Sustainability in the Luxury Industry & Design –

Diana Verde Nieto’s Positive Luxury is a dedicated hub for sustainability in design and fashion, which uses its iconic Butterfly Mark to demarcate brands making a measurable impact on sustainability. Brigitte Stepputtis, the Global Head of Couture at Vivienne Westwood and Franziska Gsell, Chief Marketing Officer of IWC, both figures of seniority in the fashion industry, discuss sustainability in luxury with Diana at this years Luxury Business Sphere Summit. 

Sustainability requires the acquisition of knowledge to facilitate growth and is accepted across platforms, regions and cultures as a global necessity. But “sustainability” is just a meaningless buzz-word if used as a baseless marketing tool. It needs a point of reference if it’s to carry weight in the luxury sphere, which is where 2019’s Luxury Business Sphere Summit comes in. Bringing together interdisciplinary expertise in the design and luxury world, it aims to form a curated community who shape the industry standard, encourage healthy debate, build on their social responsibility and identify luxury’s future. 

The luxury sphere is at odds with itself given the past 30-years’ habits and demands for sustainable luxury are continually made, primarily by millennial voices. While it is true that Generation X are the current consumers with the highest average income, they are brand-loyal in their spending habits. Millennials, contrastly, are the future for luxury spending and they’re more likely to realign their spending if a brand were committing to the movement. The panel discussion acts as a forecast for luxury and sustainability, taking into account both the global push for sustainability and various generations’ approach to it. 

At surface level, this seems like a challenge for luxury brands, particularly when you consider the efforts they’ve gone to in the past to maintain desirability and push newer products forward, like burning leftover stock. However, this is actually an opportunity for luxury brands to combine the power of sustainability, the millennial consciousness and an overall moral approach to consumerism and rise above it. 

Luxury brands are not limited by price caps, especially considering some brands allegedly use the same production processes as the mass-markets. This is the luxury sphere’s opportunity to use the “trend” factor to their advantage, whilst making positive waves and acknowledging their social responsibility. Think only of Chopard’s ethical gold, or Bentley’s vegan leather, and you see how this trend is becoming a mandate rather than a cosmetic alteration. 

The market for luxury resale is limited, though that’s being disrupted. If anything, brands taking ownership of the resale market drives their value up and encourages a luxurious outlook on “secondhand”, fostered by discourse like “timepieces” or “vintage”. This all walks hand-in-hand with the overarching theme of the modern landscape of luxury and the panel set to discuss the implications on brands’ futures. 

As these practices become the norm, the push to be unique rears its head again and more needs to be done. This is why communities such as Luxury Business Sphere are so important, who regard this a positive challenge rather than a limitation. The need for change is not a once-off quick-fix, and the summit acts as a recurring commitment to ensuring the luxury sphere evolves in line with its humanitarian responsibilities, encouraging accountability and enabling growth, rather than staying stagnant or making surface-level changes to quieten the backlash. 

Insights by Winston Chesterfield of Barton Consulting, interpreted by Luxury Business Sphere. To subscribe to Winston’s newsletter click here.