Luxury, sustainable or not?

In my book I added a little box towards the end called ‘You Decide’. The idea was that there we just don’t have all the answers when it comes to sustainability and because of that there are quite a few grey areas, areas that are seen as sustainable but may not be, and others that seem unsustainable but may in fact be.

One of these points, one that I have been fascinated about for years now, is about luxury items, in particular luxury goods such as perfumes, purses, watches, scarves etc. As I write in the book, “Luxury items cost more to purchase, but are made from the highest quality material and made to last forever. They are often made by hand using traditional artisanal techniques from around the world. They are kept for generations and generations and do not get thrown out.”

An example I recently read in a magazine focused on handmade products from around the world. Aqua di Parma has been making handmade fragrances since 1916. Fragrances are created with ingredients selected from the best Italian territories and decanted into hand-blown bottles. Candles are manufactured using age old artisanal techniques, they are hand poured into single moults, finished with a handmade wick and scented with concentrated perfume essence. Each product box is handmade, every label hand embossed and hand applied and every product wrapped in paper by hand – no small feat considering the growing size of the brand.

Luxury products are usually seen as being by definition unsustainable. It is about waste, excess. There is a lot of truth in that. But what happens in some luxury brands is very similar to what we see in the next generation of smaller eco-brands. These luxury products are usually looking at durability, they have experts who will repair the products. Many of these products are made to last quickly changing fashions, they are cared for for years by their owners and then resold or passed down to the next generation. This means that they have environmental, social/cultural and economic elements to them.

What do you think?

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  1. I agree that luxury can have sustainability elements. Particularly, the desire to keep a luxury item for a long time, rather than junk it, certainly reduces energy and materials usage. Furthermore, I would argue that there is still a place for luxury in a sustainable world — it’s a question of what transitions must be made toward that world.

  2. great submit, very informative. I wonder why the opposite experts of this sector don’t notice this. You should continue your writing. I am sure, you’ve a great readers’ base already!