“The objects we produce are beautiful because the hands creating them are happy”, Tiziana Terenzi

When I heard this quote for the first time, I was at the Politecnico di Milano School of Management, attending the Sustainable Luxury Academy event organized by the School in partnership with Mazars.

Representatives from the most important luxury companies gathered to discuss and to share their own formula to make their hands “happy”. For the sake of more sustainable — and beautiful — products.

Academics and professionals alternated on stage, presenting their visions and solutions about key themes, such as the supply chain traceability, biodiversity loss, global warming, supplier engagement and social conditions and subcontractors facilities.

Learning how to drive sustainability performance across the organisation and its tiers is a major challenge for the luxury industry, whose supply chain is characterised by over-complexity and global dispersion. The think tank led participants to reach a consensus in terms of the need to start doing things differently.

Still, there is an open question: what do consumers think about this effort?

Few months ago, Alessandro Brun, Politecnico professor and member of the organizing committee, discussed this topic on the AMBA blog.

Many managers believe that customers are unlikely to pay more for sustainable goods. They are seen as less sexy, decadent and desirable — three of the qualities that, for some, define a luxury brand. This leaves companies sceptical to how these sustainable changes could make the business more profitable.”

Still, there is an aspect we should consider. New generations — next luxury goods customers — are more concerned about the future of our Planet and are more sensitive towards sustainability.

Hakan Karaosman, Sustainability Expert and PhD Researcher at the Politecnico di Milano School of Management, confirms it:

“Consumers currently consider ethical and environmental consciousness urgent, profound and material. From product design to supply chain traceability, today’s consumers want to see what sourcing, production and distribution stages actually entail. This moment emerges as a pivotal opportunity for luxury industries. Consumers demand to know and get connected to the real stories attached to luxury products”.

WRAD, whose motto is Livable Fashion for #LivableChange, is a great example of how brands are starting to be aware of the environmental footprint of their activities.

Sometimes, to go forward, you have to look at your back. This is exactly what the WRAD guys did, rediscovering an antique dyeing technique, already used in the Ancient Rome.

They use upcycled graphite power — a non-toxic and organic waste produced by the high-tech industry — to dye cotton instead of chemicals.
This technique, honoured with “Best of the Best Red Dot Design Award 2017”, introduces an innovative and “circular” approach to the dyeing process, one of the most polluting of the fashion industry.

Yet, WRAD isn’t the only start-up thinking green.

Vegea, for example, uses grape skins, stalks, and seeds to create a sturdy and real-feeling vegan leather, combining two “Made in Italy” excellences — wine and fashion.
Every year, about 26 billion litres of wine are produced worldwide, generating 7 billion Kilograms of grape marc, corresponding to about 3 billion square meters of Vegea.

It seems that also big brands, such as Hermès, want to play the game. Indeed, the new collection “Petit H” was born to give a new life to discarded materials from Hermès workshops.
Talented designers, in partnership with Hermès artisans, transform waste into unique objects, accessories and bijoux.

As the engagement of these brands testifies, we are taking the first steps towards a greener fashion industry. Even so, we still have a long way to go. That is why, on November 28th, we are gathering for the next Sustainable Luxury Academy event.
Join us and meet some of the protagonists of this article!