Known for their bespoke and exclusive glamour and opulence, Luxury brands are now increasingly becoming aware of the environmental impact of the luxury & fashion sector and the growing demand for sustainable and ethical practices in the fashion industry. Many luxury fashion houses are now responding to this by building slow fashion capsule lines, and while the progress has been slow, in recent years they have begun to adapt to more sustainable practices into their operations.
Understanding that consumers today are more than aware of the brand’s greenwashing efforts and are demanding them to address sustainability in their productions and operations, brands are now making efforts to position themselves as environmentally conscious to attract more top-tier socially conscious consumers.
We explore the various steps in this article that brands have taken in the luxury market towards sustainability and discuss how they are bringing change to the global society on the need to make our consumption and production more responsible. Some strategies brands are adopting in this tectonic shift, slowly, are the inclusion of sustainable materials, implementing circular business models, and investments in sustainable technology.
Use of sustainable materials
The most common practice luxury brands are adopting is using sustainable materials like organic cotton, and recycled fabrics to luxurious silks produced slowly and consciously. They are beginning to embrace eco-friendly materials where a large portion of their investments are dedicated to finding the most lasting fabrics and materials that replace animal skins on luxury handbags and accessories. They focused on reducing the carbon footprint of traditional materials with the use of more circular materials.
Example: Stella McCartney is known to be a pioneer in sustainable fashion, using eco-friendly materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester and working with waterless dyeing to zero-waste techniques.
Embracing circular fashion practice
What brands are increasingly adopting is the efforts towards reducing waste and investment in how to increase the lifespan of a product. Circularity means they are willing to embrace pre-loved clothing to deconstruct and recycle into brand new collections, using recycled materials and creating pieces that can be easily repaired/ mended by the consumers. Brands now offer take-back programs to ensure products are recycled or repurposed.
Example: Burberry focuses on circular fashion and offers repair and mend services for its products and partner with sustainable brands to create eco-friendly collections.
Another example if of Prada.
Prada is known for launching its sustainable fashion line called Re-Nylon which used recycled Nylon to create bags and accessories.
A key initiative by luxury brands is the practice to prioritize the ethical sourcing of materials. This ensures that materials used in their production cycles are sourced responsibly with consideration of people and the planet and the impact of the product process on our planet. Luxury brands are infamous for exploiting Asian countries for their cheap labour, the efforts are now that brands make sure their vendors are adopting fair and legal labour practices, and responsible mining to sustainable farming options.
Transparency in operations
A key step to becoming a brand that is accepted and appreciated by consumers is to indulge in the fine practice of transparency. This is sharing information on your production processes, how you source, your supply chain, the impact of your production on the environment, the working condition of your garment workers, and overall steps taken to be more sustainable. This helps to build trust in the consumers and established the brand as a leader in the market. Encouraging consumers to continue to shop from them.
Building sustainable space, packaging, and designs
Luxury brands are known for their aesthetically designed and bespoke retail spaces that are key to welcoming customers into the world of luxe services and products. Creating retail space where that is built on an eco-friendly concept is the new aspect luxury brands are embracing. This involves them working with renewable energy sources and work with sustainable packaging. They are making use of biodegradable and recyclable materials to help reduce waste and lower their environmental impact.
Example: Ralph Lauren is known to work on reducing water usage in their production facilities and more use renewable energy sources.
Collaborations with sustainable NGOs, organizations, and brands
Luxury brands understand the power of a collective and the impact of collaborations. Partnerships like Dior with Chanakya School of Craft are a way for brands to embrace cultural aspects while also putting forth a front of being garment worker-friendly and ethical practices. It brings to light that they are more socially responsible and aids in reaching new audiences to create unique collections.
Other practices involved building long-term sustainable strategies and goals that help the brands to track their progress and keep accountability in check, for example – Gucci has made a commitment by pledging to become carbon neutral and reduce waste by 50% by 2030.
Although luxury fashion brands have yet to fully embrace sustainability, their efforts thus far are commendable and indicative of a willingness to evolve toward a more equitable, inclusive, and environmentally responsible fashion industry. The shift is towards sustainability, embracing eco-friendly materials, circular fashion, ethical sourcing, and transparency. Overall, the gradual shift towards sustainable fashion in the luxury sector is an encouraging sign that the industry is evolving towards a more sustainable and responsible future.
If you want to be part of the shift, join the MBA Luxury & Fashion Management course offered by MBA-ESG Bengaluru where you will be able to learn the history of luxury brands, how modern-day practices are evolving, and what is the need of the hour.