The Rise Of Responsible Luxury
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Luxury was once a realm detached from sustainability. Luxury was driven to create your own and exclusive world. However, there is clearly a significant shift within this realm, from being in your own luxury world to now being focused on being an agent of change for our one and universal world.
Luxury is becoming increasingly conscious of its role on the global stage, especially as stakeholders and consumers are driven truly by purpose. For brands it is now a priority to address key global issues from climate change to the sourcing of their products. “A luxury brand has to represent the best in society in order to be relevant tomorrow," says Andrea D’avack, President of Chanel Foundation and Global Head of Corporate Responsibility. Luxury fashion is one of the world’s largest consumer industries, the fashion industry is a true powerhouse for global development, worth an estimated US$2.4 trillion and employing 60 million people along its value chain, according to the UN Fashion Alliance. From Alexander McQueen to Zegna, there has been an accelerated implementation of sustainable strategies to create a green and positive luxury.
A shift is imperative, from 1.3 billion people not having access to clean water to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than at any point in the last 800,00 years, with proven concerns surrounding climate change. Luxury fashion has a critical role to play in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. By 2050, the UN says the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles, given the growth of global population. As the world’s population exceeds eight billion in the coming decade, the fashion industry is expected to expand further. Therefore, sustainable strategies implemented recently by the major luxury groups are not only a must, but have demonstrated that they have the power to increase global environmental and social standards, and play a key role in promoting a cultural shift.
Most recently, in May 2019, luxury conglomerate LVMH, of Dior, Fendi, Givenchy, and Louis Vuitton announced their partnership with UNESCO for a five-year plan to be the leader and front-runner in transparency of where they source their materials and to fine tune their supply chain. This is clearly a statement and one that should be celebrated across the industry.
Many of us are also aware of the leaps taken by Stella McCartney from renewable powered stores to the use of organic cotton, as well as the ethical and ecological values that see the brand use no leather, fur or exotic skins in any of its products. Anna Zegna, a director of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group, the Italian menswear producer, is driven by the concept of “slow fashion,” and emphasizes the amount of skilled labour it takes to create a single suit, from the time the wool is sheared, to the time the finished product is placed on the rack. Gucci’s “Chime for Change” impact campaign, continues to be dedicated to support access to quality education to more than seven million children through their partnership with UNICEF across Africa and Asia. Not to forget ground-breaking programs, such as Cartier’s Women’s Initiative Award founded in 2006, an international business competition to encourage women entrepreneurs to solve contemporary global challenges.
What does the above teach us? Not only is the luxury industry taking positive leaps towards addressing how their supply chain needs to reform, but they are also ensuring that their brands' values are aligned with addressing the many pressing global issues. Arguably, we all still have a long way to go but it’s important to pause, celebrate, and be inspired by some of these incredible milestones within luxury.
Luxury consumers are no longer willing to accept products that are simply a statement. Being iconic and exclusive no longer suffice for a luxury brand to survive, as buyers “need better reasons to buy." Buying a luxury product does not just demonstrate status and artistic independence anymore. Knowing the heritage, the brand’s craftsmanship, and product origin demonstrates a greater interest of consumers in social, ethical and environmental issues, underpinning the desire of their purchase to deliver a lasting, meaningful experience, and essentially to make an impact.
Luxury is creating a vision of being as close as possible to nature. Nature, in its simple essence, is becoming the true expression of luxury. Here’s to redefining luxury, and to continue to encourage brands to be responsible agents of change, to be a part of overcoming some of our global issues, and to play a key role in achieving some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.Related: Six PR And Marketing Tips For Luxury Startups