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Luxury fashion can go green


Sun Yuanqing

| China Daily | Updated: 2015-12-18 09:07

Luxury fashion can go green

Francois-Henri Pinault, Kering's chairman.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Can luxury fashion and sustainability coexist?

"Sustainable business is smart business" is the answer of Francois-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of Kering, the French luxury-goods conglomerate.

Pinault recently shared his views on how sustainability will shape the future of fashion during a speech titled Fashioning the Future at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Kering and Tsinghua are in their second year of strategic partnership, which sponsors young women students and encourages young designers. The move echoes Kering's commitment to women's rights and young talent, Pinault says.

While some may debate the contradictory nature of fashion and sustainability, Pinault points out that there is a fine line between fashion and luxury.

"When people use 'fashion', it's about fast-fashion. It's about disposable products, which is a business model completely different from luxury," he tells China Daily.

"When it comes to luxury, it's about creativity. Craftsmanship is key. The materials we use must be unique.

"The functionalities are very important as well. Of course what we are selling also is the dream of luxury, which is absolutely not the preoccupation of the (fast-) fashion brands."

The company has taken sustainability as a long-term strategy, seeking new ways of manufacturing and doing business.

Gucci, its biggest brand, developed a new way of leather tanning without heavy metals, which consumes less energy and water. The method has been made available to other brands who are interested in using it.

"We are not doing this because we have to. We are doing this because we want to," he says.

"Things are being done in a certain way because we never ask ourselves the question of doing it in another way. It was so simple to do it like this. If you ask yourself if there is another way of doing things, you find solutions," he explains.

"Luxury companies are based on creativity. Let's use our creative minds to find solutions."

Stella McCartney, another major brand of the company, is known for its "vegetarian" approach in production. It doesn't use any leather but has proved a successful business.

The company developed the Environmental Profit and Loss Account, which evaluates monetary value throughout the production chain. The system investigates both the company and sourcing partners.

Kering led the Textiles, Apparel & Luxury Goods sector on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index in 2014 and 2015.

Pinault says that he believes these practices can be implemented on a larger scale, whether it's fast fashion or luxury.

The company is working with H&M and Worn Again to upcycle secondhand clothes.

There have been high-profile changes at the design helms of Kering's top brands in recent years, including Gucci and Balenciaga. The appointment of Alessandro Michele at Gucci in January garnered both critical and commercial acclaim.

"The first thing is to make sure that before you are searching for anyone, that you have a clear vision of what is the creative profile of the brand. What makes the brand so unique in its field ... it could be raw materials, could be craftsmanship," Pinault says.

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