Deeper Luxury: Are you paying extra for a dirty brand?

Posted on August 28, 2008

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Working closely enough to the fashion industry makes me see that there are some things that are really JUST NOT WORTH IT. I love my clothes and my shoes and my bags, but you’d be surprised how little I am willing to pay for them.

Yes, quality is everything, but a closer look at the luxury goods industry shows that quality may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Yes, TAG, what are YOU made of?

Yes, TAG, what are YOU made of?

In Deeper Luxury: Quality and Style When the World Matters, authors Jem Bendell and Anthony Kleanthous, together with WWF-UK, studied and ranked the 10 largest publicly-traded luxury brand-owning companies on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.

I was fortunate enough to have gotten a copy of this report and to have been able to write about it in the September issue of MEGA Magazine. Please do check it out (I also interviewed actress Anne Curtis for the cover story), but here is an excerpt of my article:

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In China, an ultra-large billboard shows the country’s superstar basketball player endorsing a luxury timepiece brand. The copy asks the consumer, “What are you made of?” It does more than advertise a product; it challenges the viewer’s perceptions of self and self-worth (especially in a country that has made mass production its core competence). Now is an age when, indeed, we are what we wear.

But a recently released World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report now urges comsumers to focus their lenses on their favorite brands and ask them, “What are YOU made of?” We love our leather, our hides, our peacock feather(s) and our exotic materials–but at what cost? The report states that, in 2001, “humanity’s footprint (the measure of how  we are depleting our natural resources) exceeded the Earth’s biological capacity by approximately 20 percent. If everyone were to live like the average European, three planets would be needed to provide adequate quantities of natural resources–for the average North American, five planets would be required.”

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It made me feel good to not be blowing my hard-earned pesos on something that eventually may mean nothing much anyway. (Or was I just sour-graping, deep down inside? Hahaha.)

But this is an issue that is indeed worth looking into. We demand corporate social responsibility and some measure of sustainability from our multinationals, our large corporations, and our manufacturers–how about the names that we wear on our chests, soles, and arms? Do we really know the ultimate price of the six-figure purchases that some of us strain to (and that some others never will) afford?

We are fortunate, then, that Dr. Jem Bendell himself will be in Manila on September 9 to talk about Deeper Luxury and its implications for the upscale market. Those who want to receive invites to this exclusive talk can email Donna Lampano at World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Philippines at <dlampano@wwf.org.ph>. I shall also be releasing an PDF version of the report after the talk here in Out of the Universe and will write my own summary + additional notes. Please stay tuned for that.

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