Are luxury brands sustainable and ethical? You might be thinking that—with garments involving three zeros—eco-friendliness is a given.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
In fact, if you’ve bought from some of these luxury fashion brands (sit down before we tell you), you might have supported… the same sweatshops as fast fashion.
Luxury brands are not the opposite of fast fashion when it comes to sustainability
Fast fashion brands maintain their prices so ridiculously low by using cheap labour and materials, which usually consist of traditionally grown cotton and plastic-based synthetic fabrics like polyester, both terrible for the environment.
So, if we’re talking about a €1000 dress instead of a €5 one, then surely it was made using the best sustainable fabrics and by garment workers paid fair wages, right?
That’s what we used to think, too!
You’re paying for the brand, not sustainable practices
The thing is, with luxury fashion, the higher price that you’re paying is for the brand itself. The logo, the personality behind it, the statement.
Not necessarily for the labour and materials.
For example, at the time of writing this article, both the Louis Vuitton and Gucci range included garments priced over £1000 or even £3000 but consisting of polyester or cotton that isn’t organic, just like your average fast fashion clothes.
Some luxury fashion brands use the same sweatshops as fast fashion companies
After the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory that killed 1,134 garment workers in 2013, the world started questioning supply chains and, as encouraged by the Fashion Revolution, #WhoMadeMyClothes.
It didn't come as a surprise that many fast fashion brands still used sweatshops.
What not everyone expected, however, was that several luxury fashion brands were doing the same!
It’s no wonder that they aren’t transparent about their supply chain and production methods.
Even renowned names like Chanel, Versace, Dior, and Dolce & Gabbana scored less than 10% in transparency.
Obviously, there are some sustainable luxury fashion brands doing their part, too!
We’re really not saying that all luxury fashion brands are evil or downright unethical.
In fact, lots of them are investing their money into sourcing sustainable materials, ensuring that their garment workers are paid fair wages, and minimising their carbon emissions.
For example, a luxury fashion brand with a high rating from a sustainable and ethical standpoint is Stella McCartney.
So, are luxury brands sustainable?
Here’s the thing: luxury brands can be sustainable, but they’re not automatically so just because they have higher price tags.
As we’ve seen, some of them rely on extremely polluting synthetic materials, and some others are still using sweatshop-style factories.
So, how should you behave towards them as an eco-conscious consumer?
Question these brands just like you would with ‘less glamorous’ ones
Our main advice is to stop treating luxury fashion brands differently from how you’d approach a dodgy fast fashion company selling €3 t-shirts.
At Project Cece, we believe in the power of voting with our money.
So, before giving it to a luxury fashion brand, we recommend checking that it is sustainable and ethical:
- What materials are they using? Some of the most sustainable ones are linen, organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, modal fabrics, organic wool, and recycled materials
- Look for third-party certifications like the GOTS logo instead of a vague, self-proclaimed ‘green’ cotton label (what does that even mean?)
- Expect transparency: has this company got a sustainability page? Do they visit their factories regularly?
So, are luxury brands sustainable? Not always, as you now know.
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