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Luxury Brands Look to Improve their Eco Standing


The luxury sector is often synonymous with opulence, excessive price tags, and expensive materials that have included the likes of animal skin, furs and cashmeres. However, with growing concerns for animal welfare, the environment and the ethical treatment of supply chain workers, the luxury sector has had to seriously readdress its business model and values.

A 2020 study from Nielsen stated that pre-pandemic, 74 percent of U.S. Millennials [1] said they are more likely to buy from brands supporting social issues they care about.

If anything, the pandemic has reinforced this thinking. As Millennials and Generation Z consumers are responsible for the future of 85 percent [2] of global luxury sales growth, this is an issue luxury brands cannot ignore.

This young and affluent generation has grown-up with an environmental conscience. As we enter a philanthropic age, brands need to offer more than just quality made goods, they need to ensure their entire business model is transparent and clean at every stage.

So how are luxury brands incorporating these positive stories of sustainability into their narrative? Luxury designer brand Chanel [3] became carbon neutral in 2019 and is part of the Fashion Pact, a global coalition of companies in the industry committed to common environmental goals. In March, the brand launched Mission 1.5°, pledging to reduce carbon emissions through sustainability targets by 2030, in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement targets.

Stella McCartney has been, somewhat, an environmental pioneer in the luxury fashion sector. The designer’s brand ethos has been clear since its conception in 2001; a vegetarian company that rejects the use of skins, leather, feather or furs. Every material or product considered for use is questioned in terms of its environmental impact on humans as well as animals.

The brand states on its website: “We are committed to always being responsible, honest and accountable today, with a positive impact on people, the planet and all its creatures so that we can protect it for tomorrow.” Stella McCartney was one of the first designers to ever use Mylo in her studio and has been instrumental in bringing the material to life. Mylo is a sustainable alternative to leather and is certified bio-based, meaning it’s made from predominantly renewable ingredients that can be found in nature, such as mushrooms [4] .

Fabric made of TENCEL™ Luxe

The red carpet provides the perfect stage to showcase desirable, luxurious style, even better if twinned with ethical credentials. Following the success of their 2020 partnership, Red Carpet Green Dress™ (RCGD) and TENCEL™ brand, the textile segment from sustainability fiber producer Lenzing, collaborated for a second year running to create an eco-material for a custom handmade gown for the Oscars. TENCEL™ Luxe branded lyocell filament yarn was incorporated into an archival Vivienne Westwood fabric to create a one-of-a-kind sustainable gown worn by actress Marlee Maitlin on the red carpet.

Marlee Maitlin at the Oscars in the sustainable, one-of-a-kind gown, photo credit: Red Carpet Green Dress™

Harold Weghorst, Vice President of Global Marketing & Branding at Lenzing shared: “Once again, we are thrilled to partner with Red Carpet Green Dress to bring eco-couture to the spotlight. While our TENCEL™ Luxe branded lyocell filament yarn is derived from wood harvested from controlled sources and is one of the most sustainable materials used in fashion, we are not stopping there. At TENCEL™, we are on a journey to True Carbon Zero, with a vision to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and contribute to a carbon neutral fashion industry. We hope that our collaboration will encourage more designers and brands to look out for materials that do not only expand the frontiers of aesthetic appeal, but also make a difference to our planet.” [5]

Red Carpet Green Dress™ was conceived in response to a lack of ethical choices on the red carpet. Founded by leading environmental advocate, Suzy Amis Cameron, the organisation has been committed to creating positive change for over a decade.

Fabric innovations have become fundamental for luxury brands looking to improve their eco standing. For example, Gucci [6]  has introduced its “Off The Grid” collection that uses recycled, organic, bio-based and sustainable sourced materials including ECONYL®— a nylon fabric sourced from regenerated materials (such as fishing nets, carpets and other scraps).

Similarly, take-back and upcycling schemes are another initiative to take note of in the luxury sector. The RealReal [7] , a leader in authenticated luxury consignment, has always been devoted to giving new life to secondhand luxury fashion, and now the resale retailer has expanded on its mission. The company has teamed with eight luxury brands to launch a collaborative upcycled collection, transforming distressed or damaged clothing into new, one-of-a-kind luxury pieces.

Called “ReCollection”, The RealReal’s new upcycling program will allow the retailer the opportunity to connect consumers with items that previously would have been too damaged to sell. The pieces in the first edition of ReCollection were upcycled by L.A.-based circular fashion initiative Atelier & Repairs to create new pieces without any virgin fabrications for a zero-waste process.

ReCollection gives new life to more than 50 pieces, and each item has since been made into a one-off piece that promotes the importance of creating an afterlife for clothing. 

Environmentally conscious brands are now collectively thinking of new and inventive ways to keep items in circulation for longer, this combined with the latest fabric innovations, either sourced from nature or by reusing existing materials, is pushing sustainable luxury in the right direction.


[1] https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2020/sustainable-brands-can-pivot-with-purpose-to-help-address-covid-19/

[2] https://luxe.digital/business/digital-luxury-reports/future-online-luxury-retail/

[3] https://www.chanel.com/gb/climate-report/

[4] https://www.stellamccartney.com/gb/en/

[5] https://www.tencel.com/news-and-events/lenzings-tencel-brand-collaborates-with-red-carpet-green-dress-to-bring-custom-made-ecocouture-look-to-the-oscars

[6] https://www.gucci.com/uk/en_gb/st/capsule/circular-line-off-the-grid  

[7] https://www.therealreal.com/  

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