The importance of sustainability in retail has never been so crucial, especially when it comes to fashion and luxury brands. In today’s world, sustainability is so much more than just a buzzword or marketing phrase; it’s now a way of life. It no longer just applies to an object being reusable or recyclable, instead, it relates to every aspect of your business operations. From the very nature of the materials being used to the sourcing, processing and transportation of them, sustainability should now be considered a wholescale aspect of your company.
Why are Luxury Brands Embracing Sustainability?
It’s a particularly damning statistic but the fashion industry accounts for the second-highest level of global pollution, behind only the oil industry. With consumers very much aware of this information, they want to see a clear process in how businesses are doing their fair share in order to try to help the planet and make the world a better place.
For Millennials and Generation Z consumers especially, this is a key concern. They represent a huge slice of the worldwide spending community and are driving 85% of global luxury sales growth. To connect with them in a sincere, meaningful manner, luxury brands have to understand values and align themselves with them.
Younger generations take more time to research the environmental and social impact of their purchasing decisions and won’t hesitate to ignore any brand, label or company who doesn’t embody their own personal values. Luxury brands that want to retain their place in the market and continue to grow need to evolve and adapt to the notion of ethical and sustainable luxury otherwise they could quickly fall behind to competitors that are already doing so.
Studies indicate that 73% of Millennials are willing to spend more money on a product if it comes from a sustainable or socially conscious company whilst 81% expect brands to be transparent and actively talk about their sustainability impact. They are not shy of telling you what they want and what they don’t want, it’s up to you to listen and adapt.
The Controversial Side of Fashion Sustainability
When answering the question ‘what is sustainable luxury?’ your approach has to be sincere otherwise it can lead to some controversial situations for your luxury brand. There have been several luxury brands sustainability issues that have come to light in recent times, Greenwashing being maybe the most discussed. This is where companies or brands put more effort and money into convincing people that they are enacting environmental policies than they do actually carrying them out. Essentially it is a mask that a company will use to cover up any unsustainable practices they might carry out such as chemical usage or damage to the environment.
Unless the industry is willing and serious about enacting sustainable luxury trends, the fashion industry will continue to be one of the most environmentally damaging sectors in the world today.
10 Best Sustainable Luxury Fashion Brands
But there are some brands that are leading the way and illustrating just how luxury fashion can be sustainable. So let’s have a look at who is managing to achieve a truly sustainable form of luxury and how they are doing so:
1. Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney has been one of the leading pioneers of combining sustainability and luxury for many years now. The brand is extremely picky with their suppliers and works with a number of different environmental conversation organisations. Adding to this notion, the company recently introduced something called Clevercare to their products. This is a simple, five-step labelling system that helps consumers care for and prolong the overall life of their clothing to improve their sustainable nature.
2. Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood’s prioritise the use of renewable energy and have previously called out for luxury labels to switch from using fossil fuels to green energy. The brand’s commitment to environmental practices was also emphasised by a V&A exhibition in London that featured information concerning sustainable fashion.
Second-hand fashion is growing at an incredibly fast rate. Farfetch is embracing this concept and has begun collaborating with Thrift+, an on-demand donation service for pre-owned clothes.
4. Rag & Bone
Launched as a denim label, Rag & Bone started a program that encourages customers to donate old jeans to a physical store for recycling. Once donated, the denim is recycled and transformed into insulation for homes as they try to reduce the level of waste that is rife across the fashion industry.
View this post on Instagram
Rag–reworked. With sustainability top of mind, we’ve collaborated with @bonum.jp , the Japanese vintage reworking gods, and created an all-new collection from 100% recycled rag & bone denim. – The heritage washes and quality fabrications that are distinctly rb–made one-of-a-kind. #ragandboneXBonum shot by @maxfarago
5. Tiffany & Co
Famous diamonds luxury brand Tiffany & Co was one of the first big jewellery names to exclusively source metals and diamonds from responsible mining companies. Tiffany now has a zero-tolerance policy in regards to buying diamonds from countries with human rights infringements and also has a foundation working on reef conservation and raising awareness for responsible mining practices.
The heralded watchmakers Rolex created the Rolex Award for Enterprise. This awards a large cash prize to entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 30 for projects that have brought about a positive environmental change. This approach sees the company aim to take real steps towards improving the sustainability of their industry as well as the planet as a whole.
7. Mara Hoffman
Mara Hoffman emphasises the use of sustainable materials at every opportunity. They utilise regenerated nylon fibre made from waste, polyester fibre made from recycled plastic, hemp, organic cotton, linen, ethical alpaca wool, and fibrous plant-based materials all alongside sustainable means for shipping, packaging, and branding.
In a truly innovative move, Everlane offers consumers the opportunity to meet the makers of their clothes and take digital tours of their factories. When Millennials talk about transparency, this is what they want. It displays their fair and ethical practices as well as underlining the fact that these products are made locally in a sustainable and authentic way. This is what sustainable luxury looks like.
Patagonia’s Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign was an incredible statement, one a lot of other brands wouldn’t have had the guts to make. But it illustrated them as truly being a brand that places ethics above profits. Not only do they embrace causes, they build them into their brand values and connect with their consumers in ways other companies can only dream of.
10. FH Christensen
Sustainable and ethical, those are words FH Christensen wants to be associated with. They manage to craft sustainable luxury garments using ethical procedures without ever having to compromise on quality. All of their manufacturing processes are plastic-free, and leave as small a carbon footprint as physically possible.
The Future of the Sustainable Fashion Industry
Essentially the future of sustainable fashion has to happen now. Alongside incorporating all the luxury trends 2020 has to offer, becoming more sustainable and ethical is key for luxury fashion brands to achieve successes with the younger generations. Luxury brands need to build upon the great work already being done by people within the industry towards improving sustainability if they want to stay relevant. Reusable materials, environmentally-friendly practices and a lack of reliance on fossil fuels will hopefully soon become industry standards for luxury companies.