Sustainable Luxury

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Social entrepreneurship was, to my mind, an ambiguous term that hovered elusively in the distant domain of business and enterprise. Seeing as it has been circulating the public agenda since the 1980s, it is essential that we revisit social entrepreneurship with a twenty-first century perspective in order to understand its value in today’s society. Sustainable Luxury presents the subject in an inviting and practical way, bringing synergy between two supposedly opposite concepts.

Social entrepreneurs are visionary, innovative people who, in alignment with their own personal beliefs, seek to transform society and bring about positive change. Unlike business entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship aims to maximise social gain rather than profit.  

Sustainable Luxury features nine different case studies, including interviews with each of the founders. The Foreword is written by Oskar Metsavaht, founder and creative director of Brazilian fashion brand Osklen.

The pioneers documented in the book demonstrate unwavering confidence and a sheer determination to make a difference. Not once were they willing to compromise their passion for the planet. These ambitious individuals have proved that transforming waste into luxury is entirely possible. Given that high-end products come at a considerable social and environmental cost, it is no wonder that sustainability is becoming an increasingly attractive philosophy to the modern-day consumer.

‘Luxury is no longer about the monetary value of goods or services. Luxury is being redefined as quality products or services that generate the most benefit to all involved in its production and trade’ Diana Verde Nieto – Sustainable Luxury

Pic 5Kresse WeslingOne case study that struck me was the story of Elvis and Kresse Wesling. In 2004, the pioneering pair moved to London where one particular environmental problem caught their attention. They discovered that fire hoses wear out after 25 years, and are discarded when they are too old or too damaged to repair. Kresse Wesling recalls her first thoughts: ‘I didn’t know what to with the material, just that I would do something.’ And so began the production of belts, bags and accessories, all constructed using this strong, water-resistant fabric.

Pic 4Cameron Saul and Oliver Wayman

Another inspiring case is The Bottletop Foundation, founded in 2002 by Oliver Wayman and Cameron Saul. With fresh creativity, they set out to design a collection of luxury handbags made entirely out of recycled aluminium ring pulls. Whilst benefiting the environment, they provide jobs for those living in developing communities and ensure that their designers receive a fair wage. Wayman notes the initial dilemma: ‘We felt that the woman running the cooperative was taking the lion’s share of the profit.’ Bottletop places the importance of luxury and design alongside the production process, valuing both consumer and designer equally.

Sust Luxury Entrepreneurship medSustainable Luxury is a motivational and illustrative read that manifests the creative reconciliation of luxury and sustainability; an encouragement to any budding entrepreneur who seeks to make a lasting impact on society. 

 Sustainable Luxury and Social Entrepreneurship edited by Miguel Angel Gardetti and María Eugenia Girón (Greenleaf Publishing) £25.00

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