I don’t know about you but I have a tendency to assume that high end luxury brands are more ethical than high street brands. But is this really the case? For a change I’m not doing the writing today and handing over to a guest poster to explore whether or not luxury fashion can ever be 100% ethical?
Can Luxury Fashion Ever Be 100% Ethical?
Now more than ever, we are aware of the human impact on the environment. It’s evident through our eating habits, the businesses we support, and even the clothes we wear. Fashion has become one of the biggest platforms that has raised social and environmental awareness on a global scale, as fast fashion introduced green clothing lines and luxury designers find more ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Manolo Blahnik even released a shoe collection made entirely from discarded scraps, including tilapia skins, cork and raffia.
For so long, exclusivity and prestige were measured by the rarity or materials, which often meant mink fur and alligator leather. But with the increased adoption of ethical business practices in the fashion industry as a whole, is it possible to change the scope of luxury fashion? How can we change the definition of desirability?
One of the biggest problems that veers some away from ethical fashion is that fashion comes second. People argue that the idea of fashion, regardless if it’s green or not, is style; everything else comes secondary. But Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney are proving that you don’t have to sacrifice in order to do good by the environment.
Unfortunately, other fashion houses are still struggling to embrace materials such as hemp and pineapple leather. Founded by Yves Saint Laurent in 1961, Lyst shares in their Saint Laurent collection that the brand has always been known for sharp tailoring and luxe leather biker jackets. This causes a concern for environmentalists, but brands operating under the Kering group are reportedly sourcing mostly European cowhide, mainly from France, and by the end of this year, all of their leather supply will come from verified sources “that don’t result in converting sensitive ecosystems into grazing or agriculture lands for food production for livestock.” They are also planning to reduce high-risk chemicals in their leather tanning.
The fact that animal byproducts are still part of their production, and the production of numerous other high-end labels, shows that luxury fashion is still a long way from becoming a sustainable sector. In that same report tracking Saint Laurent’s progression into ethical fashion, Stella McCartney was provided as a comparison, receiving a C grade—not far from Saint Laurent’s D grade—despite its reputation for utilising alternatives to leather and fur. Though even if there’s still a lot of room for improvement, luxury labels like these should be praised for stepping in the right direction.