Sustainable Fashion and Guilt-free Profit

The IPCC tell us we have 12 years left. 12 years until climate change is out of our hands and we are at the mercy of mother nature. It’s blasted all over twitter and facebook that we can make a change. Recycle, they say; walk or take the bus, they say. But now we’re given a new slogan. Conscious consuming.

What does it mean to be a conscious consumer? Well, every time we walk into a shop or restaurant, we are mindful of the ethical and social consequences of buying from such an establishment. We have a boycott, or buycott mentality. Does this firm give back? How big is their carbon footprint? Corporate responsibility has slowly seeped its way through the system and into the lap of the, often millennial, consumer. This consumer is one that is determined to reverse the mistakes of the past, often because the implications faced are very real future problems for themselves. Environmental issues are particularly emphasised because they are the issues that are closest to home. There’s a water shortage in South Africa today, and before you know it there’s an avocado shortage in your fave LA coffee shop tomorrow.

As we all know, this generation is also consumption-mad. The short attention span of my generation drives us to be constantly after new things. The emphasis on sustainability and newness come together to form conscious consuming. We needn’t give up our lifestyles, provided that we do it correctly.

ArticleImageHandler.ashx.jpeg

The truth is, a brand can label itself sustainable by merely focusing on one aspect of their manufacturing process and evolving it. It is almost impossible to create an entirely sustainable brand. The consumer also needs to be conscious of the fact that a face-value “eco-friendly” brand might also be doing more harm than good. If those board shorts are handmade out of regenerated recycled plastic, but flown to you on complimentary next day delivery, then is it truly sustainable? The consumer cannot dictate where the profits end up either. What if the CEO of this ethical firm is in fact spending their bonus on an expensive and fuel-inefficient car which they run the kids to school in everyday? The firm can carry on with a larger consumer base due to their “sustainable” branding, guilt free. They’re doing their bit, they think.

We are not at a loss when it comes to this problem, however. Technology is on our side. The app Good on You (which has recently gained support from Kering as part of the luxury conglomerate’s sustainability push) is one that helps you analyse the sustainability levels of a company before you purchase clothes from them. You can even search for the type of item you want to buy and the app will recommend retailers to buy from that are the best for the environment. They provide thorough and comprehensive ¬†reports, with quantitive grading and well-rounded analysis. This guarantees that the firms claiming to be sustainable are called out about the other aspects of their firm structure that could be improved. Ultimately, I highly recommend this app to anyone looking to be one step ahead in terms of sustainable fashion.

Click the image below for more details about the app.

goodonyou-v2.jpg

The LVMH-Supreme Relationship

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will know of the Louis Vuitton Supreme collaboration. Slapped onto every imaginable instagrammer’s feed, if you were anyone or wanted to be anyone, you’d need something red, white and LV all over in your wardrobe. The supreme-LV monogram phone case became a staple piece for the elite and a somewhat membership requirement to be considered “relevant”.

Louis-Vuitton-iPhone-7-Eye-Trunk-Supreme-Red.jpg

Then, in more recent times, as the initial explosion that followed the collision of these two massive presences translated into a soft lull, in comes the RIMOWA. As if it has almost been dipped into a vat of supreme logos, then quickly removed, this case would be unmissable on any luggage belt in the airport, although, I’m pretty sure the main demographic of purchasers of this particular release would be flying through the world by less public methods.

supreme-rimowa-topas-spring-2018-1

So the firm LVMH have not only bagged one, but now TWO Supreme collaborations. I have no doubt that this was no small accident. This is for two reasons:

ONE – LVMH, despite its success, is a company that always bids for keeping up with the current market. Where many firms have been left stuck in their tracks, the ability of LVMH to maintain a presence and relevance in a modern market is certainly praiseworthy. I believe this lies in a lack of complacency, a somewhat necessary trait in an industry that is so fast-paced. LVMH, being as omniscient of the fashion industry, could probably have smelt the success of Supreme a mile off, and therefore could get in there early in terms of building a relationship with the brand. LVMH is not afraid of evolution, or confronting new and controversial ideas. LVMH also has the rare gift of setting out to be ‘cool’ and actually pulling it off, this comes with a lot of insider knowledge.

TWO – for a while, they had an inside man. Now I want to emphasise that until more information comes to light, this could be purely speculative. I have very few sources from which to deduce information, but I believe I may have struck gold with this one, we shall see.

Pauline J Brown served as Chairman for North America at LVMH for two years until 2015, just as Supreme was really hitting all those investor notes and getting a lot of attention from the luxury market. Pauline then moved onto Carlyle, the only investment fund associated with Supreme, as a Managing Director. Although the point at which Carlyle first began a relationship with Supreme is unclear, if it was around this time, then it would make a lot of sense if Ms Brown played a part in bridging a relationship between LVMH and Supreme using her previous work contacts. It could even be suggested that maybe this is why Supreme chose Carlyle as investors in the first place, with the promise of not only communication but collaboration with the biggest luxury conglomerate in the world. If so, this woman deserves a whole lot of credit, she’s definitely united two fashion forces in a powerful and certainly profitable way.

Issi x

The Diplomacy of the Fashion Industry

The luxury fashion industry today is very much like Game of Thrones. Hear me out. Admittedly, there’s far less dragons (all bar Gucci’s most recent show) and the most extreme the torture gets is in the form of painfully high heels, however, the concepts of strategy and tactical union are nonetheless prevalent in both.

Firms that take up a sizeable portion of the market such as LVMH and Kering have many factors to think about in order to maintain their positions of power. Among many techniques, one of the most common is that of acquiring new brands to bring into their glamorous folds, whether that be in a vastly different section of the fashion industry, a brand of increasing reputation and sales, or increasing a stake in a firm in which they already have a financial presence.

This time last year, Dior was fully initiated into the LVMH family through a series of complicated transactions. Now, a year on, Kris Van Assche is stepping down from his role in Dior Homme as creative director, allowing for Kim Jones, of Louis Vuitton, to take his place. This template would make for a classic Game of Thrones or royal drama plot line. LVMH needs its most recent acquisition onside, to not make a fuss, sit quiet and comply. One way of looking at the method of how they’ve brought this about is by arranging a diplomatic marriage. LVMH have, in a sense, ‘gifted’ Kim Jones to the house of Dior, a man who has already enjoyed plenty of hype and success in recent years. In addition, Kim Jones, naturally very grateful to LVMH for the number of opportunities he has been given over the years, and the positive contribution the firm has made towards his success, would be more than happy to pass any information on up the ladder if need be. If Jones felt a disturbance or a sense of unsatisfaction within Dior, he could easily inform the parent board of any issues which could be quashed in a more rapid fashion than before.

The natural competition between the two large firms, Kering and LVMH, could also be likened to a rivalry of two houses, each competing in similar fields to outdo each other. This is not necessarily solely prevalent in sales, revenue and profit, but also in philanthropy. Much like the Medici, LVMH and Kering  develop many public projects as an assertion of dominance and presence within the public sphere. An excellent article that touches upon this is that of Vanessa Friedman for the New York Times, which I  thoroughly recommend and have linked below.

So, what do you think? Can you think of any other parallels between the realm of luxury fashion and that of Game of Thrones?

Vanessa’s Article

Issi x

Irony is the new black: crass fashion

I remember growing up, thinking that the 70’s was possibly the most shameful era of fashion. The haughty (and clothing obsessed) ten year old I was, would cringe at the sight of my uncle’s throw-back pictures. I would only dare to glimpse for a second at his bell-bottom corduroy trousers and loud shirts, recovered from a dusty family photo-album. I resolved that the 70’s was a time that wouldn’t ever come back to haunt my precious world of fashion.

Fast forward to today and highstreets are swamped with peasant shirts and shaggy jerkins. I imagine my old self would consider it her worst nightmare, but admittedly, feelings of repulsion don’t spring up at all. I, unashamedly, now own flared jeans and a large collared dress (corny textile and all), both of which I find myself reaching for on a regular basis.

So, what has changed? I believe that it is the fashion industry’s discovery of irony. To dress ironically, is inherently a deep expression of self-confidence. What the market has come to appreciate is that a gorgeous vixen dressed like Eddie the Eagle possesses more credit for her beauty than if she was dressed in a simple LBD. Irony amplifies her beauty.

IMG_0079.JPG

“Fortune favours the brave”; good things come to those who take risks. Take Gucci, for example, 3 years ago it was a fashion house who’s future hung in the balance, facing an uncertain future after both CEO and creative director stepped down. Then in swoops Alessandro Michelle, floral cape and prominent beard to the rescue, a controversial choice, but nonetheless one Gucci would not regret. Immediately, a change in the vibe of the brand became visible. Gold, glitz and glamour returned to the brand. Opulence and subversion of classic Gucci branding became the key concentrated points of the new look. And naturally, sales soared through the roof. Gucci is now the poster boy for it’s parent, Kering.

Not only this, but Gucci has managed to maintain its heritage and distinctive style despite such drastic changes. The monogram is maintained, the coloured straps too, and a distinctive Italian feel remains. Perhaps this is the perfect way a creative director should approach their work at a massive and historic fashion house. Many who find themselves at the helm of a successful brand, overwhelmed by the resources at their fingertips, can’t resist the temptation of making the brand their own, abandoning any previous identity the house held beforehand. Alessandro, however, prevailed, and in doing so, found the perfect balance of putting his mark on the brand without sacrificing any of the core ideas behind Gucci.

IMG_0080

By this point, many consumers had tired of being delivered mass market and bland looks. Irony and Gucci became the guava sitting next to the gruel being offered to luxury buyers at a continental breakfast. There was no longer a desire to ‘fit in’, the only trend worth following was to be as different and new as possible; the fashion industry had finally woken up and smelt the coffee.

Irony, therefore, has not just been limited to the 70’s revival. Von Dutch hats, slogan crop tops and metallic everything is back, signalling a reignited love of the 90’s.  Gone are the days when we can look back at 80’s sitcoms and disdain at Jennifer Anniston’ outfit choices. Other ironic rebirths, new ways of taking risks in the industry are becoming available. Triggered by the appointment of Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Vetements, to Balenciaga, the IKEA Bag was born and became an instant hit. More and more luxury consumers are rushing to buy what the press are labelling as outrageously expensive trash. I personally believe the media are missing the point. If you can rock a skirt that looks like a car carpet protector or a high-fashion version of retails lowest moment, crocs, then, surely, you could wear anything.

iz x

 

 

The Phenomenal Rise of Streetwear Fashion

FentyxPuma, Off-White, Yeezy, VetementsxChampion, SupremexLouis Vuitton.

Finally, after long last, the luxury fashion industry is taking note of a genre of clothing that has been brewing in the background for a while now.

Although an already prominent style among the masses (from Sports Direct to Liverpool FC shirts), streetwear has never really achieved recognition within the fashion community for its originality and expression of individuality. In the past, it has merely been accepted as practical clothing for physical activity. That is, until now.

In recent years, streetwear has come to the fore, at both fashion week and on social media. No street style review or instagram feed is complete without a pair of trainers or an oversized hoodie. This, once exclusive and elusive, bubble of style has exploded into a legitimate clothing option among the most elite in the luxury industry; even the most exclusive and prestigious of restaurants accept customers bearing what was once considered ‘inappropriate informal wear’ (provided it all hails from a high-end brand). Every blogger, editor or model now views a pair of designer trainers, a duffle bag, or even a skateboard, as an essential wardrobe item.

IMG_0066

Of course, where the luxury industry beelines for, investors naturally follow, like a dog to scent. Those who would commonly play for safe bets in LVMH, and Kering are becoming increasingly more appreciative of more niche areas of the luxury market. The “hype” sector, one among these niches, is certainly being taken more seriously. Supreme recently revealed that the Carlyle Group, a major private equity firm, had invested in them. To be among oil and energy companies in the fund’s investment portfolio is indeed promising for the brand, despite a nigling feeling that it is somewhat out of place among its counterparts. The faith Carlyle has in Supreme is signified by its valuation, at a whopping $1 billion USD, and a rumoured 50% stake.

So, why such a bold exhibition of trust in an anti-establishment and all together controversial brand?

Streetwear, with its standard-bending enigmatic approach and high price tags, is becoming increasingly popular among the younger population, especially in Asia. This may, in fact, be down to the fact that most under 35’s continue to live at home, the overwhelming density of living in major cities, overpopulation, and as a result, sky-high house prices. With an increasing disposable income, most of the wealthy and young seek status symbols, which come in the shape of luxury fashion and sensationalism, given the immediacy with which a trend can emerge on social platforms. Enter, highly (yet seemingly reasonable) priced Streetwear with a strong and identifiable brand.

But, why not just opt for the go-to, high fashion brands, with a deep heritage and reputation in the industry? The answer lies in the fact that Streetwear maintains both a loud and proud brand, simultaneously to providing originality, imagination and gutsy humour. Designers such as Thom Browne, for example, a pioneer by any standards of the tailored streetwear genre, now have successful stores on an incredibly international basis.

Perhaps, this is what Supreme is aiming for. Having become accustomed to the market and figures, they are no doubt setting their sights on a presence in large consumer economies, such as China. In order to penetrate this particular area of fashion, however, you need the funds to prevent the bombardment of counterfeits you undoubtedly face. Quashing counterfeits has no doubt been a top priority for Supreme (and other Streetwear brands), who ensure, while at this scale, they provide at a very minimal level, having shut down stores within hours of the LV collaboration drop, due to the number of fakes already being passed around. This, no doubt being an expensive branding technique, would need the increased funds to maintain on an internationally expanded level.

Some might argue, however, that the fun for Supreme might not last. The brand is already facing backlash from its core customer interest, who believe that the house has become a “sell-out”. Skaters and brand reps are already speaking out about their dissatisfaction with the latest moves made by what was once their favourite brand. Supreme, like brands such as Abercrombie and Fitch and Jack Wills, is at high risk of losing their edge and their cool to what many might consider to be greed.

Iz x