The Concept of Sustainable Luxury

The concept of sustainability was officially established in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development [Brundtland Commission, (1987), p.47]: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs.”

From being a stranger to the luxury fashion as such, due to its laconic aesthetics and consumers’ limited interest in ethical issues around production processes, sustainability is now turning into an integrated part of the concept of luxury. However, both concepts do not have any concrete definition, where sustainability is a comprehensive framework with wide interpretation, difficulties, and opportunities, meanwhile luxury is still today rather seen as contradictory to the phenomenon of fast fashion. It creates a broad field of mutual integration. The concept of luxury is often based on consumers’ individual reflections, what, in the first place, makes it difficult to establish any definition and secondly, to expect the consumers to independently adapt the concept of sustainability into their perception of luxury.

By merely accentuating the potential impact of any rare purchase on sustainable development, the luxury brands create a certain equality, what is contradictory to the concept of luxury which is a priori discriminatory.

Thus, the responsibility of integrating the concept of sustainability into the luxury concept – side by side with its classical elements: dream/desire, heritage, quality, exclusivity and beauty/art – is logically belongs to the strongest players, ergo the industry and more precisely the management teams. In the future, luxury companies might need a liberation to optimise profit instead of maximising the latter without jeopardising the brand value, risking the shareholders’ loyalty. The first step for the luxury brands could be to redefine their business model concerning four fundamental values: financial, functional, individual and social.

Palais Galliera

Speaking fashion language, there is, thus, a luxury consumer perspective, where sustainability from being a certain ‘normcore’ becoming a sustainable part of the concept of luxury, creating a trickle-up effect for the luxury brand.

However, Jean-Noël Kapferer emphasises the importance of double-sided development consisting of both slow growth and social harmony, what creates a predisposition for sustainability to become a part of quality or desire (e.g. Tesla). By merely accentuating the potential impact of any rare purchase on sustainable development, the luxury brands create a certain equality, what is contradictory to the concept of luxury which is a priori discriminatory. Therefore, the luxury brands have to reinforce their legitimacy of the concept of luxury as such by renegotiating the latter in relation to sustainability. Such strategy should affect the consumer’s perception of luxury fashion concerning economic, psychological, and marketing views without killing the desire and exclusivity. As a result, such development should also change the luxury consumption pattern for the consumers.

However, both concepts do not have any concrete definition, where sustainability is a comprehensive framework with wide interpretation, difficulties, and opportunities, meanwhile luxury is still today rather seen as contradictory to the phenomenon of fast fashion.

Speaking fashion language, there is, thus, a luxury consumer perspective, where sustainability from being a certain ‘normcore’ becoming a sustainable part of the concept of luxury, creating a trickle-up effect for the luxury brand. Meanwhile, luxury brands by means of their strategy, which should be built on transparency and information flow, create a trickle-down effect, creating new points of reference and, thereby, giving the consumer the luxury s-/he desires.

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I believe when knowledge meets passion they can do a lot for a person, making the person pass it on to the people around one and this is how, I think, any changes in the world take place.