Efforts to decrease the environmental impact of today’s clothing industry across the entire process of production, purchase, maintenance, and disposal can be driven by either suppliers or consumers. Changing the behavior of the latter, however, requires an understanding of current clothing consumption patterns—a currently under-researched area. We therefore shed more light on these patterns in the purchase, use and maintenance, and discard phases by analyzing unique data on 4617 adult consumers (aged 18–65) from Germany, Poland, Sweden, and the U.S., who we divide into five segments based on clothing consumption behavior. At the low end of the spectrum is a consumer segment that earns the least, consumes mostly budget brand clothing, and is the least open to alternative more environmentally friendly business models such as fashion leasing or clothing libraries. At the other extreme lies a small segment that earns the most, engages in high consumption of medium or premium brand clothing, and is most open to alternative business models. Lying between these two is a primarily female segment that purchases an above average amount of clothing from budget brands. In addition to the segments’ different reported purchase behavior and a varying openness to alternative business models, we identify differences in willingness to pay for clothing made of material that is more environmentally friendly than conventional fabrics. These observations suggest several promising directions for environmental interventions tailored toward specific consumer segments.
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