“Nature is our most important designer,” said Tiffany &Co.’s Chairman and CEO Michael J. Kowalski announcing the company’s commitment to the environment last November.
I am sure many other fashion and luxury CEOs could sign up to this statement. Since its dawn, the fashion industry has drawn inspiration from nature. Think, for instance, about the peacock’s tail or foliage in the fall – when it comes to putting colours together, leading designers take their cue from the environment around us.
Jewellery in particular lends itself beautifully to nature-inspired creations. Tiffany & Co., for one, has launched a collection featuring flowers, leaves and butterflies. For its part, the luxury house Chopard created a one-of-a-kind fantasy world of bejeweled animals to celebrate its 150th anniversary.
In fact, many luxury brands tend to associate themselves with charismatic animals or turn them into their logos. Think Cartier and its famous panther, or Lacoste with its signature crocodile.
“Certain logos have a more iconic function. In the category of images, the most frequent are those of animals. This harks back to the heraldic tradition, when animals were a prime source of inspiration for the escutcheons of the aristocracy,” write Michel Chevalier and Gerald Mazzalovo, co-authors of Luxury Brand Management: A World of Privilege.
This may have been the rationale back in the day, but as CSR is fast becoming a part of modern corporate DNA, consumers naturally expect these companies to give back – somehow – to their wildlife inspirations, especially as many of them find themselves on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the world’s most authoritative source of information on extinction risk.
Some already do. Chopard, mentioned earlier, has signed a three-year partnership with WWF to protect the critically endangered Siberian tiger. Lacoste supports the group of the world’s top crocodile experts working under the aegis of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.
However, many others still don’t, and there is no obligation, either nationally or internationally, for this to happen. For the time being, it is left to the goodwill of companies involved and the persistence of conservation groups appealing to corporate conscience.
I do hope that more and more companies will be wise enough to invest in the survival of the source of their inspiration and, ahem, profits! Isn’t it part of successful brand management after all?
What do you think? Should companies that use images of animals or plants in their branding and advertising contribute towards ensuring these species’ survival in the wild? And, dare I say, be required to pay a special levy?