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Striking the Balance: Navigating the Intersection of Luxury Fashion and Full Sustainability

Navigating the Crossroads: Sustainability in Luxury Fashion through the Lens of Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer at Kering

Luxury fashion and sustainability: a dynamic intersection that demands scrutiny. In an exclusive interview, Faran Krentcil engages with Marie-Claire Daveu, the formidable force driving sustainability at the helm of Gucci, Balenciaga, and Yves Saint Laurent under the Kering umbrella. The discussion unfolds against the backdrop of a star-studded September gala hosted by the Kering Foundation, where luminaries such as Channing Tatum, Isabelle Huppert, Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian, and Linda Evangelista, bedecked in designer gowns, navigate a soirée marked by both glamour and a touch of perspiration.

Marie-Claire Daveu, recognized as the doyenne orchestrating sustainability initiatives for Kering, shares insights into the intricate workings of the luxury brands. Notably, she sheds light on the unconventional yet impactful approach of curbing "wasteful" air conditioning, even on balmy September nights when A-listers like Nicole Kidman grace the occasion in Balenciaga elegance. The conversation delves into the ethos guiding Kering's commitment to sustainability, encompassing everything from sourcing recycled materials to the reduction of carbon footprints.

In a candid moment at The Whitby Hotel in midtown Manhattan, Daveu emphasizes the importance of local actions in the broader canvas of sustainability. She articulates Kering's stringent rule for air conditioning in business spaces: "No disturbances from 19 to 26 degrees Celsius." Daveu's rationale extends beyond a mere temperature policy; it reflects a conviction that small, seemingly inconsequential actions, when collective, wield significant influence in fostering sustainability.

As luxury consumers increasingly prioritize environmental consciousness, this dialogue with Marie-Claire Daveu explores the pivotal question: Can luxury fashion reconcile opulence with a sustainable future? The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of glittering galas and celebrity couture, providing a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities that lie at the intersection of luxury and sustainability.

Revolutionizing Luxury: Marie-Claire Daveu's Sustainability Triumph at Kering

Marie-Claire Daveu, the powerhouse behind sustainability at Kering, isn't just making A-list celebrities perspire on the red carpet—she's also turning up the heat on competitors within the luxury fashion sector. According to a 2022 survey by Deloitte, a significant 57% of luxury consumers now consider sustainability factors when making new designer purchases. Daveu's influence extends across Kering's style portfolio, featuring acclaimed brands like Bottega Veneta and trailblazing innovators like Alexander McQueen, all aligning with published environmental standards for responsible practices such as cotton sourcing and water usage in precious metalwork.

In a bold move, Kering publicly declared a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, with Gucci (a Kering subsidiary) establishing Italy's inaugural "circular hub" for recycled luxury in February. Kering's "material innovations lab," celebrating its 10th year, is dedicated to finding sustainable alternatives for resource-intensive textiles like leather, silk, and wool. Notably, from the autumn of 2022, Kering banned the use of all fur, marking a pivotal step towards ethical fashion practices.

Before joining Kering in 2012, Daveu held key roles in the French government, bringing a wealth of experience to her sustainability endeavors. As a former technical advisor to the Prime Minister's cabinet and chief of staff for France's minister of ecology and sustainable development, she learned the value of commitment and patience in driving change. Her encounter with Kering's president and CEO, François-Henri Pinault, marked a turning point. Pinault's genuine commitment to sustainability resonated with Daveu, leading to the establishment of comprehensive systems fostering collaboration among creative, financial, and logistics teams.

Far from being a mere orchestrator, Daveu considers herself a performance coach, training her elite team to craft responsible clothing and accessories. This narrative unfolds against the backdrop of Daveu's journey—from a government official navigating bureaucracy to a transformative force within the luxury fashion realm. As consumers increasingly demand sustainable practices, Kering, under Daveu's leadership, emerges as a trailblazer, setting new standards for an industry at the cusp of change.

Navigating the Path to Sustainable Fashion: Marie-Claire Daveu's Vision at Kering

In the realm of sustainability, Marie-Claire Daveu, the driving force behind Kering's environmental initiatives, draws parallels between financial roadmaps and her strategy for sustainability. Much like a CFO plotting a financial course, Daveu sets key performance indicators (KPIs), establishes a progress calendar, and continuously collaborates with her team to ensure the company stays on course to meet its sustainability targets.

Daveu is a proponent of "cross-pollination" between Kering's design teams and environmental scientists, fostering a synergy that enhances sustainable practices. Unapologetically swift in her approach, she highlights the urgency of addressing immediate threats posed by the climate crisis, such as extreme weather events, shrinking farmlands, and endangered marine life. Kering has committed to an absolute reduction in carbon emissions by 2035, guided by the Nature Climate Solutions Alliance.

Acknowledging the reality that Kering is, at its core, a business, Daveu confronts the challenge of reconciling sustainability with the relentless demands of the market. While the concept of "sustainable capitalism" gains traction, she recognizes the inherent tension between driving sales and minimizing environmental impact. The fashion industry, driven by trends and cultural moments, operates in a perpetual cycle of creation and consumption. Daveu addresses this dichotomy, emphasizing the imperative to balance business imperatives with ecological responsibility.

In an industry where brands like Gucci and Balenciaga set trends and create cultural phenomena, sustaining the momentum necessitates continuous production. The challenge lies in finding ways to innovate and cater to evolving tastes without exacerbating the environmental toll. Daveu acknowledges the complexities but remains optimistic, driven by the hope that collective efforts can effect positive change. As Kering continues to redefine sustainable fashion, the narrative unfolds as a testament to the delicate equilibrium between commerce and environmental consciousness within the dynamic world of high fashion.

Striking a Delicate Balance: Kering's Sustainability Odyssey Under Marie-Claire Daveu

In the pursuit of sustainability, Kering faces a formidable challenge: the inherent contradiction between escalating demand for sustainable goods and the environmental toll of manufacturing them. The paradox is evident in the reported 12% increase in Kering's carbon emissions in 2022, a surge attributed in part to the surging popularity of brands like Bottega Veneta and Gucci. The Business of Fashion highlights this conundrum, emphasizing that the current trajectory may hinder Kering's overarching goal of capping emissions.

Sustainability editor Sarah Kent voices a sobering truth: "we cannot consume our way out of the climate crisis." Despite the setback, under Marie-Claire Daveu's stewardship, Kering embraces transparency about the challenges while adopting a more realistic outlook on their sustainability objectives. Peter Sadera, the editor-in-chief of Sourcing Journal, recognizes Kering's proactive approach in addressing the emissions-production dilemma. However, he points out a fundamental challenge: the predominant fibers in use, including synthetics, silk, and even cotton, lack inherent sustainability. Crafting new garments necessitates the incorporation of new fibers and technologies, yet scalability remains an obstacle.

While Kering introduces eco-friendly alternatives like biomaterials and eco-leather in select collections, the broader question persists—what impact do these initiatives have on the vast majority of materials sold? Sadera scrutinizes Kering's outreach to smaller sustainability start-ups, notably through the Kering Generation Awards, expressing both interest and skepticism. While acknowledging the benefits of funding innovative startups, he questions whether these groundbreaking materials will play a significant role in mainstream collections. The hope is palpable, but scalability remains a looming concern.

The narrative unravels against the backdrop of a nuanced reality, where Kering's commitment to sustainability grapples with the industry's structural challenges. As the fashion giant strives to strike a delicate balance, the journey unfolds as a testament to the complexities inherent in transforming a luxury empire into a sustainable force.

Pioneering Collaborations and the Path to Sustainability: Kering's Ongoing Evolution

In a landmark moment this October, Balenciaga, a brand under the Kering umbrella, unveiled a groundbreaking collaboration with Gozen, a Turkish biotech company founded by Ece Gozen. This female-led venture specializes in Lunaform, a fabric derived from microalgae. Although initially showcased in a single look—a puffy black robe reminiscent of a Star Wars Jedi costume (Balenciaga Look 41)—the collaboration serves as a testament to the possibilities emerging at the intersection of fashion and sustainability.

Co-founder Ece Gozen, a former womenswear designer, draws on her fashion industry insights to propel Gozen's Lunaform into the spotlight. The success of their leather-like material, as featured in Balenciaga's creation, secured $3.3 million in seed funding from external investors, marking a pivotal step towards building a sprawling production facility exceeding one million square feet. Gozen sees their disruptive impact not just in materials but also in design, underscoring the symbiotic relationship between industries in building comprehensive solutions.

Amidst global conflicts and economic uncertainties dominating social media feeds, luxury shopping has witnessed a relative decline, with Kering's recent earnings report showing a 9% dip. Despite this, Q3 sales earnings remain substantial at $4.72 billion. The company's commitment to sustainability, however, faces scrutiny, notably for the choice of a white male designer for Alexander McQueen's open design post—a curious deviation from a brand ostensibly dedicated to female empowerment.

Looking to the future, Kering's involvement with Artémis in a majority stake acquisition of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), a Hollywood talent firm representing stars like Zendaya and Margot Robbie, marks a notable industry move. While seemingly unrelated to Kering's sustainability goals, this strategic partnership could potentially elevate sustainability into the mainstream. As Kering navigates challenges and forges innovative alliances, the brand continues to shape the narrative of sustainability in the ever-evolving landscape of luxury fashion.

Harmony of Luxury, Culture, and Sustainability: Kering's Commitment

In the quest to intertwine environmentalism with modern luxury, Kering is leveraging the influential platform of celebrities, aiming to resonate with the current generation. As Segara aptly puts it, "Kering wants to push [environmentalism] in a way that will resonate with the current generation, and celebrities are a really great way to do it." The potential lies in having brand ambassadors, influential celebrities, showcase sustainable products, amplifying the message across global audiences. However, the challenge remains in strategically utilizing the talent pool from CAA for this purpose.

The spotlight falls on the strategic acquisition of a majority stake in CAA by Artémis, a move that could significantly impact Kering's outreach efforts. Questions linger about how Kering will leverage CAA's talent to amplify the promotion of sustainable products, and it remains to be seen how this partnership will unfold.

Celebrity endorsements are pivotal for luxury brands like Kering, with faces like Billie Eilish collaborating on sustainable initiatives. Eilish's partnership with Gucci for a biomaterial version of their classic Horsebit 1955 handbag garnered over one million Instagram likes and a music video featuring her summer hit "What Was I Made For?" This collaboration exemplifies the cross-pollination between modern luxury and sustainable practices, emphasizing their interconnectedness.

Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering's sustainability leader, emphasizes the holistic approach to luxury, culture, and sustainability, viewing them as interconnected rather than separate entities. She articulates the essence of luxury, encompassing heritage, quality, craftsmanship, and pioneering efforts in design, technology, and pop culture. For Daveu, sustainability is not merely a facet of luxury; it is an obligation integral to the brand's identity and responsibility.

As Kering continues to navigate the evolving landscape of style and sustainability, the synthesis of luxury, culture, and environmental consciousness emerges as a defining aspect of their commitment to a more sustainable future. The narrative showcases how these elements must coexist, akin to air and water, for the holistic thrive of each other, echoing Kering's obligation to fuse sustainability seamlessly with the essence of luxury.

In conclusion, Kering's journey toward sustainability stands as a testament to the intricate dance between luxury, culture, and environmental responsibility. The brand's strategic utilization of celebrity endorsements and partnerships, exemplified by collaborations with figures like Billie Eilish, underscores a commitment to resonating with the current generation and promoting sustainable practices through influential platforms.

The recent acquisition of a majority stake in Creative Artists Agency (CAA) adds a new dimension to Kering's outreach efforts, with questions lingering about how this partnership will amplify the promotion of sustainable products. As the brand faces scrutiny and challenges, particularly in navigating the complexities of a shifting luxury landscape and balancing celebrity influence with environmental responsibility, Kering remains steadfast in its pursuit of a harmonious integration of luxury and sustainability.

Marie-Claire Daveu's vision of sustainability not as a separate facet but as an inherent obligation within the realms of luxury, culture, and craftsmanship encapsulates the brand's ethos. The synthesis of these elements serves as a guiding principle for Kering, shaping the narrative of a transformative journey that recognizes the interconnectedness of these realms. In this evolving landscape, Kering remains at the forefront, navigating the delicate equilibrium between tradition and innovation, luxury and responsibility, as it propels the fashion industry towards a more sustainable and conscientious future.