The mission of this blog is to inform and inspire both businesses and consumers in the aspirational fashion world, observing trends and investigating the latest advances in sustainability. By caring about our planet and people, I want to be ahead of the curve and to help define a more authentic luxury which is both aspirational and ethical.
The luxury goods industry (excluding high-street fashion) is estimated to be worth $122 billion. I hope to provide a wake-up call to businesses in the luxury goods industry, who can add value for the ethical consumer by integrating sustainability into every area from sourcing raw materials through manufacturing, marketing and distribution. They can also use their influence, and that of the celebrities who endorse them, to educate and inspire consumers to aspire to a luxury lifestyle that also respects our planet and its people. By becoming more transparent and sharing information they have the potential to inspire other luxury brands to work toward more transparency and sustainability.
The blog’s title was inspired by a report by WWF authors Jem Bendell and Anthony Kleanthous. Reading it started me thinking more seriously about the handbags and other luxury goods I buy on the high-street and in high-end boutiques. As a lover of both designer bags and the latest electronic gadgets, I was inspired to seek deeper insight into where these products come from and at what cost to our world and its people.
I live in China, the region where most of the world’s household and fashion items, including many luxury branded goods, are sourced and manufactured. Able to visit factories regularly, I often see the manufacture of many of the products I buy. The photograph below shows the view from the window of my home in Shenzhen, with an air quality index (AQI) of 172 particles per million. On the same day in Beijing, just a few hours away, the AQI was 400. When I first arrived in China, I used to wonder how the government and people could allow this, but have since come to more fully understand the complexities of this society and the challenges government and businesses face every day.
My day job involves managing Foxconn in Shenzhen, which with 800,000 to 1.2 million staff is one of the biggest factories in the world, and notorious for worker suicides. The site, called “the hidden dragon” by the BBC, manufactures the world’s iPads, iPhones, tablets and e-readers.
China and the Far East is also fast becoming the biggest consumer market in the world, set to be the leading market for luxury goods in less than 6 years. Prestige brands are achieving double-digit growth: in Tokyo 94% of women in their 20s own a Louis Vuitton handbag and Hong Kong has more Gucci and Hermes stores than New York and Paris, with queues outside all day. Manufacture of the sought-after iPhone 6 occupied 100 production lines for 24 hours a day when it was first released, yet there was still a waiting list in Hong Kong.
Through my blog I will embark on a quest to find the brands and products leading the field in sustainable luxury goods, to serve as a benchmark for what can be achieved. I also plan to create a scorecard to help consumers evaluate and compare products and brands in terms of information transparency, upstream sourcing, sustainable design and production which considers also the product’s end of life impact, and social standards. Highlighting products and brands working towards sustainability or already ‘best in class’, I hope also to demonstrate how luxury brands can make the change from ‘the devil sells Prada’ to leading the charge towards a deeper luxury that is both aspirational and respectful of our people and planet.