How sustainable is Luxury Fashion? is a question I’ve received more than once. Most of the time by luxury designers who care enough about the environment to want to be considered sustainable. (Hello Friends)
Therefore, I decided to break down what it means to be sustainable in the context of luxury fashion.
Sustainability = ethics + environment + economy
Does Luxury fashion as a whole meet these standards? Overall, no, but through looking at individual brands, it could. Let’s look at why:
Luxury Fashion is Artisanal
When it comes to luxury fashion, every piece is personally crafted to look the best or be a statement. It’s not about functionality… or at least when it comes to Haute Couture. Luxury Fashion is a pretty vast term to describe anything between runway fashion, street fashion, Instagram fashion, and quality garments you wear in your everyday life.
How artisanal a garment is, does not automatically determine it’s sustainability. Though, it does determine it’s purpose. Just because something is artisanal doesn’t mean it is unsustainable because sustainability does not have to exclude artwork.
Instead, we have to look at the larger picture of a garment to determine it’s sustainability
Sustainability is All About Scalability
Sustainability is all about the balance between the environment, ethics, and economy. Luxury fashion falls into one of those rare breeds of fashion where it can easily account for environmental factors and ethical wages, but have a hard time making money unless it is very exclusive or very expensive.
Luxury by definition means scarce and rather expensive… at least to the average population. Things that were considered Luxuries 100+ years ago are commonplace today. Electricity, indoor plumbing, modern medicine were all luxuries, but today they are necessities.
Those things became necessities once the majority of the population had access to them… or at least they lost their “luxury status.” From this perspective, Luxury fashion is all about innovation. Innovation starts with a small idea or concept and when it becomes scalable over time.
Therefore, a luxury garment may become a truly sustainable garment for a large portion of the population once it loses its luxury status.
Luxury Fashion is Pretty Ethical
Most of the time luxury fashion is produced domestically. This does not guarantee that all luxury fashion will be considered ethical, just that it has the potential to be. Even though a garment is made domestically, the beadwork may be done by unpaid interns who are working for “experience.” In my view, that is pretty unethical.
What really defines ethical fashion cannot be determined by a ranking system, but by the story of the garment itself.
Therefore, if Luxury fashion considers and accounts for the environment, ethics, and the economy, it can be considered sustainable… but at that point, you’re just better off calling it sustainable fashion.