Explore practical steps luxury brands can take to become more sustainable
March 1, 2022
Of all different fashion sectors, the luxury industry seems to have the natural makings that are most in line with sustainable business models.
In fast fashion, items are cheaply made, and garments often become worn and unwearable after just a few uses. Luxury items, however, are made to last. Even if they’re in style for a particular season, the majority of buyers are making luxury purchases with the intent to use garments and accessories for years and years. They’re investments.
And when they do become worn or outgrown — whether in terms of size or a consumer’s personal style — luxury items are typically:
While the luxury industry seems to have all the makings of a sustainable business, companies often fall short in terms of circularity and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles.
Items are certainly made to last longer, but brands may not be as focused on or transparent about key sustainability performance factors (KPIs), including:
A report from UBS Investment Insights shows that millennials are set to make up 45% of luxury goods purchases by 2025. By 2035, Gen Z will make up 40% of the same market, a report from Bain and Company and Farfetch found.
These two demographics, set to account for a majority of the luxury goods market in the coming years, are increasingly putting pressure on brands to be more sustainable.
A joint State of Fashion 2021 report from Business of Fashion and McKinsey found that nine out of 10 Gen Z consumers “believe brands should detail their stances on environmental and social issues.” In another survey, 61% of luxury goods respondents said that knowing a brand cares about sustainability could make a difference in them choosing to make a purchase, Statista reported.
Luxury brands can be leaders in the circular economy, helping the fashion industry contribute to less waste and educating manufacturers, partners and consumers alike.
A few steps luxury brands can take to be more sustainable include:
Brands can hold themselves accountable and help consumers, partners, and manufacturers play their role in the circular economy.
A number of different companies have partnered with brands and consumers in a move to not only make luxury items more accessible for the average consumer, but also make them more sustainable.
Brands can take inspiration from these models as they keep their own items in circulation and encourage consumers to do the same.
This company partners with designers to offer a full size run of garments that they offer for rent on their site to consumers. Rent the Runway also offers items to consumers for resale, where they can purchase them for a discount.
Rent the Runway shows how they’ve helped consumers play a role in the circular economy.
Since joining Rent the Runway:
Headquartered in NYC, Wear Wardrobe partners with celebrities and influencers so consumers can “borrow” their clothes for a fee.
The company notes it is carbon-neutral, aims to use boxes made from recycled materials, recycles 100% of boxes after receiving products back from customers, and never uses single-use plastic.
While luxury clothing rental companies offer a way for consumers to reduce consumption, some critics have noted that these models rely heavily on shipping — which is not the best for the planet.
While thrift and consignment stores are popular with many shoppers, online platforms like Depop, The Real Real and eBay give consumers a place to make luxury goods transactions. Sellers can keep their luxury items in use, and buyers can purchase goods while keeping the planet in mind.