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Nachhaltige Mode: Nachhaltigkeit als neues Luxusgut?

Sustainable fashion:Sustainability as a new luxury good?


The fashion industry, a place that promises constant change and innovation, is now facing one of its biggest challenges: sustainability and therefore the production of sustainable fashion.

The number of consumers demanding a sustainable, socially responsible approach to fashion is growing. At the same time, there is a risk of losing the broad mass of consumers who can still afford truly sustainable fashion. As a consequence, will this lead to a new definition of luxury in the fashion industry? What values ​​of identification should luxury goods embody in the future? Will riches exclusivity, status, abundance and tradition be added in the future in order to play into the luxury segment or will there be a systemic change that will provide luxury brands with new, sustainable values t?

The fact is: the production of sustainable fashion is complex and involves numerous hurdles that force companies to rethink their strategies and business models. Which companies will this be possible?

Do small labels that follow a holistic sustainable strategy have a chance to position themselves alongside established (luxury) brands for which consumers already have a higher price acceptance

This journal takes a look at changing consumer behavior and the significant problem of restructuring that companies in the fashion industry face in pursuing sustainable goals.

"One day we'll wake up and green will not be the new black, it will be the new invisible. Meaning, no longer will sustainable be the exception or something that's considered au courant; instead it will be a matter of course – something that all designers incorporate into their design ethos."

Summer Rayne Oakes, known as the world's first eco-model, entrepreneur, and author of Style, Naturallyly

The demand for sustainable fashion is growing

In the last two decades, people's consumer behavior has changed fundamentally Study by Bain & Company shows and brings sustainable fashion into focus. Using Maslow's well-known hierarchy of needs, the study shows how needs shift when purchasing a product and which values ​​become increasingly important. It can be seen that customers today not only want high-quality and functional products, but that when purchasing products it is increasingly important to them to identify and represent their personal values, which increasingly include sustainability and social commitment.

See. Study by Bain & Company accessed on September 25, 2023

In concrete terms, this means that more and more customers, including in the area of ​​fashion, prefer products that embody their sustainable and social values ​​and that they are willing to pay a higher price for them. The market for sustainable fashion is constantly growing, especially among the younger generations, as a study by McKinsey confirms.

See. McKinsey study accessed on September 25, 2023

According to this one McKinsey study In 2019, even in the luxury sector, 26% of all purchases were for sustainable fashion items, and the trend is rising. 20% of those surveyed cited sustainability as a reason for their purchasing decision. It is predicted that in 10 years labels with sustainability measures will account for 85% of the market share.

This not only illustrates the change in consumer priorities, but also the growing importance of sustainability in the luxury segment and sustainable fashion. It is clear to see that luxury and sustainability are no longer seen as incompatible concepts, but rather go hand in hand to shape the future of the fashion industry. This fact will be discussed in more detail throughout the journal.

The findings from these studies also make it clear that the transition to sustainable action is not an easy task for companies, as the authors of the study emphasize. Despite efforts to transform businesses, sustainable development programs have proven particularly challenging. In fact, only 4% of corporate sustainability programs have been fully implemented, while 47% of these programs have failed.

Implementing sustainability – The problem of restructuring in the fashion industry

The implementation of sustainability in the fashion industry and the production of sustainable fashion presents companies with a significant problem that is accompanied by numerous challenges. A key dilemma is that there are still no uniform standards for sustainable practices in the industry. This means that companies are often faced with the difficult decision of whether to prioritize environmental or social aspects of sustainability. This uncertainty complicates the restructuring of their business processes and makes it difficult to set clear sustainability goals.

Larger companies also face the challenge of finding trustworthy supply chains and producers to produce sustainable fashion on a larger scale. Shifting to sustainable practices often requires a fundamental redesign of the entire value chain, from sourcing sustainable materials to marketing. This is a complex process that takes a lot of time and resources.

Because of these difficulties, many large fashion companies often only focus on individual special collections or individual products that are advertised as sustainable. Unfortunately, this is quickly viewed as "greenwashing" as the sustainability of these products is often superficial and does not reflect the company's overall operations.

Overall, producing sustainable fashion is a complex task that requires companies to seriously restructure. It is crucial that the industry works with governments, NGOs and consumers to develop clear and consistent sustainability policies and strategies. This is the only way the fashion industry can help shape a more sustainable future in the long term and make sustainability an accessible luxury good for a broader segment of the population.

See. McKinsey study accessed on September 25, 2023

Sustainable luxury – sustainability as a new competitive advantage?

The combination of luxury and sustainability may seem paradoxical at first glance. While luxury is often associated with waste and exclusivity, sustainability stands for economical and environmentally friendly consumption. But if you take a closer look, you can see that luxury in its essence also stands for value and rarity, qualities that can be easily combined with the concept of sustainable fashion..

Luxury items are by nature aimed at a small, exclusive target group. Unlike mass production and fast fashion, where products are manufactured in large quantities and in a short period of time, luxury goods are designed to last for a long time. They are manufactured with the utmost care and quality, which significantly extends their lifespan and helps conserve resources.

Another notable aspect is that luxury labels tend to face fewer of the restructuring challenges that are typical of many mainstream fashion companies. Thanks to their extremely high profit margins, luxury brands often have larger budgets to source sustainable resources and ensure environmentally friendly and fair production of sustainable fashion items. Additionally, they produce in significantly smaller quantities compared to fast fashion companies as their collections are typically smaller and more timeless. This allows luxury labels to more easily absorb the higher costs of sustainable practices or pass them on to their high-spending customers. Luxury labels are therefore fundamentally predestined for more sustainable concepts. Will luxury brands have an economic advantage over small brands and thus become the winners of the decade of sustainability?

See. McKinsey study accessed on September 25, 2023

Sustainable fashion as economic success - radical rethinking necessary

According to organizations such as Greenpeace and the British journalist Kate Fletcher, the founder of the concept of "slow fashion", economic success should no longer be measured solely on the basis of sales and profits. It is urgently necessary to also include environmental balance and social commitment in the assessment. This new perspective requires companies to take a holistic view of their business activities, in which sustainability and social responsibility play a crucial role.

A central point in this rethinking process towards sustainable fashion concerns the production and sales cycles. Instead of developing monthly collections for the entire world or continents, which leads to massive overproduction and waste of resources, companies should focus more on regional or national production in the future. This enables shorter supply chains and better adaptation to local needs and cultures. With this measure, the fashion industry can take an important step towards sustainability and ecological responsibility. However, the well-known growth formula continues to dominate the fast fashion giants more and more often. And the willingness of the market-leading brands to forego the associated sales is still limited.n.


Regardless of whether it is in the luxury segment or not, the need to introduce sustainability and socially acceptable work processes in the fashion industry not only poses significant challenges for companies, but also presents consumers with the task of fundamentally adapting their purchasing behavior and adapting to new supply and price structures to accustom. Even if there is a willingness to invest more in sustainable fashion in the future, only a radical rethink in the assessment of economic success together with a complete system change in the company's value chain can lead to sustainable success in the long term. As long as this change is still inferior to the current challenges for most companies, the integration of sustainability in the fashion industry will unfortunately remain a luxury good for both consumers and companies, which is aimed at as a medium of identification, but is not equally easily accessible to everyone .

Does the same apply to jewelry?

The same dynamics and changes that we see in the fashion industry are also emerging in the jewelry industry. The question of whether luxury and sustainability can go hand in hand here is becoming increasingly important and the changes in the fashion industry could serve as an indicator that the jewelry industry will also increasingly adopt sustainable ways to meet the needs of its demanding customers.

Similar to clothing, consumers are increasingly placing greater value on sustainability and ethics when it comes to jewelry. The origin of gemstones and precious metals as well as the working conditions in jewelry production are becoming increasingly important. Disadvantages are gradually becoming more aware of consumers and influencing purchasing decisions. This has led some jewelry brands, some of them well-known, to focus more on sustainability and social responsibility.

Fortunately, there are already jewelry brands like Maren Jewelry that have consistently relied on sustainably sourced gemstones and recycled precious metals right from the start in order to minimize their ecological footprint. These brands establish transparent supply chains, generally use fairly traded and environmentally friendly materials and are involved in social initiatives to ensure holistic sustainability. From initial design to shipping, we prioritize environmentally friendly practices without compromise and do our best every day to drive sustainable change.

Frequently asked questions

When is fashion sustainable?

Sustainable fashion is characterized by a number of features designed to ensure that it has less impact on the environment and society. Here are some key factors that help mark fashion as sustainable:

  • materials: Sustainable fashion uses environmentally friendly materials such as organic cotton, hemp, Tencel or recycled fabrics. These materials typically have a smaller environmental footprint and are less harmful to the environment.
  • production: Sustainable fashion companies pay attention to environmentally friendly production processes. This means they minimize waste, improve energy efficiency and reduce harmful chemicals.
  • Fair working standard: Sustainable fashion values ​​fair working conditions for everyone involved in the supply chain, including workers in production facilities. This includes fair wages, safe working conditions and the right to unionize.
  • longevity: Sustainable fashion should have a longer lifespan. This means the clothing is well made and will not wear out quickly, helping to reduce waste.
  • Recycling and upcycling: Sustainable fashion promotes the recycling and upcycling of clothing to conserve resources. This may mean repairing, redesigning, or reusing used clothing.
  • transparency: Sustainable fashion companies are transparent about their production processes and the origin of their materials. They allow consumers to understand where the clothing comes from and how it was made.
  • Minimizing Waste: Sustainable fashion companies work to minimize waste throughout the supply chain, whether through efficient inventory management, avoiding overproduction or promoting repair and recycling solutions.

High End Fashion:Can luxury be sustainable?

Yes, luxury can be sustainable, and there is a growing trend in the high-end fashion world that combines sustainability and luxury. Here are some reasons why luxury CAN be sustainable:

  • Quality and durability: Luxury fashion is often characterized by first-class quality and craftsmanship. These high-quality garments tend to be more durable and resistant to wear and tear, meaning they can be worn for longer periods of time. This promotes sustainability as less clothing is produced and disposed of.
  • High-quality materials: Luxury fashion brands often use high-quality materials such as the finest silk, cashmere or leather. When sourced sustainably, these materials can minimize environmental impact.
  • Timeless designs: Luxury fashion often focuses on timeless designs rather than seasonal trends. Timeless clothing has a longer lifespan and does not need to be constantly replaced, which helps reduce waste.
  • Responsible production: Some luxury brands rely on responsible production practices that ensure working conditions are fair and environmentally friendly processes are used.
  • Conscious buyers: Luxury customers are often willing to pay more for high-quality, sustainable products. This allows luxury brands to invest in sustainable practices and offer their customers products that meet their high standards.
  • innovation: Some luxury brands rely on innovative technologies and materials to create sustainable fashion. This can further reduce the ecological footprint.

However, it is important to note that not all luxury brands are automatically sustainable. Consumers should carefully examine brands and look for sustainability information.

Are there currently fully sustainable luxury brands?

The term “fully sustainable luxury brands” is complex and requires precise definition as luxury brands’ sustainability efforts can vary. It is important to note that there is no general standard for sustainability that is met equally by all luxury brands. However, there are some luxury brands that are particularly committed to sustainability and have taken a number of measures to promote environmentally friendly and socially responsible practices. Here are three examples:

  • Stella McCartney: Stella McCartney is a luxury brand with a strong commitment to sustainability. The brand uses sustainable materials, avoids the use of fur and leather and promotes fair working conditions.
  • Patagonia: Although not traditionally known as a luxury brand, Patagonia has been at the forefront of sustainability. They produce high-quality outdoor clothing and have an intensive focus on environmental protection and social responsibility.
  • Gucci: Gucci has focused more on sustainability in recent years and has set itself the goal of being climate neutral by 2030. They use sustainable materials and support social projects.

However, it's important to note that even with these brands, not every line or product is necessarily sustainable. Sustainability efforts may vary from collection to collection. Consumers looking for sustainable luxury brands should learn about a brand's specific actions and goals and make purchasing decisions accordingly.

Why is the demand for sustainable fashion growing?

The demand for sustainable fashion is growing as customers increasingly value products that reflect their personal values, including sustainability and social commitment. This has led to a rise in the sustainable fashion market, particularly among younger generations.

Written By Franka

Franka is a freelancer in the fields of marketing and communication and lives with her small family in Munich. She tries to consciously organize her everyday life in order to gradually integrate more sustainability into her life.

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