“It is no longer about making sustainability part of our strategy. Our strategy is sustainability,” announced Anne Pitcher, Selfridges Managing Director, during her acceptance speech at the Positive Luxury awards. The future of luxury is sustainable with many brands already paving the way with innovative sustainable strategies. You don’t have to be an analyst to recognise the dramatic shift in customer demands.
The 38% of consumers switching from a preferred brand to a brand that is more sustainable or responsible is what is leading this demand. Brands are no longer able to ignore this fact and have to put sustainability at the forefront of their business models. There are high costs involved in making these changes, however not as high as the cost of becoming irrelevant. There has been a dramatic change in the way the modern luxury consumer wants to be seen; it is no longer about being flashy or extravagant, it is now about being ethical, environmentally conscious and aware.
Erwan Rambourg reminded the industry “the mission of luxury is to capture the cultures eye cast”: it is time for the industry to be reminded.
The thriving resale market, once disregarded by the luxury industry, is now proving to be something of a lifeline for luxury brands to reinvent themselves and increase customer confidence. The resale market, set to be worth an astonishing $40 billion this year is growing whether luxury brands get on board or not.
The Kering digital chief Grégory Boutté commented “we don’t want to close our eyes and pretend it’s not happening”. So why not have a seat at the table and have a say in how this new future is navigated? Investments are flooding in from big companies such as Kering, who acquired a 5% stake in the recently valued $1 billion company Vestaire Collective.
This investment and the fact that the world's largest luxury goods conglomerate LVMH is “looking carefully at” the resale market with plans to be announced in the coming months shows that this is not just a trend, but in fact, a significant component in luxury’s future. The likes of Selfridges and Harrods welcoming the new future, by bringing resale partners in-house, is an undeniable gesture of support for this change.
The resale industry is not the only aspect of sustainability that luxury has adopted. There has been a deliberate shift and newfound appreciation for the development of new, more sustainable materials and practices. Designer Anya Hindmarch, electric vehicle company Polestar and luxury property company Northacre lead the way as examples of how the level of quality associated with luxury need not be compromised and can be upheld with alternative, sustainable materials and methods.
After all, does the modern consumer really want to be seen carrying real leather luggage or wearing a real fur coat? The environmental conscientiousness of the average consumer has sky-rocketed in the last 10 years, gathering pace each year. The “guiding star to sustainability”, EV brand Polestar, is our real-life ‘Back to the Future’ where “luxury is being reimagined” by focusing on a circular economy by designing products that are “reusable, regenerable and recyclable”, such as recycled plastic bottles, reclaimed fishnets and flax-based natural composites, foreshadowing what is to come for the luxury automotive industry, once Polestar has paved the way.
What we’re seeing are brands leading the way with innovative ways of appealing to the modern consumer by going the extra mile. Instead of just minimising or preventing more damage to the environment in their production methods and processes, they are asking themselves what they can do for the environment. This added feature will go beyond helping eliminate guilt with each purchase or interaction and the risk of being the culprit to the recent cancel culture which is flooding our news feeds with companies being shamed. However, there is nothing riskier than greenwashing your way out of this one.
Bain & Co. state Millenials and Gen Z accounted for 100% of the growth of luxury in 2019 and 2020. Meaning, if you aren’t on board with making your brand sustainable, you might not have a brand left.
There are plenty of brands that have sustainability on their radar however, are getting lost in the crowd. The brands that are grasping the attention of the new wave of customers are shaping the future reality of fashion. Here are some other brands that are standing out and dedicated to making a difference:
Rolex has had sustainability as one of its main values since Hans Wilsford created Rolex with his vision of the planet being a living laboratory. Rolex’s inspiring dedication to preserving the planet and educating about climate change from grant schemes, Awards for Enterprise and partnerships with non-profit organisations such a National Geographic has placed them as one of the most influential luxury brands in the space.
The first florist to be awarded the butterfly mark by Positive Luxury in 2019, has been flourishing in the sustainability space. Bringing natural beauty to the most luxurious venues and homes around the world without compromising on its 'duty to protect Mother Nature in every possible way'. The go-to luxury florist has made sure that their packaging and farming methods fit for the environmentally conscious, bespoke bags that are built to last, recycled and recyclable wrapping paper and more.
The Brando was able to not only bring paradise to reality but also combine it with sustainability, giving customers the best of both worlds. The favourite to many celebrities, Barack Obama being one of those who got to enjoy. The resort has outdone itself in methods and techniques used to entice the customer through the material they used to build the hotel, to produce their own water using the osmosis technology, to being Platinum-certified in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). These are only a few of the ways that this luxury hotel stands out.
These examples show how luxury brands can be inspirational, meet high expectations but also try and contribute to making the world a better place. It is no longer just about your product, be that a service or a physical product. Going above and beyond as the brands we mention will make a significant difference to the future of your brand and whether or not you will be on the lips of the customer.
Greenwashing is no longer an option that so many big brands have previously opted for, now is the time for real change and this will be proven by the number of brands that will soon become irrelevant due to their inability to innovate and adapt to the new demands that are shaping our future.
Luxury branding will have a huge role to play in how you position yourself to the market and communicate how you are making a positive difference but one thing is certain: