This online retailer is introducing a sustainability search function

In the past, shopping sustainably for clothing likely meant a trip to an "eco-friendly" store somewhere in the "granola belt" in a major city.

Now, consumer demand for more information and options to shop sustainably has compelled two major retailers, The Iconic and David Jones, to overhaul their online stores.

From today, The Iconic will offer customers the ability to search by five sustainable criteria covering social issues, the environment and animal welfare, as part of its "Considered" initiative.

Launching with 6500 products, the function follows a year-long process that included a major upgrade of the e-tailer's back-end, says Jaana Quaintance-James, The Iconic's head of sustainability and ethical sourcing.

She said the objective is to show "shopping more sustainably is not impossible, it’s about accessibility to the customer and demonstrating a wide variety and fashionable" rather than directly driving sales.

Demand for sustainable fashion is growing in the mainstream. Fashion Revolution Week will next week launch the biggest Fashion Transparency Index, with more than 200 brands, while apps such as Good On You allow customers to access information about brands on their smartphones.

The Iconic has been a major driver of inclusivity (its swim shows have showcased arguably the most diverse range of models this country has seen) and while sustainability is a much more complex issue, Ms Quaintance-James said: "Ultimately we want to demonstrate over time we can take a leadership position. This is an important part of driving consumer awareness."

She said becoming more sustainable wasn't as simple as only stocking overtly sustainable brands and deleting others.

"If we don't stock [those brands], we don't have an ability to influence [them to change]," she said.

One brand not needing any influencing is Outland Denim, which last week scored an A+ on the Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Report, and received a massive growth injection thanks to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex's fondness for its jeans.

Co-founder James Bartle said just because the brand is at the top of Australia's sustainability tree doesn't mean it's perfect.

"It’s highlighted weaknesses and strengths – next time we have a large impact we are equipped for it. You never get it right all the time," he said.

Mr Bartle said it was encouraging to work with retailers (Outland is stocked at The Iconic and David Jones) that were bringing sustainability into the mainstream.

"To see those stores moving into this space is where we will see the impact versus more eco stores popping up … it’s about volume," he said.

Quaintance-James agrees that impact comes from small changes made on a large scale.

"We don't need one person to be perfectly sustainable. We need millions to be imperfectly sustainable," she said.

The Iconic is aiming to have 10 per cent of its stock qualify for Considered by 2020.

From next week, David Jones will publish its tier one factory information on products from its house brands.

To help customers, David Jones has created a searchable map, which they can use to identify factory locations, the types of products they manufacture and to learn about the demography of staff employed at each site.

"This is just the first step towards full transparency and we will be progressively publishing further partners in the near future."

During Fashion Revolution Week (April 22-28), David Jones will also highlight its brands that are making a positive impact including Bianca Spender and Manning Cartell.

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