It seems as though luxury labels are growing to be a bit more green.
The apparel industry has been criticized often by many of the environmental impact of the production of it’s goods. Luxury labels specifically are now feeling the pressure as they experience a change in the demand of a more environmentally conscious consumer. Many big brands are coming to the realization that providing a sustainable product is not just a passing fad but a necessity to the maintenance of a positive brand image, Translation: Billowing black clouds of toxic smoke is not so chic.
Gucci is a great example of a major high end label that has taken a serious stance in favor of reducing their carbon footprint. This year Gucci launched their first ever sustainable soles project for the 2012 pre-fall season. This collection featured both men’s and woman’s foot wear and was designed by the companies creative designer Frida Giannini. The ladies shoe is a stylized jelly like ballet flat and the men’s shoe is more conservative style of sneaker both of which are made out of 100% biodegradable bioplastic, an alternative choice to the typical petrochemical plastics. Upon the release of this project Gucci issued a statement on their website:
“This new project conveys the House’s mission to interpret in a responsible way the modern consumer’s desire for sustainable fashion products, all the while maintaining the balance between the timeless values of style and utmost quality with an ever-growing green vision.”
The sustainable soles project is not the first sustainable fashion project by Gucci a year earlier they issued a collection of sustainable eye wear made out of various materials including recycled metal and wood. Gucci has also adapted all of its packaging so that it is 100% recyclable and is stamped and certified ethically sourced by FDC (forest steward council).
Gucci is not the first or only high end name in the apparel business that has taken a new direction in sustainability for their product, in 2002 Stella McCartney launched her first of many eco labels in which she made the decision to not use any leathers or furs in her collection. Today, Stella McCartney Ltd. is a carbon neutral company, Stella McCartney offices, studios and stores are all powered by a company called Ecocentricity a company that invests the money their customers spend on electricity into clean power sources such as wind.
At a more moderate price point American Apparel’s vertically integrated factory allows all operations to be consolidated in southern California, limiting the amount of energy and fuel used in the shipment of materials. American Apparel integrates sustainability in a variety of different ways such as scraps, at American Apparel they use a mixed marking system in the cutting process in which they match different styles to efficiently use fabric. What scraps that are left over the company uses in their smaller accessories like hair bands. Not every scrap at American Apparel can be used in production, larger pieces of fabric that can’t be used are often given to be used as rags by the janitorial staff of the building and anything that they absolutely can’t use is then sold to 3rd party companies that then recycle the scraps into other products. The American apparel factory is partially powered by roof top solar panels that on a sunny day can generate 150 kilowatts of power. The Employees that work at American Apparel are also encouraged to reflect on their own carbon footprint and the company offers them a bike lending system of 150 bikes with locks and helmets as well as a subsidized transit pass to encourage public transportation.
Sustainability doesn't necessarily need to be a slew of new ideas and innovations but could just be efficient and effective service. Louis Vuitton has been developing their sustainable practices by investing in alternative clean energies and careful monitoring of water usage but something they have always done is repair any of their products free of charge as long as it’s authentic. By ensuring the longevity of their products Louis Vuitton is limiting the amount of waste produced.
The danger in sustainability trends is the obvious green washing of goods which can affect both the customers’ perception of a brand and devalue the product. It’s very important that luxury brands stay transparent and communicate their sustainability initiatives. Notable certifications and standards are helpful when purchasing these kinds of products because it allows the consumer to understand on a greater level what the environmental impact of these brands and items will be. Sustainability is a valuable thing and will no doubt play a large role in the perception of luxury apparel.