Luxury is Dead

Do You Still Trust the Luxe Bubble?

There’s a statement we often repeat: luxury is dead. Though some look at us incredulously, our viewpoint isn’t a mere hyperbole. In fact, the recent Giorgio Armani controversy underscores this assertion. 

What is luxury?

Luxury is about exclusive designs made in limited numbers and not mass-produced items. Since all top brands produce their garments in huge quantities, they stopped making luxury long ago. Also, all high-end brands are so overexposed you can see them everywhere, which collides with the idea of luxury itself. Therefore, luxury is dead.

Fashion industry, luxury and forced labour

In our exploration of the fashion industry’s relationship with forced labour, it became evident that luxury brands are lagging behind in efforts to reduce forced labour. (Read our post: “Behind the seams: fashion industry and forced labour”).

It is appalling to even consider the idea of forced labour reduction, as it implies a tacit acceptance of worker exploitation.

The news of Giorgio Armani Operations being put into receivership due to labour exploitation allegations further deepens this narrative. Shockingly, the accusations reveal the indirect subcontracting of production to Chinese companies that exploit workers with deplorable working conditions and starving wages. Workers in Chinese-run workshops paid 2-3 euros/day, judges say. Probe finds migrant workers eating, and sleeping in factories.

This revelation challenges the conventional perception of luxury, especially when juxtaposed with the exorbitant retail prices of their products. But as we said so many times, luxury and fast fashion are two faces of the same coin, just for different budgets. 

Luxury is about skilled craftsmanship and quality materials, excellence made in limited quantities. But mass-produced garments and accessories with marketing manipulation, have created a fake luxury. Therefore, a bubble for people who need to feel safe behind a brand but have no understanding of quality. Both luxury and fast fashion follow the same pattern.

How luxury lost its way

When fashion businesses went from family-owned companies to big luxury conglomerates, the only luxury available was the one in the segment definition. Involved in overproduction to maximise profit, the figure of craftsmen tended to disappear. But how do brands grow profit? Exploiting workers and the planet, selecting poor quality materials to make products get a touch of class thanks to packaging and imposing locations. So, by selling a dream – illusionary luxe – they generate high margins. 

In short, the transformation of fashion Maisons from family-owned businesses to profit-oriented conglomerates has eroded the essence of luxury, reducing it to a mere label devoid of substance. 

Overproduction, exploitation, and unskilled craftsmanship taint today’s luxury fashion. The disappearance of the artisan in favour of cost-cutting measures and mass production has altered the fashion industry’s foundations. What was once synonymous with exclusivity and elegance has been diluted into a hollow semblance of its former self.

Redefining luxury

As designers, retailers and consumers, we must redefine our notion of luxury. Is it about status symbols and price tags? Or should it embody integrity, authenticity, and ethical practices? Let’s challenge the status quo and demand accountability from brands. True luxury isn’t about the price tag or the logo. It’s a commitment to craftsmanship, adequately paid, skilled hands, high-quality materials and exclusivity. 

No luxury can exist at the cost of human dignity. Let’s vote with our wallets and support brands that uphold these values. Together, we can reshape the narrative of luxury for a more ethical future.

While the fashion industry grapples with its own contradictions in a state of therapeutic obstinacy, we assert that traditional luxury is dead. Ultimately, it becomes clear that principles rather than mere price points and status symbols define true luxury #formodernhumans.

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Behind the Seams: Fashion Industry & Forced Labour

Understanding the Joint Roles of Brands and Consumers

Let’s delve “behind the seams” to unveil the link between the fashion industry and forced labour. The connection is robust, a topic often discussed yet incredibly overlooked by consumers despite the information.

In a recent post, we exposed the symbiotic relationship between luxury brands and fast fashion, both operating within the capitalistic framework. Today, we peel back another layer, examining recent cases.

Behind the seams of luxury brands

First, we happened to read a BOF post: “Luxury brands lag on efforts to reduce forced labour.” Reduce? But isn’t it appalling that brands discuss reducing forced labour instead of eliminating forced labour? By the way, the graphic in the attachment gathered luxury brands and fast fashion brands. All the most popular ones! (see it here).
Second, these days, the news reported the case of Alviero Martini. The company is under investigation for starving wages.

These two elements confirm our thesis: luxury brands and fast fashion share the same pattern, just for different pockets. But, above all, they highlight how deeply this issue is rooted in the fashion system, revealing it as a consolidated practice to maximise profit.

Also, it is interesting to notice that luxury brands often blame fast fashion while hiding their practices that are no different! Luxury brands exploit people’s work precisely as fast fashion does. Whatever the “made in” label says.

According to “Knowthechain” – a non-profit organisation:
“Today, an estimated 24.9 million people around the world are victims of forced labour, generating $150 billion in illegal profits in the private economy.”

Forced labour & modern-day slavery

Forced labour refers to individuals compelled to work against their will, under threat of punishment or coercion. In other words, individuals suffer exploitation as they are deprived of their freedom, coerced into labour without fair remuneration, and subjected to conditions over which they have no control. Forced labour can take various forms, including human trafficking, debt bondage, and other forms of modern slavery, and it is a violation of fundamental human rights as well as international labour standards.

Although condemned and prohibited by national and international laws, the practice is widespread. What’s worse? People, through their purchases, endorse this despicable system.

The fashion industry has no moral fabric, just as individuals who ignore the issue despite the available information.

Are you willing to shut your eyes when buying a logoed bag?
Did you know there’s an alternative? Small, independent brands offer luxury handbags with the finest materials, quality and skilled craftsmanship, all at just 1/3 the price of a branded bag. But while the logoed ones may be easy to sell, only a niche audience can appreciate true quality.

Your decisions as a consumer can shape an industry that values humanity over profit. Don’t compromise ethics over status.

What happens “behind the seams,” the dark connection between the fashion industry and forced labour, is extensively covered in the media. Read, share, and take action. But do not close your eyes. Ignorance is not an option; it’s time to confront the truth.

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Child labour: the modern slavery

The obscenity of a society that closes its eyes in the face of the major issues

Child labour is one of the most obscene issues in our society, one of those problems people don’t want to see. Even though prohibited by legislation worldwide, the number of children exploited is growing. According to Unicef, 2021 registered the first increase in two decades, with cases rising to 160 million worldwide because of covid-19.

There is a consistent number of countries where child labour is not forbidden. Poverty and discrimination are the main causes, but conflicts and the pandemic gave a big hand in spreading the situations that degenerate into this modern slavery.

Child labour: modern slavery for the western world

Exploited children produce goods that supply the stores in the western world. Or call it that side of the world where people ignore or pretend to ignore every issue. Whichever it is, having the newest mobile device or a fancy car is better than knowing the truth about the little hands who extracted materials used to produce our toys.

And so, we dedicate each day to specific matters giving them the priority for that day. Specifically, the world day against child labour was on 12 June.

Therefore, on an annual basis, we see impactful graphics and beautiful words that end up in nothing. They just become content for social media, but nothing ever changes.

These kinds of stories are as old as the earth. So, if we aren’t able to eradicate them, but we still abuse children’s rights, we have serious problems.

There will be no sustainability without ethical labour. And if sustainable products are a priority, child labour comes first.
How can we talk about sustainability when the number of children involved in production chains has increased over time?

There is an organisation that is working to change things consistently, it’s called Still I Rise. Their projects aren’t endless. Indeed, they work to solve problems in a specific place, and then they move on. Also, education is their focus, and they open schools.
Please, check them out here and donate if you can!

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The hypocrites

Modern slavery is a topic we frequently discuss because it is horrific and unacceptable. Even more, we are concerned by the context of hypocrisy around it.

Brands are the new gods. Sell people a famous brand, and you’ll get silence and blindness in return.

However, as members of an evolved society, we cannot turn our heads to the other side pretending nothing happens.

The exploiting system based on forced labour and minority oppression has a direct link to superbrands. Not only fashion brands, to make it clear. Indeed, every field finds benefit and — profit — in this rotten practice. In fact, there’s no better way to maximize profit.

Even though we are a drop in the ocean, we think it’s important to put out our words to help raise awareness about this issue.
Popular magazines shed light on it, but people don’t like reading. Or they don’t care enough about things that do not affect them personally. Which, by the way, is a scary attitude.

So, how can you make the message resonate with a large audience?

modern slavery - via Enes Kanter
Modern Slavery – via Enes Kanter

Here comes Enes Kanter, an NBA player. We admit we know nothing about the sport he plays. Zero. But that’s not the point. In fact, we admire him for his bravery in showing up consistently in support of human rights. For many that tend to hide, there are a few who talk out loud.

And so, it was with immense pleasure that we saw his recent posts about the Uyghur minority, forced labour camps and brands hypocrisy, asking Nike’s accountability.

We need more brave humans like Enes Kanter to speak the truth to reach the masses. Just like we need more people that open their eyes and feel touched. Fundamentally, we must find a way to put an end to this exploitation.

Hypocrite Nike - via Enes Kanter
via Enes Kanter

If, as humans, all we could do was develop new forms of slavery in order to feed our fake needs, we have failed.

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