Is luxury fashion synonymous with sustainability?

The fallacy of clean luxury (Davies et al.) is when consumers believe that luxury products have few significant negative social or environmental impacts due to the label and price tag. This is based on the assumption that luxury fashion symbolises prestige and value, and therefore is sustainable. However, this is not the case.

Luxury fashion isn’t always sustainable. Higher prices do not necessarily mean higher quality and sustainability. The issues of sustainability within textile industries is recognised, but is immediately disassociated once a luxury label is added (Davies et al.)

Harris and Freeman (2008) theorised ‘separation fallacy,’ suggesting that consumers wrongly perceive ethics and business as 2 different aspects. Therefore, the assumption that ethical products means higher costs is made. So in turn, luxury fashion’s high prices means that consumers believe that it is sustainable. But, we’ve already established that this assumption is wrong.

Gucci signage

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Davies et al. suggested that ‘luxury brands are less scrutinised because of their established reputations and they face little pressure to invest in sustainable practices.’ However, this may be changing. In recent years, the pressure to transition to sustainability has been big on businesses and corporations. This is due to the demand for sustainable fashion by consumers. In 2019, a survey revealed that 52% of UK and US consumers wanted the industry to become more sustainable, but 45% struggled to know which brands were committed to sustainable practices. This brings us back around to the need for transparency from brands – we need to see proof of your sustainable practices.

Kering strives for a sustainable luxury fashion industry. Their 3 pillars – care, collaborate, create – shape their strategy in achieving this. Using innovation and creativity, they work with their Houses to develop their sustainability practices. These Houses include Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Brioni, Boucheron, Pomellato, Dodo, Qeelin, Ulysse Nardin, Girard-Perregaux, as well as Kering Eyewear.

In 2019, Kering was named as the second most sustainable company across all industries, and the most sustainable company in Luxury Apparel and Accessories for the second year running. With Kering at the forefront, we will see milestones being met in coming years due to their innovation and tenacity.

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