Luxury Fashion Goes Circular

Trends / Sustainability
CR Shelare
Sandra Michalska
Aug 19, 2021
The next frontier of visual storytelling for luxury fashion is building a circular culture around your brand. Scaling circular business model by reducing waste a making more efficient use of resources has become a leitmotiv for many premium fashion powerhouses like Kering or LVMH, as well as brands, which upped their ESG game by pioneering biomaterials like Stella McCartney; committing to greater transparency on its supply chains like Gucci, or encouraging clients to return items they no longer wear in exchange for store credit like Alexander McQueen.

Despite multiple initiatives, the fashion industry has historically relied on extractive business model and is still falling short of ambitions to operate in a more environmentally and socially responsible manner. This may cause disengagement from conscious consumers, with 6 in 10 being turned off by seeing imagery in the brand’s advertising and communication that is not environmentally aware. As a marker of desirability – which is essential in the luxury space – being eco‑conscious has now transitioned from a 'nice‑to‑have' to an imperative. The key for luxury fashion is to continue correcting its course towards circular economy while still creating desire‑inducing visual narratives. To do so, many brands focus on showcasing future targets, yet consumers’ expectation of sustainable messaging in brand communication is far more complex.
Inspiring Circular Culture to Build Loyalty
From our ongoing Visual GPS research, we know that different generations have different demands. While the traditional customer groups for luxury brands (Baby Boomers and GenXers) focus mainly on product performance and sustainable manufacturing, younger generations have a more holistic approach around the side effects of their consumption, especially when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint. Yet, regardless of generation, the most impactful images are those that show the direct impacts of both environmental issues on people’s daily lives and that humans have on animals and nature.

In order to stay relevant with their target audiences, luxury fashion houses have a responsibility to address sustainability wholeheartedly, holistically, and transparently. This can be done by harnessing the potential of systemic changes towards circularity undertaken by brands; however, it's only effective if it goes hand‑in‑hand with a shift in culture. Luxury brands, with all their cultural influence, have the power to build a circular culture around their brands by visualising their commitment at every part of the fashion business, from sustainable material sourcing to circular design and innovation, and new services. This will help to build consumers' trust and loyalty, as 8 in 10 consumers are more likely to be loyal to brands whose business support their values.
Actionable Tips
It has never been a greater time to show your customer base how you disrupt the linear model by embedding circular thinking across all aspects of your business. Remember that 6 in 10 global consumers say they only buy products from brands that make an effort to be eco‑friendly. At Getty Images, we can help you produce a wide range of visual scenarios that portray cultural shifts towards circularity within your brand’s ecosystem.

  • Show respectful material sourcing and how your brand is giving back to nature. Biodiversity loss has long been the dark side of luxury fashion, with exotic furs, ivory accents, and animal skin accessories topping the list. Commit to a change, be transparent and highlight sustainable practices like sourcing organic cotton farms, biodiversity regeneration, or upcycling. 
  • Focus on sustainability by design. Preserve and showcase traditional customs such as embroidery or sustainable dyeing techniques. Show your commitment to craftmanship with respect to the welfare of your workforce. Our Visual GPS reveals that 8 in 10 will not support companies that are dishonest and unfair when dealing with employees.
  • Innovate with premium circular service. Luxury fashion goes beyond creating well‑crafted products: it must provide experience and innovative, premium services. Think about aligning them with emerging trends such as repair, reuse, return and rental ‑ already practised by 4 in 10 global consumers. 
  • Above all, be inclusive. Include representation across all demographics in your visual stories, as sustainability is important to people all over the world. Always remember to empower all people by representing all intersectional identities and age groups.
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