High street fast fashion brands have been the subject of much criticism for their impact on the environment. Brands such as Primark, H&M and Marks and Spencer have sought to address these criticisms by reducing their impact through recycling schemes, donation points and closed loop initiatives. They have also increasingly sought to educate consumers on materials used and the production methods of their clothes. However, luxury brands and their impact on the environment are also now in the spotlight. Exclusivity and expense do not automatically mean sustainability when it comes to clothes, a fact that luxury brands must now change.

British fashion house Burberry recently announced that they were to stop their practice of burning unsold clothes and bags. Last year, this led to £28.6 million worth of products being destroyed to protect their brand from copies and selling at bargain basement prices. Although Burberry have previously claimed the energy from this burning was captured and reused, this was still a revelation that horrified many consumers.  Burberry now state that they will take a more eco-friendly approach to its unsold products by reusing, or repairing, but they are not the only luxury fashion brand with damaging environmental practices. Fashion brands such as Chanel and Louis Vitton also destroy unsold stock through burning or landfill. This causes damage to the environment in two ways- the environmental impact of burning and through the waste of oversupply throughout the entire production chain.

Luxury fashion brands depend on sustainability for their future

Luxury fashion brands need to find a way to combine the exclusivity of their fashion with genuine environmental sustainability. Once thought of as irrelevant to luxury fashion brands due to the nature of exclusivity and luxury, sustainability is now an essential area of change for these companies. High street fashion brands such as H&M have made huge changes and commitments to sustainability, and luxury brands are now following suit. Sustainability is essential both the environment and for fashion brands, with consumers keen to support brands which are eco-friendly. Obvious benefits include a reduced environmental impact and more effective production for the brand, but also the key marketing hook of sustainability. Failing to embrace sustainability could harm a brand, leaving them vulnerable in a competitive marketplace, a fact Burberry must have been sharply aware of.

How luxury brands are reducing environmental impact

Other luxury brands, aware of the importance of increasing sustainability, are finding innovative ways to embrace eco-friendly practices throughout their design, production and sales procedures. Designers are addressing the fabrics they use in their collections, creating exclusive, high end garments from environmentally sustainable materials including wood pulp, illegal-chemical free viscose or organic cotton. Designer Stella McCartney has also committed to using recycled materials in her designs, highlighting the importance of combining technology with design to create high end fashion.

Sustainability and luxury: an essential future combination

For the future of the environment and fashion sustainability, eco-friendly developments are essential in both luxury and high street fashion brands. Consumers, manufacturers and fashion brands are all increasingly aware of the importance of ethical fashion and luxury fashion brands would be unwise to ignore this. Sustainability in fashion is no longer a luxury that can be ignored- it’s a crucial value for every luxury fashion brand that wishes to compete in the luxury global marketplace.

Textile Consult is a management and training consultancy operating worldwide. We are currently working with clients to find the best solution for sustainability- by recycling textile products with minimal negative environmental impacts. Contact us today to find out how we can advise your business on sustainability within the textile industry.