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Real Luxury is…Sustainable AND Ethical

In luxury fashion, opulence meets obsession; there are Birkin communities, sneakerhead fan bases, and watch connoisseur circles, all uniting for the most coveted of treasures. Yet, there are undeniably smaller, growing circles that exist of luxury consumers who are impact-driven and long for more eco-conscious luxury. These consumers are the ones redefining opulence with sustainability at its core. At the heart of fashion, there exists this immense passion for exclusivity, yet this same passion can be used to be more mindful of how luxury fashion is made and what it is made of, these are the values that will truly shape the future of the industry. Is it surprising that in Eco/Cult’s list of 25 Sustainable and Ethical Luxury Fashion Brands, only a handful of well-known couture brands are listed? In short, it’s not necessarily surprising but disappointing nonetheless. Not surprised but disappointed. With such passionate consumer bases, are luxury fashion consumers considering the sustainability of their clothes? The potential luxury fashion brands have to become the key for dismantling fast fashion is essential: “Luxury products are fundamentally durable. With a focus on high-quality materials, luxury products are set up to last longer than the average product, requiring less need for incineration and textile waste, according to British Vogue in an article. 

According to a recent Business of Fashion (BoF) report, luxury retailers are adapting to evolving customer expectations, focusing on innovative technology, sustainability, and inclusive luxury experiences. In their report, BoF introduces “inclusive luxury,” a term used to describe “engaging retail spaces that can offer something to all visitors.” What this means for luxury brands includes catering to their target audience: 

“Nearly half of frequent luxury consumers in North America surveyed for the report agree that luxury stores should be more than a place to purchase products, while nearly two-thirds expect sustainability to be an important feature in their shopping experience.”

Based on what luxury consumers demand, it is undeniable how in touch luxury retailers are in including innovations in their in-person shopping experiences, further enhancing the human relationships that are formed within the stores. Luxury brands are incorporating sustainability both inside and outside their stores, and the impact of sustainability plays a big role in positive customer experiences. Brands continue to redefine what an in-store retail experience looks like, creating engaging retail spaces that cater to a diverse audience and offer more than just a place to purchase products. For instance, think of the Louis Vuitton Café in Paris or the Rooftop Dior Cafés worldwide, including Miami and Shanghai, where luxury experiences extend beyond just fashion. The value of physical retail is undeniable; luxury shoppers still value in-store experiences, mainly due partly to the community that can be fostered and the people that are met. The importance of physical stores for luxury customers goes deeper than aesthetics; stores play an integral role in building brand communities and delivering exceptional customer service. Within such communities that are built within immersive luxury shopping experiences, sustainable luxury has taken center stage…to an extent. As BoF puts it, while luxury brands continue to elegantly master their store being “more than a place to purchase products”, the same brands are yet to master the full circle sustainability cycle.

Though, some luxury brands have begun to integrate sustainability into their products and services, aligning with the values of their luxury consumer communities. This shift reflects a communal movement towards ethical fashion practices, where individuals within luxury fashion communities are banding together to drive change in the industry, emphasizing sustainability and ethics. Yet, the brands with sustainability initiatives like Burberry and Gucci, rate extremely low on “Good On you,” a leading platform (and app) rating brands on their mindfulness to ethics and sustainability. It is evident that many of the luxury brands we know and love are still falling from being sustainable from the materials they use to how their clothing is produced. Some luxury brands make more effort than others, and the ones that do must improve in their full-circle understanding of sustainable fashion. There are two parts: how the fashion is produced and the materials used all throughout fashion’s lifecycle. 

“Eco-Luxe Collectives” and “Sustainable Luxury Fashion Enthusiasts” are not just buzzwords but thriving communities shaping the luxury fashion landscape. These communities within the luxury fashion industry are at the forefront of a movement that integrates sustainability and ethics into the heart of fashion. Their dedication to ethical consumption is influencing not only their fellow enthusiasts but also the industry as a whole. This marks the future of sustainable luxury. Luxury fashion is no longer just about opulence and exclusivity. It's about a sense of belonging and shared values. Real luxury isn’t wearing a designer coat made through child labor. Real luxury isn’t wearing a cardigan that polluted the earth in masses through the production process. Real luxury is ethical and sustainable fashion. The luxury shopping experience is evolving, and real luxury is becoming synonymous with sustainability and ethical practices. It's not just about what you wear; it's about the values you uphold. As Vestiaire Collective advocates, “Think first, buy second.” 

By Elina Khoshnevis

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