Luxury-industry insiders and moguls met for the Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit 2013 in Vienna, Austria, over the past few days, and lots of interesting tidbits of information came out of the event’s who’s-who list of speakers, which included luminaries like Alexis Babeau, Managing Director of Luxury at Kering, and Andrew Rosen, CEO of Theory and Helmut Lang (and a huge investor in Proenza Schouler, among others). For our purposes, perhaps the the most interesting speaker was Gucci President and CEO Patrizio di Marco, who spoke at length about his brand’s commitment to social consciousness, which included a promise to stop using environment-polluting PVC in its products in the next three years.
Those comments were part of a larger speech that di Marco gave at the summit concerning his company’s environmental and social efforts. According to the Financial Times’ Luxury 360 Twitter account, di Marco spoke of the enormous opportunities that luxury brands have in the future with consumers who are now young, and that those younger consumers are more likely than anyone to be socially conscious – environmental impacts, labor conditions and a brand’s commitment to philanthropy all matter more to consumers now, and will matter more in the near future, than they ever have before. He went on to talk about his company’s 100% certified labor process, which means that Gucci is in full compliance with all health, safety and environmental regulations wherever they business has a footprint, something he called a “rarity,” even in luxury. In light of the tragic collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh several weeks ago, perhaps it will become less rare in the future.
The CEO also committed to some environmental goals for Gucci, and among them was the elimination of PVC from the company’s products by 2016 and the elimination of all hazardous chemicals from Gucci’s wares by 2030. Not only will that be good for the environment – PVC is a damaging, pollution-causing material to create and requires the use of carcinogenic chemicals, among other things – but luxury customers will likely welcome the news as well. PVC is not, nor has it ever been, a luxury material, and charging top-dollar for bags made out of it has always struck me as slightly offensive, even if I occasionally find one I like.
Gucci is an enormously powerful and influential name in luxury accessories, so perhaps this change will have wider results – if Gucci ends some of its more environmentally disastrous practices, including the use of PVC, who else might be next to hop on the socially conscious bandwagon? Are you happy to hear that PVC will be eschewed by at least one major brand?
If you’d like to support Gucci’s goals with a little shopping, check out the Gucci official site.