It’s time to redefine the luxury paradigm to include questions of sustainability; in response, new age entrepreneurs are greening industry trends with everything from ethical fashion to eco-indulgence.
As a researcher in sustainability, I have always been fascinated with the influence luxury and fashion (LF) has on our society. When considering such influence, what is both impressive and of course ironic about LF is how it has contributed significantly to the rise of hyper hedonistic behavior, consumerism without awareness, and of course indulgence which has no bounds and limits. Within this scenario, while the typical luxury brands continue to capitalize on consumerism and mimetic desire, upcoming LF startups are redefining the purpose of fashion. Over the past few years I have witnessed a great deal of buzz surrounding sustainability in LF. Don’t be prejudiced; here is the world where product innovation and values are combined with the fine craft of the designer, while adding to it the intention of bringing a change to society! By the way , whether you have witnessed it or not, this task has often been undertaken by the New Age league comprising of interns, entrepreneurs, designers and individuals possessing skills set of creativity, boldness and the high spirit necessary to change the status quo.
Sustainable Luxury is the New Reality
When the idea of sustainable luxury comes up in conversation, the first reactions I often get are: “Luxury and fashion? How is it possible? Can it be really sustainable?” Rather than over indulging in my response, I often respond with examples. The core of sustainability in LF is innovation; this holds true in each and every aspect of business. Take the example of 1.618 Luxury Guide, it showcases not only the best practices in creativity, innovation and luxury products from different sectors and the ability to be environmentally conscious, but it also radiates the core values held by this company. While 1.618 Luxury isn’t involved in product development, its innovation lies in their initiative to highlight sustainability practices through international exhibitions.
Another great example of sustainable fashion is of course of one of my former students Daniela. Daniela recently launched her online fashion store known as Bastet Noire in Skopje, Macedonia. She drew her inspiration from the present situation in Macedonia. When I asked her, why Macedonia, she replied:
“Unfortunately, I don’t come from a country with a rich fashion history, so that’s why many people are not familiar with the tag made in Macedonia. The fashion industry in Macedonia is reduced to mainly providing sewing services for famous fashion houses abroad where the fashion designers are working as quality controllers and they simply don’t have the freedom to express their creative spirit. Despite the fact that Macedonia offers quality for low price, this destination is somehow very well hidden when it comes to fashion. You can’t find information anywhere on the fact that the outfit is actually made in Macedonia.”
Daniela was able to create her own story. Her unique journey is exemplary of the necessary engagement that is required for all stakeholders to create an innovative LF startup. What is relatively unique, this is not just a startup focused on product launch and profits; instead, this story’s protagonist looks at making a difference in society, at creating a platform of change and at designing fashion that expresses and embraces the boldness that is needed to tackle the socio-economic issues of today’s society.
“This is how the idea of came to be. The main reason of the website is promotion of the Macedonian fashion designers outside the Macedonian borders via offering designs which are mostly made of natural, fair traded and eco-friendly materials. Macedonia has many high quality fashion designers whose ideas would be left on paper only, unless there’s something like “Bastet Noir”. The lack of platforms like this which will help designers with their future careers is the reason I started this business “
– Daniela Milosheska, Founder, Bastet Noire
The Role of Luxury and Fashion Sector
The examples presented in this article are only but a few; further examples include the well-established luxury brand Chopard’s Green initiative launched at Cannes Film Festival “The Journey”, to turn the Red Carpet “Green”.
Big luxury brands may go green, and celebrities may more frequently call for more sustainable luxury, however, this does not change the obvious truth. Established businesses do not possess the sustainability mindset required to be truly successful in this market. Likewise, luxury consumers also tend to fall short. It is for this reason that a lag in sustainable luxury and fashion exists. Startups, on the other hand, do possess the capacity and the mindset of sustainability needed in today’s present generation.
In order for us to change the way we see luxury and fashion, we need to encourage more startups and wider platforms to create new business models of sustainable LF. More importantly, we need millennials who are very well positioned to connect the missing dots. From hedonism to compassion, from over indulgence to care, from ignorance to awareness; we need to make choices now, not just for one’s self, but to inspire, innovate and impact the world around us.