During her inaugural address at the IHT conference on luxury held in New Delhi last March, Suzy Menkes said: "It was the designer Tom Ford, the founding father of the 'it' bag used for just one season who inspired me to make this conference about 'sustainable luxury'. He gave a keynote speech at the IHT's Moscow conference on "Supreme Luxury', saying that he was already uncomfortable with that concept. And that maybe in the future, a discreet tab announcing a 'green' product would speak louder to the consumer than a branded logo".
At the same time PPR decided to sponsor the making of "Home" by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, this magnificent film which has the merit of exposing facts that affect us all in a manner that is both educational and aesthetic: all the luxury brands of the group (which appear in the credits) thus publicly undertake to reflect on the dangers threatening our planet.
Does this mean it that luxury brands have engaged in substantive work on their "Corporate Social Responsibility" - this encompassing the environmental consequences of their actions? If the report "Deeper Luxury" published in November 2007 by WWF UK is to be believed, this is far from the case. In the classification of ten groups and luxury brands according to criteria that will respect diversity up to environmental impact, none of them received a ranking higher than C + (on a scale of A to F)!
Today, consumers - and the economic crisis will only reinforce this fundamental tendency – are proving to be bearers of an ethical vision of the world: in the constant struggle which they face within themselves between pleasure and reason, the ethical dimension of reason prevails. This choice is supported by an international elite, avid consumers of luxury goods, and now by the middle classes from mature markets - those that have created the success of luxury brands for over 20 years. The products of luxury brands are standard products, but the criteria of what gives status are changing. New markers of status as well as new markers of success are emerging. One of these is an assertion of an environmental and ethical conscience.
Luxury brands will therefore have to quickly adhere to this new worldview - which is sweeping even emerging countries on which they are building for their future development.
I think it is essential that they incorporate "sustainability" and responsibility in their values and to use the terms of the WWF report: "Luxury brands have the power to influence consumer behavior by aspiration and editing consumer choices through product design, distribution and marketing; and by influencing how, when and for how long consumers use their products. They have both the opportunity and the responsibility to promote sustainable consumption".