Luxurious and Sustainable Clothing: The New Norm?

Written by on October 27, 2012 in Fashion, Women - No comments

“Sustainable luxury” could be considered an oxymoron. However the realms of sustainability and luxury actually have more in common than might be immediately apparent. In fact, as many luxury and aspirational labels have shown recently, the two concepts make quite cozy bedfellows. What they share is the acknowledgement of the value of fine materials, artisinal craftsmanship, and a unique narrative as well as an essential goal towards limited consumption.

Family-owned French luxury apparel holding company, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR) does not equivocate on the value of a sustainable approach in luxury. From their website: “To achieve this vision, we constantly push ourselves against the limits, in the most imaginative and sustainable manner.” Further,“PPR believes in a more sustainable world.” PPR CEO Francois-Henri Pinault makes it plain, “If we wait for consumers to insist upon sustainability as a condition for purchasing, nothing will happen. It is up to us to see to it that the environmental products become the new norm.”.

So what does the new normal look like at a PPR brand like Gucci?  In addition to reducing the amount of packaging for its products, there were these adorable recycled plastic flats from the 2012 spring line. They also make most of their products locally in Italy,  some with re-purposed or biodegradable materials like these sunglasses. You can find out more about their corporate sustainability and responsibility measures here.


Livia Firth, wife of Colin Firth, has also been steadfast in her commitment to empower the cause of environmental and social ethics in the luxury sector. With persistence and visual power, through the combined efforts of the Green Carpet Challenge team, Firth has turned the red carpet into her pulpit for the simple truth that luxury attire can be as inherently sustainable as it is stylish. Moreover, she has successfully enlisted to the caise such couture brands as Armani, Oscar de la Renta, and Tom Ford to name just a few.What she does so well is leverage the fundamental drive in the sector for innovation and unique story generation to highlight the complementary nature of sustainability and luxury, and she does it with an uncommon style and grace.

Beyond greenwashing, a few popular brands in the upper end of the mid-range have also picked up the cause for ethics in their collections. Long before it was remotely fashionable, Eileen Fisher has thoughtfully leaned into creating a clothing line that does as little harm as possible.

Indeed, they are one of the few brands to consider every part of the lifecyle of a garment including the end. A growing number of their store locations now accept used EF garments that the customer can return for a small store credit. In addition, even at the beginning of the cycle, they are focused on sustainability in the design process, which includes the selection of eco-friendly textiles like Bluesign silk whenever possible.


Another brand, Jigsaw of London, has gone in the direction of limited consumption with it’s Green Label capsule collection. They have a designer who sources textiles from warehouses in Los Angeles that have a large quantity of discontinued fabric. This is where they start. The designs then are generated from the textiles. Their goal is to short-circuit the waste cycle by employing textiles that would otherwise go into the landfills. Except for the distinctive green label (which can literally be put in the ground and in due course result in a live plant) on the clothes, customers are unable to discern the sustainable line from the regular line. That’s how seamlessly they’ve integrated their design aesthetic into the green collection.

Perhaps this marks the shift to a time when sustainable clothing and gorgeous high-end clothing are one and the same.

About the Author


Oceana Lott travels the world and writes about ethical fashion from her home in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to her blog, titled Oceana’s Canvas, you can follow her on Twitter at OceanasCanavas, Facebook at Oceana’s Canvas – Ethical Style, and Pinterest at Oceana’s Canvas.