Sustainable print marketing in fashion: 9 creative examples

Sustainable print marketing in fashion: 9 creative examples

We investigated nine fashion print publications, ranging from direct mail catalogues to high-end creative magazines, and considered how their content and design choices demonstrate their environmental commitment to readers.

Fashion brands are increasingly under scrutiny for their environmental impact. With the industry currently responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, many consumers are choosing to buy from environmentally conscious brands.

To meet this demand, many areas of the fashion industry, from big brands to creative and indie magazines, are placing sustainability at the forefront of their marketing efforts. Openness about their environmental impact and materials used – both for production of their print, and the textiles for their clothes – are just some of the common themes seen across these productions.

Lampoon: a luxury fashion and sustainability magazine

sustainable fashion print

The theme for Lampoon’s spring/summer issue last year was Ruvido, an Italian word meaning ‘rough’.

Lampoon stands out from other fashion magazines with its sheer size and weight: at 242x332mm, with 432 pages. At first glance, it strikes you as a high-end, high-quality, luxury publication.

Glossy magazines with shiny, coated papers are the standard for fashion magazines, as they allow for highly detailed and vibrant imagery. By contrast, Lampoon is not printed on glossy paper, and the cover has a satin finish. 

Alongside editorial on some of the biggest brands like Prada, Louis, and Dior, this publication broadens the definition of fashion by also incorporating design, photography and other creative arts. They use these mediums to present a more profound and thoughtful take on fashion – exploring themes such as sustainability, diversity, circular economies, traceability and more. They also report on the manufacturing sector, and textiles, fashion, construction, energy, and raw materials. 

The content in this edition, under the ‘ruvido’ theme, is largely centred around texture. The editor’s letter reflects this theme, discussing the importance of choosing natural fibres and rejecting synthetic ones. 

Lampoon’s website and the imprint inside the magazine detail the sustainable aspects of the print, and the specifics of the materials used.

The text pages are printed on Freelife Oikos, and the cover is Symbol Card ECO 50, both of which contain 50% recycled fibres and 50% FSC-certified pure fibres.

For a one-off, sustainable edition in 2021, Lampoon solidified their position as forward thinkers in sustainability by using fully recycled materials, and created a special cover made from Prada’s new eco-sustainable Re-Nylon fabric – a material which had previously been used for clothes and accessories, but never before for print.

Mildew: a glossy magazine about second-hand fashion 

sustainable fashion magazine spread

New to the indie magazine scene and only on their second edition, Mildew is packed with think-piece articles, personal stories, and photography features, all centred on second-hand fashion and situated within wider contexts like culture and history. Celebrating reworked pieces and providing upcycling inspiration, it denounces fast fashion and asks how we can be more sustainable through our clothing choices.

The magazine is printed on FSC-certified paper, and is printed in both the UK and Mexico. The UK version was printed at Park’s facility, which runs on green energy, uses only vegetable-based inks, and is certified carbon neutral – meaning that all carbon generated from our production is offset by a ClimatePartner project.

Whereas many sustainable productions opt for uncoated, textured, or recycled papers to evoke their sustainability, Mildew’s design is closer to that of a typical fashion glossy, with a high-shine cover. Through this design choice, the magazine aligns itself more closely with mainstream publications. To leaf through its floppy and reflective pages is reminiscent of more classic fashion magazines like Cosmopolitan or Elle.

Hush: a high-quality catalogue with creative features

sustainable fashion catalogue

The elevated production values of Hush’s catalogue set it apart from a typical direct-mail brochure, creating a reading experience somewhere between that of a catalogue, and that of a magazine.

While many mass-produced catalogues are web printed, Hush opted for litho printing, including a range of creative print features in their latest brochure.

The catalogue contains three different FSC-certified stocks, with a matte paper comprising the majority of the text pages, and a small fold-out gloss section for a ‘photobook’ effect. Shorter-page sections, containing poems and creative prose, intersperse images of the brand’s clothing.

fashion catalogue spread

On the cover: the title is debossed and foiled, and a debossed border emphasises the image.

The production was printed at Park’s carbon-neutral facility, and the brand chose to offset the carbon cost of their materials via a ClimatePartner offsetting scheme, which readers can learn about by scanning a QR code on the production’s back cover.

Hush’s creative features are often seen in higher-end magazines which have a strong focus on design, and want to entice customers with interesting creative features. It is more uncommon, however, to see this level of design in direct mail.

catalogue spread

The brochures are PUR-bound, a sturdy method which gives them a solid square spine. Addresses of recipients are printed on the back of the catalogues. Although the lack of envelopes or additional packaging could be considered a win for sustainability, there would be no guarantee of the catalogues arriving in pristine condition, due to transport conditions outside of the brand’s control. 

Sahara: a luxury direct-mail brochure

sustainable direct mail brochure

Sahara’s direct mail catalogue, also printed by Park, has a gold-foiled title and discount voucher on the cover. The cover is printed on the uncoated Arena Extra White and the text is printed on Magno Volume.

Any additional print finishes such as foiling will always use more carbon, through the extra materials and energy required. This catalogue, however, is saddle-stitched, an affordable and sustainable binding method which uses no glue, and is ideal for booklet-sized productions. With this combination, Sahara strikes a balance between flair and sustainability – bringing a more elevated and quietly luxurious feel to the medium of direct mail.

Unwoven: a magazine about materials

sustainable textiles magazine

Unwoven, an editorial project by the non-profit organisation Textile Exchange, provides a shining example of how a brand can demonstrate its message and ethos through the physical features of its print.

The project aims to educate readers on clothing and textiles, and increase understanding of the stories behind the materials that make their clothes. The editorial includes individual stories on textile-making from various places around the world, before scrutinising the wider systemic challenges to sustainable textile production – such as economics, climate change, science, and more.

The materials showcased in the magazine are complemented by the design choices for the print. Unwoven’s team came to Park with little knowledge about the range of creative options available, and we advised on those that would best reflect the textile industry and the message of the production.

magazine spread

We used Gmund Hemp 50% 320gsm for the cover, a textured paper containing 50% hemp fibre, which is sustainable to produce, widely used in textile manufacturing, and can be recycled many times over.

As Gmund Hemp is a more expensive option, for the main text we opted for a more budget-friendly Accent Recycled 120gsm, an uncoated paper made from 100% recycled fibre.

Since the booklet was only 64 pages, we suggested having the production singer-sewn with blue thread, a glue-free and sustainable option which gave another nod to the textile industry.

A die-cut circle on the front cover, revealing a close-up image of wool below, was another glue- and plastic-free way to add interest to the production.

Tauko: a sewing magazine focused on sustainability

sustainable fashion print

Tauko is a magazine about sewing, sustainability, and materials, which contains a mixture of interviews, articles, and sewing inspiration. The back cover folds inwards, holding a bundle of folded paper sewing patterns inside.

fold out cover

This magazine traverses forms; alongside its editorial content, it also functions as a catalogue for the clothes you can make from the patterns. Models are seen wearing the looks, and their outfits and sizes are detailed.

The theme of Tauko’s 9th edition is the colour blue. Naturally then, much of the magazine is also blue, including the back cover, the title, and many of the photographs inside. The editorial discusses the colour’s importance in the textile industry, and its sustainability concerns.

Certain blues can also provide challenges, not just for textiles, but when printing on paper. Some obstacles with blue include achieving accuracy of blue shades, longer drying time, and greater water usage. 

Hot and Cool: a fashion photography glossy

fashion glossy magazine

Hot and Cool, printed by Park, is a fashion and art magazine, led by visuals, design, and photography, and unique in its lack of any articles or other editorial content.

It is printed on Magno Art Gloss 115gsm, a thin, glossy paper, which gives the magazine a flick-though, Sunday supplement feeling.

The cover is printed on the same stock, at an only slightly thicker 170gsm, with a gloss coating for extra protection and shine.

The production is mailed to buyers and shrink wrapped, but it’s ‘floppiness’ posed an issue for transportation. Since the magazine doesn’t have a hard cover, we suggested adding a grey board, the same material used for hardback books, to keep the magazine flat during delivery. The board was debossed with a design, elevating it from a practical necessity, to a unique and interesting addition that readers would want to keep along with the magazine.

Infringe: a design-led hair anthology

fashion book

Infringe considers itself a magazine, yet its design is that of a coffee table book. Case-bound, heavy, and packed with content, it is made to be picked up time and time again.

The publication provides a ‘visual feast,’ celebrating creativity and design in hair. From the world beard championships, to ‘hairotica,’ the book goes beyond the limits of what the average person can imagine when it comes to hair, and reveals a far-reaching cultural and creative universe. QR codes throughout the book link to even more online content, including behind-the-scenes videos.

fashion book spread

A passion project by its creators, their main focus was on visuals and design, and this extended beyond the pages’ content to the print itself. The bright and bold photography is served by a high-gloss paper, Magno Art Gloss, which allows for detailed image reproduction.

The striking cover also uses two special inks and a high-pigment black which contrasts with its foiled red title.

Selvedge: a fashion and textiles indie mag

Selvedge stands out on the shelf for its square shape, unusual for a magazine. The magazine is primarily about textiles and fashion, with this edition particularly focusing on the concept of ‘regeneration,’ and asks how textiles can be regenerative.

sustainable print

The founder of Selvedge writes about her love of textiles, and the beauty and feeling of different materials. The magazine’s content includes spotlights on forward-thinking brands, as well as traditional methods and histories of textile creation. The photography focuses on texture and detail. The choice of gloss text stock is effective in making the photography and colours pop – though perhaps adding some uncoated sections would have helped to convey the tactility of some of the materials.

The cover is matte, in the style of a typical sustainable indie mag, but the magazine doesn’t specify the materials used.

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Transparency about their materials and printers is a recurrent theme with the brands investigated in this article. This is to be expected in an age when customers are expressing concerns about brands’ environmental impact, whilst brands strive to win them over with shared values.

Of course, when printing for wide distribution, certain creative and sustainable features can cause costs to spiral. Companies which appeal to the mass market may have difficulty justifying this cost for the proportion of customers who are genuinely motivated by sustainability.

This could be one reason why many of the biggest fashion houses and brands such as Vogue, New Look, and Next, haven’t yet demonstrated the same level of commitment to sustainability in their printing choices.

With guidance from a sustainable printer, however, it is possible to achieve a production which is affordable, sustainable, and can be produced at scale.

For example, although the most premium recycled papers can be up to 200% more expensive than a virgin fibre alternative, the most affordable 100% recycled materials cost only 37% more than their virgin-fibre equivalents; and using a 50% recycled material will further reduce costs.

Or, like Unwoven, brands may select a more creative paper for the cover only, with a more budget-friendly stock for the main text.

Park is a certified climate neutral company, and all carbon generated from our production is offset by ClimatePartner’s offset projects. The materials for your production can also be offset upon request, by an offset project of your choice.

You can read more about how to create a sustainable production with Park, here, and read more about fashion lookbooks and luxury brand magazines printed by Park, here.

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