My maiden post The Green Stilettos Have Landed asked the big question in the quest for harmony between fashion and sustainability: are the industry and consumers ready for it?
After this week, I am slightly more inclined to answer affirmatively. Hence the theme for this week’s blog post dedicated to letter “N”: something NEW.
There is no question that changing the status quo would require some sort of shake-up, or as sustainable luxury expert Jem Bendell aptly calls it, “an elegant disruption”.
And, guess what, I actually feel like it is starting to happen. On both sides.
There are three reasons for my newfound optimism: the new vision of luxury taking root; the emerging category of “aspirational” consumers coming to the fore, and the power of ideas worth spreading.
Nueluxe: a new vision of luxury
A little while ago I started collaborating with a sustainable luxury platform called Nueluxe, set up to showcase high-end products and services ingrained with eco and social mission.
“More than those who tick CSR boxes in order to avoid some negative press, those on nueluxe.com are making at least one exceptionally good environmental or social contribution. They offer beautiful solutions…” reads the platform’s mission statement.
Nueluxe’s philosophy is deliciously simple: offering a beautiful and superior vision that renders the conventional, “old” approach to luxury obsolete.
Today, Nueluxe has well over 1,000 members, ranging from an eco-luxury hotel and spa in Jamaica to the award-winning fashion brand Maiyet, and from jewellery made by Cambodian artisans who are survivors of human trafficking to an organic beauty range Kahina based on Moroccan indigenous wisdom.
Nueluxe founder Nina Rennie believes that sustainable luxury is ripe with opportunity.
“Sustainable luxury can set new standards, empower entire communities to work themselves out of poverty, provide education for youngsters and training schemes. It can save endangered species, fund conservation, and celebrate heritage…….the list is endless. High-end brands have the power to influence everyone that looks up to them and aspires to be able to buy into them. The high-end dimension means they’re economically sustainable. This type of enterprise can help where governments and charities have been unable to help,” she explains.
Aspirationals: a new consumer force to be reckoned with
Early on in the week I had an opportunity to benefit from new technologies to attend a webinar offered by Sustainable Brands who will be hosting their annual conference in June in San Diego, California.
The webinar presented ground-breaking research from BBMG, SustainAbility & GlobeScan titled Rethinking Consumption: Consumers and the Future of Sustainability. The results pull the rug from under existing marketing truisms. This is due to one word: Aspirationals – a new creed of consumers around the world who are looking to buy less, and buy better.
Unlike the previously identified marginal 15% of “green” consumers (not even a conversation starter with most execs), this new study looked at consumers through the lens of their values, and found that these so-called “aspirationals” who blend style & status consciousness with a desire for sustainability constitute the overall majority in the six countries surveyed – with a 37% market share (and a whopping 53% in China!). This is not even counting the sustainability “advocates”, who came on top in countries like Brazil.
Not something to be dismissed just as easily at a board meeting, would you agree? I, for one, now know what to call myself: an Aspirational.
An idea worth spreading
The cherry on the cake during this impossibly busy and exciting week was the TEDxEHL event at one of Switzerland’s top hospitality schools, Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne. While the dress code at this world-renowned institution was unmistakably conservative, the speakers’ ideas were nothing short of revolutionary: from eating insects (which were offered as an appetiser during the break!) to popping a “pimp my health” pill to boost longevity. Above all, I sensed a clear willingness from the future crème de la crème of the hospitality industry in the audience to embrace sustainability.
Now that’s an idea worth spreading.
As Nina Rennie concludes, “My interest remains sustainable development and progressive philanthropy and that’s what Nueluxe is about. A new term for a new definition of what can be considered truly aspirational in today’s world.”
Have you come across ideas that turn conventional wisdom on its head? Are you feeling optimistic or pessimistic about the future of sustainable luxury, and why? Share your thoughts!