At the centre of sustainability

(Posted on 2.1.2014)

‘Sustainable luxury’ is a term you’ll be hearing a lot more in 2014 and beyond. From Gucci to Choppard, Kering to Cartier, as global luxury brands respond to growing consumer demand for environmental and social excellence it’s now recognised that sustainability equates to authenticity. According to Nicola Giuggioli, brother to Livia Firth and the CEO of Eco Age, “luxury is perhaps the most poised for instigating positive change within the fashion industry”.

The Sustainable Luxury Awards took place recently in Buenos Aires and we are delighted that Nina Rennie, the founder of Nueluxe and a Lawfully Chic blogger, won the award in the media professional category. Having launched in 2011 with a primary focus on Latin America, recognition for the awards is now growing internationally, with the next awards ceremony taking place in Madrid, Spain in July 2014. Lawfully Chic interviewed Miguel Angel Gardetti, the director of the Centre for Studies on Sustainable Luxury and founder of the Sustainable Luxury Awards.

LC: Tell us about your organisation and the awards?

MAG: Most consumers of luxury products and services use them as a symbol of success. However, the definition of success –and the way it is perceived by others – is changing. Many of these successful consumers now want the brands they use to reflect their concerns and aspirations for a better world. Driven by this scenario, the Instituto de Estudios para la Sustentabilidad Corporativa [Centre for Study of Corporate Sustainability], located in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has decided to create the Centre for Studies on Sustainable Luxury.

Our centre’s mission is to assist luxury companies in their transition to sustainability, thus encouraging sustainable business practices across all areas of the organisation and its supply chain. To this end, academic learning and research will become vital for future “sustainable” leaders. This means taking a broader picture to ensure that social and environmental issues are completely integrated into the decision-making process.

The main purpose of the awards is to acknowledge the culture and practice of sustainability in the luxury sector and hence of their communication, in order to incentive a “more sustainable” and therefore “more authentic” luxury, and a contribution to the private initiative to ensure financially, environmentally, and socially sustainable practices.

LC: For those who are new to this subject and for those who consider the term an oxymoron, how can sustainable luxury save the world?

MAG: Luxury brands can lead to a more responsible way of consuming through their influence on people around the world. The brands promote concepts of quality, style and, ultimately, success. Today “success”, in consumers’ perception, includes respect for each other and the planet upon which we depend.

Sustainable luxury brands could represent the greatest positive contribution that any product or service can make to people and the planet. The luxury consumer has both the means and the motivation to ensure care for the environment and improve other people and could improve their quality of life and work to develop such market. Though our research and activities we have seen many projects that have developed an inclusive supply chain with poor and vulnerable communities and show respect for the local culture, and, in turn, develop environmentally sustainable products.

LC: How much is interest in and demand for sustainable luxury growing?

MAG: Luxury is becoming less exclusive and less wasteful and more about helping people to express their deepest values. And in line with this, it can be observed within the luxury industry that new companies – emerging brands – are based on values and this is attractive for a select number of consumers since this kind of companies can generate a big impact due to the potential for reaching a larger market. These brands have an active attitude based on a very pronounced approach on values with the intention to generate social and environmental changes. For that reason they revalue the local culture and the deep sense on native peoples, among others, and this is occurring particularly in Latin America.

Regarding the established brands, (the “Goliaths”), some initiatives have begun to appear. These include, among others, the prestigious Italian company Loro Piana, which organised a consortium that included Condortips, a textile producer from Arequipa (southern Peru), Italian knit fabric producer Lanerie Agnona SpA – at present owned by Ermenegildo Zegna – and the Government of Peru. In the jewellery sector, Cartier is working with the Italian gold mining company Goldlake, operating in Honduras through its subsidiary Eurocantera, which combines zero waste from its mine and processing facilities, 100% mitigation of ecosystems and natural habitats and the use of zero-pollution technologies. In order to implement these goals, Goldlake combines a modern alluvial gold mine (meaning the gold is found in water, close the surface, requiring no blasting into rock) with small-scale miners who use traditional methods of panning gold.

Another interesting example is Hermès, which “discovered” the value of craftsmanship and found new life for its products, disseminating the ancestral Tenangos embroideries. The tenangos are pieces of textile art that identify the Otomi region of Tenango de Doria, in Hidalgo, Mexico, and have become the codices of the present. In them, the community leaves the testimony of everyday life, in which their rites and ceremonies, the field, the games, the homes and the region, among other things, are reflected. This project was born in around 2009 once the international firm was interested in working with the best craftsmen of Mexico.

Osklen’s creative director Oskar Metsavaht with Spanish businesswoman María Eugenia Girón

Osklen’s creative director Oskar Metsavaht with Spanish businesswoman María Eugenia Girón

LC: Oskar Metsavaht of Osklen fame received an award this year and attended the ceremony. Could you tell us more about that?

MAG: Osklen was awarded this year under the category “Clothing and Accessories” and we were honoured that Oskar Metsavaht, the creative director of the brand, attended the event. Osklen is a Brazilian brand which believes that fashion and design are potential tools for leveraging the sustainable development in Brazil. Oriented for this value, Osklen’s winter 2007 collection, Amazon Guardians, made full use of organic wool, natural latex and fish leather which was used for a range of brightly-coloured accessories. These fabrics were developed in partnership with Instituto-e, a not-for-profit organisation which has the mission promoting sustainable human development in Brazil. Since then, in all Osklen’s collections it’s possible to find these sustainable materials, named “e-fabrics” ™. Through Instituto-e’s partnership with Osklen, a royalty is derived from sales of products using these e-fabrics.

To learn more about the Centre for Study of Sustainable Luxury and the Sustainable Luxury Awards, visit:

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