The annual International New York Times Luxury Conference provides a forum for both creative and business leaders in the luxury goods industry. Hosted by revered fashion journalist Suzy Menkes, this year’s emphasis was placed on developments in South East Asia and the potential the area holds. Over three days Singapore was host to more than 500 delegates from 35 countries and heard from CEOs, designers, suppliers and executives on all aspects of business.
But all these companies have a responsibility. Increasingly, luxury consumers are beginning to demand that their products are produced in a way that is not damaging to either the environment or the workers who made them. In the final but critical stages of the conference, Suzy Menkes brought forth the pressing issue of sustainability, and what it means for both brands and consumers alike. This was heralded with the launch of a new short film Handprint, illustrating the intrinsic importance of understanding a supply chain.
In the last of a series of talks, Creative Director and Green Carpet Challenge Founder Livia Firth joined Suzy on stage, accompanied by Maxime Labey, International Retail Managing Director for Chopard, to talk about why sustainability is so important for big international fashion brands, and how it can be implemented through workable business strategies, such as The Journey, Chopard’s voyage into sustainable luxury with Eco-Age.
Underpinned with an ethos of ‘beautiful on the underside as it is on the outside’ as Maxime put it, The Journey began with the creation of the Green Carpet Collection, a stunning earring set and bracelet from Chopard’s High Jewellery collection, made with Fairmined gold sourced from Artisanal small-scale mines in South America, and responsibly-sourced diamonds accredited from the RJC. “It’s actually much easier to regulate gold mines than it is factories,” said Livia, “especially as we have the Alliance for Community Mining working on the ground. They are monitoring the gold mines all year round, and we make sure [Eco-Age] go to South America several times a year.” “[Chopard’s] work with Eco-Age will put pressure on other brands to improve their supply chains,” sai Maxime. “You can’t ignore what goes on back stage.”
Livia also pointed out that sustainability and ethics need to be glamorous and appealing to the consumer, in order to get the international community to take notice. The Green Carpet Challenge is one of the first initiatives with this ethos at its foundation, and Handprint is a perfect example of how ethics and aesthetics can work in harmony. Directed by Mary Nighy and starring model Elettra Weidemann, the film aims to raise awareness of the challenges faced by garment workers and jewellery producers around the world.
The sustainability section of the conference also included a conversation with pioneering fashion label Sass & Bide. Founded by Sarah Jane Clarke (Sass) and Heidi Middleton (Bide), the Australian brand pride themselves on representing the ‘strong, the obscure and the beautiful’, which includes a capsule collection made in collaboration with the International Trade Centre & United Nation Agency. Sass & Bide were followed by Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs for Kering, who spoke about their lasting commitment to sustainable innovation and transformation. “Sustainable business is smart business and adds value,” said Marie-Claire. The company has a very structured CSR strategy, including the development of the Environmental Profit and Loss Account (E P&L), a highly sophisticated tool to reconcile carbon costs related to their operations.
Brands and consumers both need to be aware of why sustainability needs to be a priority in the luxury goods market, and the INYT conference is a huge forward step in taking that message to the international stage.