Demonstrating how sustainable attitudes and actions are now underpinning the sector, several of the summit’s conversations discussed greener or more conscious new directions, from luxury goods to storytelling and brands’ future commitments. Speaking to the audience on the themes of sustainability, community and innovation, British accessories designer Anya Hindmarch CBE described sustainability as the North Star now driving its activities – but also common sense for the business. Following on from its 2007 I’m not a Plastic Bag design, Hindmarch explained how the company has recently created a new fabric and collection made from recycled plastic bottles and coated with a recycled PVD from car windscreens. Taking two years to make and, according to Hindmarch, being expensive to develop, she argued that such efforts are laser-focused on what customers want.
Elsewhere, Jamie Gill, CEO of Roksanda, discussed how Covid-19 has forced a reflection point for luxury in creating products built to last. The business is now working towards using 100% certified sustainable fabrics – currently at more than 50% of this target – with its 2022 collection set to be made from fully certified sustainable, organic or recycled fabrics. Gill described how the brand has worked directly with suppliers to create cotton of the premium quality required, over several seasons, but noted that these would not have existed without this R&D – pointing to how brands can use eco-needs to drive innovation and collaboration in their respective luxury sectors, without waiting for suppliers or supply chains to provide it.
In an enlightening presentation focused on luxury in China, Adam Knight, co-founder and CEO of insights consultancy TONG, shared key lessons for luxury brands operating in or seeking to target the Chinese market in this inter-Covid moment.
In brief, these included a focus on the shifting geographies of where luxury spending is happening in China. Amid a drop in global travel and a repatriation of spend, domestic retail is booming online and offline. According to Knight, China's Hainan duty-free zone must be on all companies’ radar, describing it as 'fast becoming the future Dubai'. Secondly, more diverse interests, needs and demographics are altering the luxury consumer trope in China, with Gen Z buying into brands that represent their values and communities. Of note, younger luxurians want to get back in touch with nature and the outdoors, with many embracing deceleration as a counter-culture.
Elsewhere, the Made in China label is also being re-evaluated as a new generation of luxurians come of age more culturally confident. The guochao movement is fostering a modern sense of pride in Chinese heritage, with a desire to reconnect through contemporary fashion, design and even e-commerce platforms dedicated to guochao products, driven by brands such as Anta Sports, Shushu/Tong and unstoppable beauty brand Florasis. In this vein, Knight notes how a content-commerce revolution is powering a new wave of e-commerce in China, headed by Bilibili, Douyin (TikTok) and Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book), with the former a gaming platform that is driving beauty engagement and welcoming a 20-fold rise in premium brands using it, such as Shiseido, Chanel and Lancôme. Yet government crackdowns on web use and gaming means companies must be prepared to reframe some content, especially as Chinese authorities look to promote a new era of positive social influencers online.
From this, politics are now becoming a far greater matter for the luxury sector than ever before, with boycotts on Chinese materials such as cotton by global brands such as Burberry and Adidas leaving some Western labels out of favour. Elsewhere, tariffs have been placed on Australian wines and imported goods, which means global brands need to pay greater attention to government speeches and policies.
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