Article publié par Élise ANGOT le 02/01/2021
Diamond, gemstone, luxury clothes, or bags… all of these terms refer to luxury, high quality, exclusivity, prestige, and savoir-faire. When I hear these words, I visualize a wonderful, perfect world bringing to the forefront values like heritage, meticulous performances, hard work, and respect. Unfortunately, the luxury sector is a facade hiding dark secrets.
The diamond and jewelry industry’s hidden side
Entering a jewelry store immerses us into a magical world, with all the diamonds, gemstones, and gold. Everything is shiny and attractive, blinding, our sight. The universe is gorgeous, magnificent, and almost inaccessible. It is a magical world; most people can’t access these goods and can only hope to one day put their hands on one of these pieces. This is justified by the savoir-faire, the exclusivity, and the rarity surrounding the conception of this high-end product. The trick is: the shinier the jewel is, the more you are blinded. With one look you are deceived and you just assume that the product was made ethically and with respect, and you would feel honored to touch or hold any gem.
However, the reality is far beyond what brands try to sell us. Diamond extraction fuels civil war in poor African countries. To extract large quantities quickly, they use and exploit childrenwho work in dreadful conditions. Pression, forced labor, dirt, bad wealth, and being underpaid became their lifestyle. Under the ground, children miss air and put their lungs in danger. In 2006, a study revealed that 43,880 children were working in mines in southern Congo. Their wage was around $15 per day.
Traceability is very hard and because of this, jewelry brands can easily hide their product’s origin. In the end, customers won’t know that they have blood on their hands and will keep on fantasizing.
The fashion’s reality
We all know Italian luxury brands are very famous for their clothes, bags, and shoes. When we think of these brands we see houses, institutions, high quality, unique production, specific knowledge, the old transmission of savoir-faire. But something is misleading with the “made in Italy” label. A product will have this label as long as the last transformation is made in Italy. Meaning that a major part of a product can be made elsewhere and still be associated with the label and its image. Transparency doesn’t seem to be a common value in the luxury world.
In fashion too, the lack of information hides the consequences of their production.
Prestigious brands often advocate the “100% made in cotton, silk, or wool” label garments, but what they don’t tell us is that cotton cultivation is the most water-consuming fabric. Because of high demand, the land is getting more and more empty and destitute producing a huge amount of waste. For wool, goats are exploited and treated very sorely.
Workers are underpaid and work in bad conditions.
Adding to all of these ethical concerns surrounding the production, there is also a consumption issue. In fact, at the beginning of the 21st century, the trend was “over-consumption”. Too many people were buying luxury products because of their ideal identity. It was more a question of self-image and being accepted in society.
To be valued in society, to be socially approved, people had to buy garments to make themselves desirable; fashion created obsessions.
Fortunately, things are changing and for a few years, a new dynamic is being installed. The consumers of tomorrow, the millennials, are more aware than previous generations. By seeking group approval or conformity, they try to avoid the feeling of guilt and they are more careful with what they buy. Now, brand values are crucial for these buyers; they choose companies that match with them and enjoy the satisfaction of having good behavior.
This can be illustrated with the fact that the percentage of consumers who prefer to buy from environmentally friendly brands rose from 57% in 2013 to 72% in 2018.
Nowadays more and more luxury and fashion brands are taking steps towards a more respectful, and ethical production of goods by restoring people’s rights in all the supply chains. For instance, LVMH has launched a “green week” and in October 2020, the group expanded its commitments to protect biodiversity. Moreover, in November, Fendi launched a new sustainability section, strengthening its commitments toward the environment. Several brands like Gucci, Versace, and Burberry stopped using fur. Stella McCartney is very sensitive about this subject -the brand has made unions to protect worker’s rights, they are very transparent; they publish an “eco-impact” report of the year on their website.
Being more ethical throughout the supply chain also includes fighting against deforestation, the use of pollutants, the use of pesticides, and giving the necessary tools to minimize waste. It also means increasing the reusability of a product through prevention and recycling. One of the main goals of sustainable fashion is to fight against fast fashion and replace it with a new model known as slow fashion. Fast fashion relates to the fast collection, large quantities of clothes that produce an enormous amount of waste. Companies following the fast fashion model are very often copying luxury trends by proposing lower quality at a lower price.
Furthermore, luxury brand groups like Kering or LVMH are bringing to the forefront the necessity of having a sustainable model. Indeed, they completely changed their strategy leaving more room for responsibilities and ethics. All these changes yield benefits to the group. They are more closed to their customers, they share more crucial values such as the respect of the environment and the individual with their clients, shareholders, and stakeholders. Sustainability is nowadays undoubtedly a competitive advantage for the development of groups with a long-term vision.
As a leader in the luxury world, LVMH or Kering makes sure that the social and environmental issues are a priority to inspire other brands to take action towards this dynamic.
Make a difference; you can act, learn, and make people aware of reality. Even the smallest actions count. Don’t be afraid to change your behavior!