Tired of increasing air pollution, water contamination, heavily chemical-induced soil and all the resulting mayhem, citizens of the world, including luxury brands, are finally taking note, and making major changes which will paint a healthier world. Sustainability, even in luxury, is going to rule the next decade
By: Roasie Virq Ahluwalia
Posted on: January 29, 2020
If there is one word that will gain currency in 2020 and the years ahead, it is ‘Sustainability’. It is not just a fashionable fad, but a lifestyle that you will need to survive. Climate change is now a term of yesterday, we are already in the midst of multiple climate crises. Quick on the uptake, many global luxury brands have made sustainability their inherent value. As Meghan Markle put it when she spoke at the British Fashion Awards, 2019 is the year where ‘it’s cool to be kind’, and ethical fashion has never been higher on the agenda. Come 2020 and the voices are more widespread. To survive you have to sustain.
Our generation has probably been fortunate enough to literally have ‘been there and done that’, consumerism and brand euphoria being at their peak in the decade gone by. Come 2020 and there seems to be a visible shift in the way most people are thinking. Hence we prefer to call it the evolution of the human mind. It is no co-incidence that 16 year-olds such as Greta Thunberg are on the cover of Time Magazine for highlighting climate issues and what governments have thus far failed to tackle.
According to Euromonitor International’s Lifestyles Survey 2019, 60% of global respondents agreed or strongly agreed that climate change is a worrying issue, up from 55% in 2015. As a result, the percentage of respondents feeling good about buying ecologically or ethically sourced products grew from 24% in 2015 to 28% in 2019 globally. Vegan, fair trade and natural are becoming must-have brand credentials.
From Fashion to Art, everyone is trying to reduce their carbon impact. After Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney who have pioneered the movement, everyone is turning to green, as it’s becoming more and more apparent that fast fashion is damaging the planet. H&M’s ‘Conscious Collection’ is all about creating fashion from re-cycled fabrics. Of course there is a lot of green-washing too that happens, but sustainability is undeniably something no brand can discount the need for if they are to keep their customers coming back.
However, a larger question remains – are luxury brands able to be completely sustainable? Most luxury brands are built on heritage and craftsmanship. Mastering processes that have been passed down the generations do not always leave space for innovation. To be sustainable and not do damage to the environment, many processes in manufacturing have to change. Some brands like G-Star RAW have done exactly that. They have mastered the technique of low wastage. A few other brands have followed suit.
Auction house Christie’s recently committed to halve their print production by the end of 2020 and put most of their catalogs online. ‘Luxury with sustainability’ is the new buzz-phrase for 2020.
In automobiles, Tesla being a front-runner in the concept of emission free vehicles, is being followed by Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Mazda, Suzuki and every other car brand on the planet today. Green is the new black.
Closer home, corporations such as ITC in the India sub-continent have made a serious commitment to ecological and sustainable living. WelcomHotels Lanka is dedicated to delivering the finest – and greenest - residential and hotel complex in Colombo along with its attached Sapphire Residences project.
Then there are also ethical brands that give back to the communities via charities and other unique initiatives. Fashion brand Ninety Percent is one such company, as the name suggests. They give back 90% of their proceeds to charities in Bangladesh and Turkey. Kate Spade New York has taken a different approach to the ‘per-product donation’ with its On Purpose initiative, where it has actually fully integrated ethical suppliers in its production chain.
If product modification is not an option, luxury brands are looking for other avenues to make a difference. Mexico City, in partnership with Pernod Ricard, is fighting air pollution with giant murals using airlite paint, an innovative product that neutralises air pollutants. It works similarly to photosynthesis; when exposed to sunlight, the paint oxygenates the polluted air around it. Through the Absolut Street Tree initiative, three murals have been painted to eliminate the total volume of pollutants generated by 60,000 cars!
From a consumer point of view there is an increasing thought process veering towards reducing conspicuous consumption in one’s daily lives. Shall we blame it on uncertain futures of global economies, where people want to hold their money close, or be more optimistic and call it evolution? I’d personally support the latter.
‘Vegan January’ has been taking social media by storm. There is a clear movement out there asking people to turn Vegan in January 2020. A one-month challenge! There is after all sufficient data to prove that most of the damage to the environment comes from meat-processing industries or dairy farms.
So even if you’re not a champion for animal rights, you could get logical and try to reduce environmental damage by taking small steps in the direction that could save the planet’s future and that of your kids.
Roasie Virq Ahluwalia consults with luxury brands and also runs her own NGO, The Air Foundation, with the purpose of creating awareness about co-existence with the planet and devising sustainable solutions. The organization is hosting The Earth Carnival (India's first fully Green Event), which is scheduled for March 2020.