Positive Luxury Without Excuse – There Is Demand, You Have The Tools. The 21st century has found the world plagued by economic, social and environmental problems. Organisations can no longer rely just on their internal capabilities to solve the environmental and social issues, and for that, new collaborative business models are required.
To ignite a change towards more positive luxury, brands must shift from ‘procurement – manufacturing – consumption and waste’ to ‘innovative procurement – manufacturing – consumption and recycling. The adoption of innovative/circular approaches in the fashion industry by 2030 will not only tackle the environmental and social issues but also add to the economic sustainability, according to a forecasted savings sum of up to 4.5 trillion US dollars.
Positive Luxury – Inspiring Generations
The circular economy, in general, and recycling, in particular, requires innovation at the raw material level. Previous years innovations came in the shape of leather alternatives made of mushroom and winemaking leftovers, lab-grown leather, textiles from orange peel and algae, and eco-friendly plastics made from plant waste with solar energy.
In the 90s, the mistreatment of workers in the apparel industry became almost synonymous with big sportswear brands such as Adidas, Nike, and Puma, amongst many others. However, in recent years, corporate social responsibility regulations led to an increase in ethical practices.
However, while most luxury brands are still hesitating to adopt and deploy such innovative materials, large fitness apparel brands are leading the sustainable fashion movement with innovative market-ready products.
For instance, in a CSR driven initiative, Adidas teamed up with the environmental group ‘Parley for the Oceans‘, to create a limited edition shoe from recycled ocean plastics. The project was a great success, and it is now a global phenomenon. Thanks to Parley shoes, Adidas has become a leader of the eco-fashion movement, inspiring the next generation of consumers.
Positive Luxury – Stella McCartney Experiment
Adidas Parley is created with yarn made from recycled waste, intercepted from beaches and coastal communities before it reaches the ocean. The shoe has an NFC chip in the heel of the right shoe which allows the wearer to scan it via a smartphone to follow the story of the trainers, from the fishing net or the plastic bottle up to the final product. Moreover, through the app, the buyers can learn what they can do best to protect the oceans.
Although recent academic papers suggest that recycled materials do not appeal much to luxury consumers, Stella McCartney’s latest collaboration with ‘Parley for the Oceans’ demonstrates just the opposite. The mesh and the uppers of McCartney’s Ultraboost trainers are crafted from the same recycled waste used by Adidas in their limited edition line of sneakers.
By stepping up to mix environmental care with high-performance technology, luxury brand Stella McCartney proves that positive luxury is possible, even with the help of recycled materials.
Positive Luxury – The Rise Of Ethical Luxury Consumer
For those arguing that recycled materials are suitable only for shoe soles and packaging and not for ‘close-skin’ apparel, such as shirts and underwear, last year there were over 15,000 startups developing innovative and advanced materials for the fashion industry, as functional alternatives to leather and other unsustainable materials, for brands seeking to engage in positive luxury.
The demand for positive luxury and sustainable products has never been stronger, and only through catalysing innovative ideas, luxury brands can cater to a growing population of ethical luxury consumers, while improving their environmental and social impact.
And while there are fears and concerns that technological infusion could weaken the much-required attributes in the strategy of luxury brands, – such as heritage, craftsmanship, uniqueness and quality of materials, – in reality, the adoption of technological innovation and smart materials will only augment them.
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In this light, digital innovation has the power to create new narratives and compelling emotional stories behind the raw materials, the manufacturing processes and the social impact that sustainable luxury products can create. As such, in the global war towards a more efficient use of resources, achieving sustainability, and ethical consumption, innovation is the most efficient tool.