Technology-Catalyst for Sustainability, Upholder of Luxury Luster?

When analyzing the modern-day luxury consumer, I believe that a certain hierarchy of importances can be linked to each luxury consumer’s decisions in the buying process, which is crucial to understanding where luxury is headed, how much of it’s “luster” will be lost, and where sustainability and technology come into play. The current luxury environment does not necessarily fully welcome or embrace this new e-commerce era-a rather scary one, arguably an oxymoron to luxury, if you will. So why should they accept it? Maybe the most pressing reason lies in the fact that luxury, (as is essentially all of retail) simply put, is suffering, and has been suffering for years on end now. Closures, downsizing and accruing debts are all results of this e-commerce monster growing in size and threatening to overtake luxury houses and all of retail if luxury does not wake up and start playing by the rules of e-commerce. The cure, many luxury retailers realize, as much as many of them may begrudgingly may hate to admit, is indeed a more esteemed and robust social media presence and cutting edge technology in stores and throughout the supply chain. From 3D models to developing new software engineering methods to ensure exact fit for customers, new methods of immediate ways to satisfy consumer needs in the most accurate ways possible are surfacing left and right. Amazon is already, of course, trailblazing this area of technological development and fashion and luxury brands are again realizing they must follow suit in order to compete. This then means that luxury companies will give the millennial generation exactly what it wants-more time. More technological investment equals less room for error, and even the opportunity, through Farfetch (the multi-brand online luxury retailer), to have the ability of matching existing inventory with consumer’s requests, which means less room for brand devaluation and less room for waste since the items sold are what currently exist, wherever they exist, not items that are produced according to expected or projected demand with resultant sad leftovers. This, and many other channels serve as possibilities for furthered sustainable brand practice. Sustainability, when it comes down to it, will end up saving companies billions of dollars if they allow for practices that streamline distribution to take effect. Even in the midst of the reversal on climate change efforts, leaders are coming forward in the fashion industry. Obvious incentives such as the 67 billion dollar potential gain from reducing energy emissions in the fashion industry, cleaner air, water, and better treatment of human capital, is all reason enough to invest in the kinds of technology to begin to make good on the inevitable positive returns. Waterless dye techniques, robots in factories (which are more sustainable through replacing multiple machines and allowing for distribution centers to be widespread and smaller, closer to customers, reducing carbon footprints as well as eliminating the need for poor human labor and arduous work) but maybe most important of all, and where I hope to leave this particular post, is where luxury will find it’s new roots through putting emphasis on humans and our environment. The room for human innovation will grow for those who have the ability to do so, and the lives of those whose jobs were lost by the robots will be enhanced by retraining programs into areas where their help is needed and their work is meaningful-such as in elder care or in artisan work. This new repurposed workforce will then leave room for the innovator’s visions to come to life, and for luxury to gain a whole new perspective with the marriage of innovation, practicality, technology and sustainability all coming into one. Luxury may not have the same salon-focused fittings, the same kind of uniqueness in the high propensity it did, and in the small amounts of it remaining now, but luxury will certainly see an injection of new creativity, of new human kindness, and this, I believe will serve luxury well if the right institutions take advantage of the right resources.

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