing, must be considered. As proper product communication has the power to influence consumers and their attitudes and thus make a product more appealing it is essentially important for companies to consider this marketing instrument carefully as well (Charm etal., 2020).

2.4.1 Messaging Effects and Norms

Social norms are the unwritten rules that guide the conduct of individuals in society. Social norms consist of behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs considered acceptable in a particular social group or culture. In delivering vital information through messaging, social norms must be highly regarded. They will guide how various people interact with different messages. Additionally, the social norms will also ensure that the messages adhere to acceptable ways of social behavior (Bicchieri et al., 2011).This means that the messages will not be offensive or discriminatory to a specific group of individuals. For example, in descriptive social norms, the messages will have a more significant social effect on the behavior of individuals. In injunctive social norms, the messages will have a greater impact on people’s attitudes and conduct. Therefore, when passing on messages, it is essential to consider social norms. (Bicchieri et al., 2011)

Descriptive social norms focus more on what people do, and they refer to the most common actions of a particular group of individuals. In messaging, descriptive social norms interventions can be used to encourage people to adopt desirable behaviors (Eriksson, 2015). In addition, the messages will provide information regarding bad behavior that is unacceptable in society, thus explaining what is expected among most individuals. The norms of one setting or circumstance are the provincial norms. In the messaging context, provincial norms can be used to encourage pro-environment behavior. These are the behaviors that highly consider the environmental setting of an individual. They explain how an individual is expected to conduct themselves in a certain setting. The immediate surroundings of an individual might affect how they behave. Through provincial norms, individuals become more aware of what is expected. Additionally, messages can be used to further enhance a specific way of conduct (Carlsson & Agerström, 2016).

People's views and impressions of acts that are tolerated or disliked by others in society are reflected in injunctive norms. (Eriksson, 2015). Messages are essential tools that can be used to promote injunctive norms. Through the various messages, injunctive norms can be promoted by encouraging a particular behavior in society. By analyzing the perceptions of multiple individuals, it is easier to determine the behaviors that will be most acceptable. Effective communication is also vital in promoting behavior change. Since norms are acceptable ways of conduct, people should consider the numerous factors that promote the development of proper behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that would lead to better societal change. (Eriksson, 2015)

The study by Goldstein et. al (2008) “A Room with a Viewpoint” studied the effectiveness of conservation signs at hotels asking guests to reuse the hotel towels to protect the environment. The authors expected that descriptive norms would be more effective than the standard technique of promoting towel reuse's environmental benefits. Different experiments were conducted by trying out different messaging types. The descriptive norm condition had a much greater towel reuse rate than the environmental protection condition, according to the findings. Furthermore, they looked at how visitors conformity to a descriptive norm differs depending on the sort of reference group to which the norm is tied. The authors expected that guests would be more influenced by the norms of their immediate surroundings (such as whether guests in that hotel room had reused their towels) than by those in their less distant surroundings.

“The environmental domain, the use of normative messaging—particularly those including a social comparison—has become a popular way for practitioners to put basic behavioral principles to work.” Such messages build upon Festinger’s social comparison theory, which posits that individuals validate the appropriateness of an action through comparisons to others. Interventions based on this idea give effective strategies to encourage environmental conservation, according to studies in both social psychology and economics. (Bernedo etal., 2014).

H4: The type of messaging used to promote recycled fashion items has the ability to influence consumer appeal.

2.4.2 The Attractiveness Factor

As already stated in chapter 2.4, Meng and Leary (2019) found out in their study "It might be ethical, but I won't buy it," that while clothing made from recycled PET bottles had a positive effect on brand perception, it also had disadvantages in the form of feelings of disgust and heightened contamination from consumers. According to their research recycled garments that come in direct contact with the skin, such as t-shirts, are often purchased less than recycled garments that do not come in direct contact with the skin since the perceived feelings of disgust and contamination are higher. Interestingly, it is possible to circumvent these negative emotions in consumers by focusing on products that do not encounter the skin. In addition, Meng and Leary (2019) concluded that the communication and messaging of recycled products plays a key role. In a survey, they discovered that when recycled products are visually communicated by an attractive member of the opposite sex, buyers are more likely to pay for them. (Meng & Leary, 2021).

Attractiveness is a rather subjective topic, and it is challenging to define it as such. While there is a general assumption that beauty cannot be defined, there is great agreement on what is appealing across individuals and cultures. Scientists have found some key indicators in order to define physical attractiveness for males and females. For men, it appears that a body form suggestive of physical power is more essential than simple body mass. For females on the other hand, a certain BMI range is the most important indicator in terms of physical attractiveness, which is also a predictor of good health and reproductive capacity (Tovée et al., 1999). Faces change as people become older, such as growing more wrinkled as their skin loses elasticity. In general, youth is regarded as a desirable quality (Kenrick & Keefe, 1992). Facial composure can also indicate the weight of a person. Research has shown that, especially in western countries, thinness is a valued trait (Johnson et al., 1991). In addition, one possible measure of genetic quality is an individual's ability to develop successfully in the face of external constraints, which is related with decreased asymmetry. Studies have shown that symmetric men and women are healthier than their asymmetric counterparts (Thornhill & Gangestad, 2006). These insightful findings, in turn, prove the relevancy of the fourth hypothesis of this paper:

H5: The attractiveness level of the people advertising recycled fashion has an impact on consumers' appeal.


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Consumer Attitude towards Recycled Fashion Garments. Which factors make recycled fashion more appealing to consumers?
Frankfurt School of Finance & Management
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sustainable fashion, recycled fashion, consumer behavior in fashion, marketing in fashion
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Rebecca Serban (Author), 2021, Consumer Attitude towards Recycled Fashion Garments. Which factors make recycled fashion more appealing to consumers?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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