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Eco-Consciousness in Luxury Fashion

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Sarah Roth-Oosten

More than ever before, it seems that people are becoming personally invested in eco-conscious alternatives when considering their fashion choices. Whether having originated from the consumer or fashion industry professionals, the demand for ‘green’ options cannot be ignored. Sustainability in fashion is a focus for many brands which can be demonstrated by the rise of companies such as Rent the Runway et Bag Borrow or Steal.

These two companies thrive on the idea of re-using or renting garments versus purchasing them outright where one may only wear the garments once or twice. Business structures such as these allow the consumer to enjoy a luxury garment at a fraction of the price with far less waste than would be incurred if the item was purchased, worn and then stored. However, is this just a short lived trend? Are people really emotionally invested in sustainable options or are we just looking for the best deal financially?

The Growing Interest in Vintage, Upcycled and Recycled Clothing

Other trends which seem to be innately eco-conscious include the interest in vintage, upcycled and recycled clothing as recently explored in The Guide for the Style-Savyy. Consignment, both luxury and day to day, has become hugely popular. What was once semi-uncool has somehow become the cool, hip thing to do. With the popularity of songs such as “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore, re-using once owned and loved garments is a sought after activity.

Along with this, we see fashion brands using recycled materials in their creations and designs. One such brand is called Couture Planet, a business that is “…committed to providing stylish, earth friendly accessories made from recycled newspapers…. Our philosophy is to use all of our valuable resources, including natural resources, human resources, and repurposed resources.”

Couture Planet Bags

Couture Planet is an American based company that creates very unique and fashion forward accessories with already printed, recycled newspapers. I was able to sit down with the creators of the brand to get an idea from them as to whether eco-consciousness in fashion is the latest trend or is in fact here to stay. Kathy Cormier, Director of Operations at Couture Planet says:

I think that sustainability in fashion and, moreover in everything, has become and will remain a part of the fabric of our lives. People are still becoming educated in how one’s actions affect the planet – and the education is happening slowly, but surely. There remains a divide in choosing between cost/price and eco-friendly materials/products but, as the movement gains momentum, the divide will narrow. At Couture Planet, we have experienced this. We have been able to source eco-friendly components for our products both in terms of availability and price.

Kathy finds sustainability important because “fashion mirrors the historic times. Our planet will not exist unless we continue to make changes in the way we live. At Couture Planet, we use recycled newspapers as ‘fabric’ to create handbags and accessories. Re-use and upcycling are great ways to stay green and fashion forward.”

Eco-conscious Fashion
Eco Fashion – Couture Planet Bags

Eco-consciousness and the Luxury Sector

Although this may all be true, there still seems to be a demand for newly made, non-recycled luxury goods. The luxury sector maintains its market presence despite the wave of sustainable fashion solutions. Even during economic crisis, it is the luxury sector that remains strong and un-waivered.

I discussed this ongoing subject with Justin Gage, a former employee of one of the worlds most recognised and sought after luxury brands: Gucci. I was curious – does Gucci consider eco-friendliness when designing and creating their products?

Justin elaborates: “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been at the heart of a few luxury companies for quite some time. Reducing the carbon footprint is an important mission of many of the luxury brands…Many stores, for example, are retro fitting their lighting to use less energy.” However, he goes on to say that in his experience “…the luxury consumer is still drawn by the label and branding and that consumers still need to be more demanding for products and processes that will be sustainable.”

It seems that the eco-conscious trend is somewhat of a double edge sword. While consumers and brands are certainly becoming more environmentally aware when running their business or when making choices in product purchases, we still have a long way to go to ensure our actions pave a sustainable footpath.

Do you consider the environment when making fashion related choices?

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