In 2017, Burberry destroyed roughly $36.5 million worth of their designer goods. They were not the only ones; Chanel and Louis Vuitton among countless fashion houses are guilty of this as well. The modern, more conscious, luxury consumer can no longer turn a blind eye to the sheer abundance of waste across numerous designer houses.
These luxury houses maintain prestige and exclusivity with limited stock, high prices, and little, if not at all, markdowns. Unsold inventory damages a brand’s status and sends a social cue to the public that there’s low demand and with the cyclical trend pattern, that the brand is out of style.. Slashing item prices would solve the said stock, but that too would tarnish a brand’s exclusivity if a consumer can simply wait until a sale drops to save money.
Brands today share the common theme of mass production, frequent releases, and an overload of excessive consumerism. This behavior, coupled with the price exclusivity of designer, led to the rise of fast fashion and unsustainable consumer habits that focus on constant newness. Because of this, companies such as H&M have millions of dollars of unsold and unwanted clothing; there are air terminal sized storage halls full of purposeless textiles.
In a labor standards report by KnowTheChain, Prada, known for their highly expensive nylon bags and accessories, was rated a low score of 9 out of 100 in regards to their attempt to consciously source fair labor.
Luxury houses, supposed pillars of fashion and culture, are just as susceptible to the exploitation of labor and wasteful practices as any other company. With that in mind, are consumers and purveyors of fashion and art left to wonder how their wares are produced without a clear conscience? How are we to hold fashion giants accountable for their actions in a growing technological era? It is shown that brands who pursue social initiatives and sustainability missions are seen as more appealing to the modern consumer, who is not only informed but desiring to back their morals with capital. In a sense, it is becoming increasingly profitable for companies to be more environmentally conscious than ever before. According to Simon, Kucher & Partners report, the modern environmentally friendly consumers are willing to pay approximately 10-20% premiums for sustainable garments. What’s even more influential is that 80% of Gen Z shoppers, a powerful and growing consumer base, has the highest willingness to pay for sustainable options, which proves that the socially conscious consumer is not going away anytime soon. Brands such as Reformation, Allbirds, and Lutz Morris are spearheading the industry and pride themselves on establishing the standard for ethical fashion.
Brands such as Chanel, Burberry, and Prada have each respectively launched sustainability initiatives that focus on reinventing their house’s DNA in regards to current consumer trends.
Prada’s Re-Nylon, with the first collection launching the first part of this year, aims to upcycle plastics from bottles and other huge contributors of waste into their signature nylon material. Burberry is implementing recycled materials into its classic check DNA and aims to hold its production facilities accountable concerning regular sustainability reports. With Gucci banning fur and releasing their latest ten-year plan for their environmentally conscious programs, they are promising to cut their total environmental footprint up to 40% by 2025. Chanel released a sustainability bond that compensates its investors if they do not follow their sustainability guidelines, creating accountability for the fashion giant who is known for burning millions of dollars of merchandise to maintain exclusivity.
LVMH is approaching things in different ways. In 2019, they unveiled plans for AURA, a blockchain application that aims to identify and grant consumers the ability to know where every component of their goods are from. This transparency in their supply chain allows consumers to feel better about their purchases, promoting a feeling of honesty between designers and customers. They aim to source 30% of their energy from renewable sources and responsibly obtain precious stones and furs from reputable suppliers. But it does not stop there; these goals can only be achieved as long as consumers and designers alike choose to consciously work toward sustainability.
Fashion companies have a duty to ensure that they are honestly reporting their sustainability reports and consumers have the right to this information as well as access to resources such as Lyst that annually review conscious fashion missions. The future of fashion is in the hands of a mighty few fashion conglomerates, but it is up to consumers and their purchasing power to guide fashion forward towards a sustainable future.