Upcycled Accessories: Eco-Entry Point for Luxury Brands
As consumer attitudes towards conscious living become the new norm- burgeoning awareness around ethical production, environmental commitment, and sustainable strategy- the window for the luxury sector widens with the opportunity to turn waste into profit.
The fashion and beauty industries are prime for an eco-fabulous makeover, without the stigma of ‘hippie chic’. As the image of ethical fashion gets a facelift, a recent report from BBMG entitled The New Consumer states that one in three consumers follow through on supporting brands which align with their values when making purchases. Capitalizing on this trend, luxury brands have the upper hand. Traditionally equated to quality, upscale accessories, are a splurge the style conscious woman is prepared to make- even with a Recession driven decreased spending budget. Couple the ethos of quality with an added ethical story, and luxury brands are positioned to service the needs of the new consumer, twofold.
According to a Bain 2010 ‘Why She Shops’ report, “women surveyed reported that they are explicitly seeking durability (80% agreed with the statement, ‘I am willing to pay more for clothing and accessories that will last more than one season.’). As a result, the style-conscious woman is disproportionately investing in “classic” styles-65% of brands purchased in 2010 versus 35% spent on contemporary brands.” That is good news for luxury brands. Yet, quality is only one deciding factor for the new consumer who is asking themselves, “What is in it for we?” and expressing an interest in products that address the greater good.
So how can luxury brands make the leap to offering classic quality pieces with an authentic environmental initiative without overhauling their supply chains? Zero waste expert and Parson’s professor, Timo Rissanen may have an answer. In his zero waste methods for fashion production research, Rissanen found that within “contemporary methods of fashion making the amount of fabric waste is approximately 15 percent of the total fabric used.”
Fabric cuttings, scraps and waste generated by traditional patterns and production methods are viably the most overlooked cash cow of the fashion industry. The leftover scraps from a cut and sew operation are of course the same quality materials used to produce the original piece. By utilizing those ‘waste’ materials to form an additional piece- most appropriately a smaller accessory- the brand cuts waste costs and reaps the benefits of greater production from the same amount of resources.
One brand successfully showcasing this model is the 2011 winner of the Best Green Handbag award given by In Style’s Independent Handbag Designer Awards, The Sway NYC. Creative Director, Belinda Pasqua is leading the way in upcycled fashion design, producing upcycled leather handbags, clutches and jackets. “Each piece in the collection is made using high-quality excess leathers that are hand cut into new useable shapes to minimize waste. Excess leathers are sourced from a factory that makes motorcycle accessories which is powered using advanced natural alternative energy sources.”
Luxury brands have already in place the design teams to create aesthetically stylish pieces along with quality sourced materials that last. In creating upcycled accessories, they find an eco-entry point into the market where consumers have expressed their needs. As a small step in the right direction, it makes dollars and sense for luxury brands to explore upcycling as an authentic way to offer ethical fashion.
Contact Greta Eagan (greta[at]fashionmegreen[dot]com) for more information and strategy around upcylced accessories.Tweet