Today luxury innovation is to meet traceability requirements. It’s back to the ‘ethos’ of the Greeks, ethics and aesthetics.
This week we have celebrated the third edition of the Awards in Sustainable Luxury (www.awardinsustainableluxury.org). The awards ceremony − held in Villa Ocampo (Buenos Aires) − has been an homage to the pioneers in this journey, to those entrepreneurs who believe that real luxury can only be responsible.
The Brazilian Oskar Metsavaht, founder of Osklen (www.osklen.com) reminded us that all the luxury brands have their origin in stories of innovation. When Mr. Louis Vuitton invented a flat-cover, waterproof trunk, he did not intend to create a status symbol, but to satisfy a specific need and to offer the best possible product. The wealthy travelers back then were looking for an alternative to heavy bend-cover, leather trunks that were not suitable for transoceanic journeys. According to Oskar, innovation today, in luxury, involves meeting the traceability demands. It means coming back to the Greek “ethos”, ethics and aesthetics.
Then, we were inspired by the words of Alan Frampton, the British owner of CRED (www.cred.com), the company that wants to revolutionize the sale of precious metals, replacing them with fair trade metals. CRED buys and refines gold which is responsibly extracted from cooperative mines in Latin America. They assured us that in these mines, there are right work conditions for the miners and the use of mercury for extraction is avoided. Alan, using English and Spanish − with an Andalusian accent, told us that after years working in the cut flowers trade market, now he was facing a segment that has many environmental and social challenges. In this segment, making a wedding band requires removing more than three tons of earth.
La Becasina Hotel (www.labecasina.com) received the Hospitality Award. Years ago, its owner and founder decided that El Tigre, a name given by the porteños to the Paraná River Delta, needed a luxury accommodation to enjoy all that threatened nature. He also decided that luxury meant to preserve the beautiful environment of the southernmost forest of the whole American continent.
Chilean entrepreneur Paulina Robson (www.paulinarobson.com), winner of the Award for Sustainability for a Small Accessories Company, leads a project based on accessories, mainly using salmon skin. This is a subproduct of the salmon-farming industry, a thriving one, which is a key factor for Chilean economy. She explained to us her dream of improving the world one handbag at a time.
On October 31st, in the Reading Lounge of this emblematic Buenos Aires villa, there was a magic moment. Big and small companies united by one conviction: luxury must return to its original meaning. That is: “Everlasting products made by people that felt dignified making them.” Today, technology allows us to connect artisans and customers. The artisans feel their work is recognized and the customers acquire unique products, in a transaction that reminds us of what happened centuries ago. The internet had to appear to let us come back to the way they made luxury products in the past!
I have been frequently asked how we can talk about luxury and responsibility in times of crisis and/or in countries with big social inequalities. How responsible can it be to sell those products at such high prices, which most people consider unaffordable? My answer is another question: How responsible is it to buy a t-shirt for one dollar or one euro? Is it that in that case we don’t ask ourselves where does it come from and how was it made?