Monday, August 16, 2010

Sustainable Luxury Brands

I was reading an article in Glass Magazine this week about some of fashion's major fashion houses leading the way in sustainable luxury.

Marie Brown explains the 3 levels of impact of sustainable implementation:
  1. The product itself: being ethical, made from natural materials, being biodegradable, and a quality product that has a certain longevity.
  2. Within the industry: Corporate Social Responsibility, upholding environmentally viable supply chains, ethical working practices, sourcing raw materials sustainably
  3. Within Society: giving back to communities, corporate sponsorship, founding ethical and chariatable associations
    (Glass, Rapture, p166)

I found Brown's brand sustainable strategies particularly interesting and something of a guide I would follow in my own practice. The reason I am disecting this article and exploring particuarly luxury fashion brands is because I am beginning to see in my own designs an alignment with the luxury aesthetics of beauty, quality and excellence. And so I find it relevant and of inspiration to look into how fashion's top luxury brands are implementing sustainable strategies whilst retaining this aesthetic.

Brown goes on to explain in her article how companies like Burberry have made strong sustainable commitments in their business models.

Burberry suffered financial instability in 2008, but have bounced back with immense internal changes towards the sustainable practices and models:

"So far they are succeeding in reducing CO2 production emissions, reduction of
packaging, switching to energy-saving programmes in stores and headquarters,
along with reverently conducting factory visits to ensure top working conditions
for employees...bottom line figures have allowed Burberry to invest in admirable
chariatable programmes to give back to the communities where Burberry employees live and work." (Glass, Rapture, p167)

Number one luxury group Louis Vuitton (LVMH) is a massive influence and lead in sustainable business modelling. With the introduction of a carbon inventory that can accurately measure the impact of the company's activities on the environment, they are able to modify their organisations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (LVMH 2010). The Group's commitment towards environmental protection materialized in 2001 by the the "Environmental Charter" was reinforced in 2003 by joining the United Nations' Global Compact. That initiative, which was launched by Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN, requires its signatories to apply and promote nine principles in the field of human rights, labor and the environment (LVMH 2010). LVMH stands as an influential leader in sustainable development by branching out it's strategies not only within it's own business model, but to inspire, educate and support it's consumers and business associates as well.

The reason why I look to these luxury brands for sustainable leadership in the industry is because they have the power, economy and position to pioneer ethical trading. And as Brown concludes, " They hold the key to deploying technilogical innovations and raising awareness not only with the consumer, but also in alliance with the media, designers, buyers and retailers to show how ethical production can and must be the next chapter in luxury fashion's evolution" (Glass, Rapture, p168).

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