Our culture has been so steeped in consumerism for so long that it’s become the norm to strive toward “only the best”. All our inboxes are flooded with sample sale site alerts, for designer clothes, sheets, knives, housewares, $2,000 scented candles (no, seriously, we received that email)… Apparently we aspire only to luxury, and luxury definitively and categorically must be a shiny, new purchase delivered straight from the business to the consumer.
The fact is—thanks to the ever-growing technology of the World Wide Web—we now all have
the luxury: the luxury to be sustainable. We can actually participate in the ‘sharing economy
’ we have so often talked about
, if only we could talk about re-using, recycling, upcycling, ‘haute
-cycling’ those quality items. Much of the drive for luxury seems built on a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ ideology. As Fast Company
“Despite consumers’ building desire for high-end fashion that sidesteps toxic textiles and unethical production, the young and evolving market….still refuses to serve them much of it. Especially on the same gilded platter they’ve come to expect. Just ask anyone hoping to drop a few hundred dollars on a sustainable handbag to rival their neighbor’s Ferregamo satchel; save skinning your backyard cow and importing an Italian leathersmith, your options are dismally limited.”
Strangely enough, the desire to out-do your neighbor is still presented as an acceptable, innate drive that coexists with the relatively new concept of literally sharing with your neighbor. But this sharing, reusing and re-purposing—this truly is the solution to the sustainable luxury quandary.
The signs that ‘sharing is caring’ can work for luxury are proliferating: Airbnb
, Exclusive Exchanges
, and ReFashioner
-esque sites have been popping up left and right and center. They are finding great success. People—including those who back such ventures—are noticing.
This type of sharing also affords a certain type of luxury, a veddy snobbish one prized in old-money circles: buying vintage usually translates into a one-of-a-kind exclusivity—so much better than buying an insanely expensive new item available to anyone with good credit.
Fast Company rightly points out that “a typical, non-sustainable garment can make use of over 8,000 toxic chemicals in textile-creation processes.” But the second time around, your neighbor’s Ferragamo satchel produces precisely zero toxic chemicals. That’s luxury plus sustainability in the bag.