We live in an era of globalisation and fast fashion; modern technology and cheap labour allow garments to be mass produced and made for an extremely low cost. Clothes can be bought at the click of a button and delivered the same day.
Cool, right? Not when the manufacturing of said garments is detrimental to the environment and the workers who made them. And more worryingly, these mass-produced items are likely to end up on the landfill after just a few wears, meaning consumers are perpetuating the destructive cycle of buying and throwing away unethically made products!
But the impending threats of climate change, depleting energy resources, pollution, increasing population and water shortages are causing people to question their fashion purchases. In an advert for the animal rights organisation PETA, Stella McCartney is quoted:
“We address... ethical or ecological... questions in every other part of our lives except fashion. Mindsets are changing, though, which is encouraging.”
Consequently, more shoppers are slowly gravitating towards sustainable luxury fashion brands over cheap, trend-based retailers. But what exactly is ethical fashion? And which brands are environmentally friendly? Read on to find out!
What Does ‘Sustainable Luxury Fashion’ Mean?
Sustainable luxury fashion is a revolution that’s changing how the fashion industry operates. It strives to ensure all practices, such as designing, sourcing, manufacturing, and selling, are ethical and beneficial to the people and communities involved, as well as minimising environmental harm.
Ethical luxury brands, in particular, aim to counteract the damage that cheap, fast fashion consumption causes with a focus on environmental, social and commercial issues, such as:
- Workers Rights - all workers, from shop floor staff to factory employees, receive fair wages and have access to safe and healthy working conditions.
- Developing Eco-Friendly Fabrics - many current textile growing practices used by the fashion industry damage the environment through the use of chemicals, and strain the earth’s natural resources.
- Reducing The Use of Hazardous Chemicals – the textile industry commonly uses toxic chemicals to soften and dye materials. These chemicals can be dangerous to the environment, the people who work with them and even the consumers who wear the clothes.
- Reducing Waste – the UK throws away 1 million tonnes of clothing every year which ends up in incinerators or landfills. Sustainable luxury fashion aims to design and produce goods with longevity in mind.
- Animal Welfare – from leather to fur, animals are cruelly farmed and killed for the aesthetic purpose of the fashion industry. Ethical luxury brands, such as Stella McCartney, refuse to use fur and leather in their designs, for this very reason.
Is Sustainable Luxury Economical?
The fast fashion industry makes billions of pounds a year, by making products as cheap as possible to keep costs low and profits high.
So on the other end of the stick, ethical fashion must mean higher quality production, better wages and therefore an eye-wateringly expensive price tag for the consumer if the brand wants to make a profit...right?
Maybe. But did you know, 40 to 60 percent of products sold by major fashion retailers are returned or exchanged, mainly due to low quality, faulty designs? Understandably, this makes a huge dent in the company’s profits. Maybe cheap manufacturing isn’t that cost effective after all.
Sustainable luxury fashion, on the other hand, ensures its products are made with care by using authentic materials and high-quality workmanship. Consequently, goods are less likely to be returned as faulty, and not only does this save the company millions, but helps the brand secure a good reputation, which is priceless.
Popular Sustainable Luxury Fashion Brands
Christina Castle founded Dagny after a failed quest to find a stylish, yet sustainable dress. At the time, the only styles offered by sustainable luxury fashion brands were uninspiring and frumpy.
Consequently, Dagny was born with the aim to offer consciously made garments without compromising on style, luxury and tailoring.
From surplus fabric to organic materials, all fabrics are responsibly sourced at Dagny and in turn crafted into beautiful, high-quality garments at an ethical, women-owned and operated factory in Romania.
Image credit: Dagny
Stella McCartney made sustainability sexy. The go-to brand for sustainable luxury fashion, the eco-designer crafts exquisite designs from faux fur and vegan leather that mimic the real thing, minus the animal cruelty.
It’s not just luxury lines that get the ethical treatment, Stella’s Adidas by Stella McCartney collections are made from 100 percent recycled polyester, so there’s no excuse to be responsibly garbed, even when you’re sweating it out at the gym.
Image credit: Stella McCartney
Tom Kay, Finisterre founder, revolutionised surf-wear by creating sustainable and innovative pieces designed to keep sea frolickers warm, protected and stylish.
The brand’s pioneering active-wear is crafted using recycled and natural products, and is built with longevity in mind. Tom’s love of the sea is not limited to surfing the waves, but protecting the ocean through practices such as using minimal water in the manufacturing of the Finisterre product, and eradicating single-use plastic from its supply chain and workspaces by the end of 2018.
Image credit: Finisterre
I AND ME
A cool denim brand based in Hackney, East London, I and Me remind us what denim is all about. Its pieces are designed to transcend trends and ‘reflect the moment’, with carefully constructed designs that promise to withstand the test of time.
The garments are constructed from specialised fabrics such as cotton yarns from Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico which are blended from waste cotton, and limited runs of unique denim casts for sustainability and authenticity. Definitely one of the hippest sustainable luxury fashion brands available.
Image credit: I and Me
What about the high street?
As high street and ‘fast fashion’ tend to go hand in hand, it’s tricky for high street retailers to keep up with the demand of supplying a fashion frenzied public with ever-changing trends, low prices and responsibly made clothing. However, in the last couple of years, many of the top high street brands have started to clean up their act. H&M’s Conscious Collection, Zara’s Join Life and Mango’s Committed collections all use organic and recycled materials, whilst H&M has pledged to make sure all of its cotton comes from sustainable sources by 2030.
But are small eco-collections enough when high street stores sell millions of clothes each year that are destined for the landfill? Ethically made, good quality garments come at a price, and it’s unlikely fast fashion retailers will hit their profit margins if they only offer sustainable clothing. If you truly want to shop consciously, it’s best to spend more and buy less by investing in an expertly made, environmentally friendly product from a sustainable luxury fashion brand.
Are All Luxury Brands Sustainable?
So, are all high-end brands ethical? Luxury fashion houses must pass their profits on to their workers, right? Um, no. Unfortunately, it’s not just the cheap retailers that are the villains of the fashion industry. Many designer labels use the same factories high street retailers use, meaning their clothes are manufactured in the same unacceptable conditions.
Victoria’s Secret, for example, was one of the worst offenders in the 2017 Ethical Fashion Report. But don’t they take part in an organic, free-trade cotton programme? Yes, but when children are picking the cotton, it kind of misses the point, don’t you think?
It’s not just designer lingerie brands that are being naughty in more ways than one; the recent Clean Clothes Campaign report states high-end labels such as Hugo Boss and Benetton still use suppliers that only pay one-third of what would constitute a minimum living wage.
Sustainable luxury fashion brands will state on their website how their clothes are made, how the materials are sourced and any environmental programmes they are working with. If your favourite luxury brand doesn’t offer any knowledge on its manufacturing and sourcing procedures, check out the Ethical Consumer website to see how it rates against other brands.
Need an Ethically Made Travel Bag? Choose a Tumi
Tumi is renowned in the travel industry for its high standards in design. Vigorous testing, expert craftsmanship and premium materials have elevated Tumi to one of the leading, and most respected brands in the industry. If your Tumi breaks, the repair team works tirelessly to repair the bag to its original condition, rather than replace it with a new design, to reduce unnecessary waste. Anything that can’t be repaired is recycled where possible.
Image credit: Tumi
The longevity of a Tumi bag alone promotes sustainability, but the company has committed to many other ethical practices too, listed below:
Environment & Sustainability
Tumi is on an ongoing mission to reduce its impact on the environment, and has taken many steps to implement environmentally friendly procedures into its infrastructure, from the manufacturing stages, straight through to design:
- Sustainable Material Compositions: Tumi has recently partnered with the Pratt Institute Centre for Sustainable Design Studies, and Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation to find alternative material compositions that are more environmentally friendly.
- Using Water-based Polyurethane on Fabrics: swapping solvent-based polyurethane fabric coating for water-based solutions to reduce contamination in water.
- Eliminating PVC Materials: the company are ‘95% complete’ in working towards eliminating PVC materials in its designs.
- Using Solution-dyed Yarn: Tumi is working towards solution dyed yarn for its ballistic nylon fabrics. This process is more energy efficient and eliminates the water effluent and clean-up necessary in typical fabric dyeing processes.
- Reduce The Use Of Original Zinc: the company has committed to reducing the use of virgin zinc by replacing it with recycled zinc. This helps to lessen the depletion of the precious mineral and diminishes the negative effects of mining, as well as decreasing water consumption and energy consumption required to extract and alloy the zinc.
Tumi is dedicated to ensuring its suppliers offer safe, lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing. To ensure this, the company created its “Standards of Engagement” suppliers’ code of conduct, which is modelled after the international human rights law, as well as accepting WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) to certify and monitor its social compliance initiatives.
Tumi monitors all its suppliers to guarantee they are applying sound environmental, human rights and health and safety practices, such as non-discrimination, safe and healthy working environments, minimum wage or above pay, overtime compensation, and regular working hours. Under no circumstances will Tumi work with a supplier that partakes in child labour, forced labour, or harassment and abuse of its employees.
Image credit: Tumi
Tumi is a corporate partner of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Not only does the company contribute to the St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign, but each year, it kindly donates travel cases specially designed for the patients and families at St. Jude’s to help them travel to and from the hospital for treatment.
More information on Tumi’s ethical practices can be found here.
Tumi’s Top 5 Sustainable Luxury Pieces
Latitude International Slim Carry-On £595.00
Voyageur Jackie Convertible Cross Body Bag £299.00
19 Degree Aluminium International - Carry-On £855.00
Alpha Bravo Davis Backpack £335.00
Tegra Lite Max Expandable Case £745.00
Investing in sustainable luxury fashion isn’t just beneficial for the environment and communities, but saves you money in the long run. A well-made piece of luggage doesn’t have to be replaced every few years, meaning you could have a travel companion for life. Check out all of our beautiful Tumi designs here, and help save the planet in style this holiday season.