Communication for Sustainable Development

Opportunities & challenges for sustainable luxury goods

Cash Loans Against Luxury GoodsImage by dtailed via Flickr
SINGAPORE : The luxury goods market is a fiercely competitive one, and for those brands looking to enter into the sustainable luxury goods market, there are business opportunities as well as big challenges.

Jujube Ecological Apparel Design, which designs apparel that is made 100 per cent from so called "eco fibres", was launched earlier this year.

However, growth has been flat. The company said a key challenge for the industry here in Asia is that it is just taking off.

Jujube Li, director, Jujube Ecological Apparel Design, said: "I think that eco fashion is only beginning to become more of a trend here in Singapore and Asia, whereas in North America and Europe there are already eco brands that have been established and have been performing very well since 10 years ago.

"So in terms of the local market, in terms of demand for our designs, most of it is coming from the local market because this is where we are based right now."

Sustainable jewellery designer Choo Yilin has seen revenue growth of 300 per cent since her company's inception in 2008. The company has a presence in Singapore and Thailand and is looking to expand in Europe and the US in the year ahead.

As part of its sustainability drive, Yilin uses recycled precious metals.

Yilin, owner of Choo Yilin Artisan Jewellery, said: "The assumption is that if you are going to grow your business as a sustainable luxury label, profits are definitely going to take a hit and there definitely would be instances where you would have to forgo certain profit margins in order to be a lot more ecologically conscious.

"But at the end of the day, there are ways to grow the business as a sustainable luxury business and keep healthy margins, and be profitable - a lot of it goes back to the business model."

And while there may be challenges for such brands in the market, demand is there if the business model and the product are right.

Earthsoul eco shoe retailer has seen a tenfold increase in sales since it launched in 2008.

Keith Lee Jun Ting, director of Earthsoul LLP, said: "All of the leather is called "E leather" - they recycle the whole thing and make it into new leather. And throughout the whole process it is toxic free - optimising the whole life cycle of it, we also avoid using glue."

So, while it may be early days for sustainable luxury brands in Asia, industry players say the market, while niche, is set to grow as consumers become more curious about the production chain behind what they consume.

Some sustainable brands say that the price and design are still key for consumers, and sustainability is just a bonus.

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