September 26, 2023
Interesting question! Particularly for us, as we have been labelled or introduced so many times as a 'sustainable luxury pioneer'. But what does it really mean?
Let's start with 'sustainable'. It is such a shame that this word has become overused and part of the standard greenwash playbook. It shouldn't be a word that loses meaning as it is actually quite precise.
Sustainability is sometimes easier to understand by its opposite. To be unsustainable means that something is either:
I have to say that indefensible is my favourite. There are so many things that we humans make, that we do, that we simply know are indefensible. For example, modern slavery is indefensible, but it is rife in the fashion sector. And then there are the plethora of things that we just can't keep doing in the long run; the vast majority of the goods and services that flow through our current economy are unsustainable. Perhaps they are derived from fossil fuels (think of viscose, or nylon), perhaps they use an inordinate amount of water or chemistry to be grown or processed, perhaps they are designed to be worn once or made with such poor material or craftsmanship that they simply won't last. For us, you have to make every business or design decision based on whether or not it is going to make the world better for other people’s grandchildren. This guarantees sustainability. How? Well, we would have to still be able to do it, largely in the same way, in perpetuity. Our materials and techniques can't rely on diminishing resources. Also, we have to be able to defend our decisions to future generations. We would have to be able to look them in the eye and say we did our best, or more importantly to paraphrase Maya Angelou 'we did our best until we knew better, and then we did better'.
Being sustainable is tricky, but not impossible. And realistically, it isn't enough. Biodiversity loss and climate change demand more, we can't just maintain or defend things, we now actively have to improve them. Which is why our focus now is on regeneration (another word that is quickly being gobbled up by greenwashers).
Now luxury is harder to define, but I love how a mentor of ours, Maria Eugenia Giron, put it in her book on Sustainable Luxury (a book we feature in!).
"Luxury is beautiful, refined, innovative and essential."
This is certainly a tall order but it is what we absolutely aim for in every single piece. The first two requirements, beauty and refinement are kind of obvious. Of course you have to be both of these and although beauty is in the eye of the beholder craftsmanship (how we read refinement) speaks for itself. Maria Eugenia's final two requirements are less obvious, but really important for us, and certainly what separates true luxury from the rest of the pack.
Innovation is actually absent from much of modern luxury - using the same materials, techniques, manufacturing processes and designs as the rest of your industry just isn't innovative. Pioneering the use of a novel material? That is innovation. Relocating to a farm in order to generate more clean water than you use? That is innovation. Donating 50% of your profits to charity? That too, is innovation.
And essential... this really is the stand out term. A luxury piece should really be something that you rely on, a cornerstone of your wardrobe, something that you use rather than occasionally admire. And I think we have achieved this too. Proof? How about this feedback from Emmy Nominated Composer, Mark Crawford:
"I’ve worn that belt pretty much every single day since 2018. Best belt ever."
Sustainable luxury is a journey, one we don't think anyone will really ever arrive at either because you can always learn and improve. All I can promise you is that we will never be satisfied with what we have done, we will always be aiming to 'do better'.