It has become almost fashionable to heap negativity onto luxury brands, proclaiming them as unnecessary or self-indulgent. Adding fuel to the fire, frequent media coverage has exposed dark secrets behind the scenes at some of the most-loved labels around. From sweatshops and tax avoidance to irresponsible sourcing and non-existent environmental policies, luxury brand names are all too often being dragged through the mud for any number of unethical practices.
For Positive Luxury founder Diana Verde Nieto, shouting about wrongdoings was not the answer. What if, instead of focusing on the negatives, there was a forum that championed the brands doing things properly? Nieto, who also founded the world’s first sustainability consultancy Clownfish back in 2002, explains: “In the same way that we praise a child when he or she takes their first steps, Positive Luxury is there to applaud luxury brands that are making progress in sustainability.” With the backing of fellow entrepreneur Karen Hanten, the company was formed in 2011, and now has more than 170 members, from Alexander McQueen to Krug Champagne, all of whom have been awarded the Butterfly Mark, a stamp created by Positive Luxury to recognise their #brandstotrust.
“The great thing is that consumers care a lot more about sustainability today,” says Nieto. “Ten years ago it felt like I was talking to myself. The more we communicate the good work that is being done, the more consumers engage with those brands and the more sustainable brands become.” It seems something of a domino effect of goodwill, but surely there are still plenty of luxury brands not pulling their weight? Nieto does not want to name and shame but she does point out that Positive Luxury, now that it is established and respected, is often approached by brands that don’t quite qualify — and they work together to find ways of improving.
Part of the solution lies in reassuring brands that being sustainable is not bad for business. “There are fewer and fewer reasons for brands not to take positive steps,” Nieto explains. “We have proven that companies working hard to protect their people and resources do better, even if there might be compromises to make in the short term.”
With more than 170-plus brands to choose from, it’s not difficult to give responsibly, selecting from the labels the company represents. These 10 items will ensure that any gifts changing hands this Christmas will have positive effects that reach far beyond the lucky recipient.
Positive gifting guide
Alexandra Llewellyn, black feather ebony backgammon set, £3,400
Llewellyn collaborates with artisans all over the world, championing traditional techniques and incorporating them into her custom-made games tables. Most recently, she travelled to Afghanistan to integrate local craftsmanship into her range of handmade backgammon boards. The boards can also be engraved with personal messages or initials.
Garrard, Albemarle Suite, POA
Garrard sources ethical gems and uses Fair Trade gold, ensuring that miners get a fair price for produce. The Albemarle Suite set includes a beautiful bracelet, earrings, ring and necklace, handcrafted using the finest gems.
Stivaleria Cavallin, Storm boot, £1,400
Since 1961, when the Cavallin brothers set up shop on Venice’s Brenta Riviera, they have become internationally renowned as quality bootmakers. This pair was designed in collaboration with Positive Luxury ambassador Storm Keating, made with suppliers that comply to ethical standards, using the finest leather.
IWC, Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry, £21,950
IWC partners with multiple charities, producing special-edition timepieces that support the Antoine de Saint Exupéry Youth Foundation, which focuses on fighting illiteracy and helping young people. The tobacco-brown dial and Santoni strap of this model, limited to 750 pieces, exude style and sophistication.
Alpaca Plush, Jaci cushion, from £280
Alpaca Plush breeds the finest alpacas each year to ensure continuously improved quality. Its alpacas are farmed in a way that promotes longer life spans and the animals are sheared annually, to create guilt-free alpaca fur accessories, such as this gorgeously soft cushion.
Krug Grande Cuvée, from £120
Krug’s commitment to natural ingredients and considerate processes earned it the Butterfly Mark, and the company is currently working on a programme to reduce the thickness of its glass bottles. Working within the Champagne region for more than 170 years, Krug’s Grand Cuvée uses a blend of over 100 vintage wines.
Lisa Franklin, Luminescence base, £70
London-based skincare expert Lisa Franklin uses the potent powers of precious metals, minerals and botanic infusions to work wonders on every skin type. With sustainable ingredients and smart biodegradable packaging at the heart of the brand, this beauty is more than skin deep.
Maiyet, cashmere duster coat, £1,135
Luxury fashion brand Maiyet recently created Fair, an ethically sourced and environmentally sustainable cashmere, by working with nomad goat hunters in Outer Mongolia. Headquartered in New York, it partner with artisans far and wide, creating beautiful fashion, including this wonderful winter coat.
Soneva, overwater villa, POA
Soneva’s newest luxury resort is scheduled to open just before Christmas in the Maldives’ Noonu Atoll, surrounding an enormous private lagoon. Like all Soneva resorts, it will put environmental and social responsibilities at the forefront, using sustainable materials, recycling waste, conserving water and preserving ecosystems.
Stephen Webster, magnipheasant pavé open feather ring, £9,300
This London-based jewellery brand has British heritage at its heart, thanks to founder Stephen Webster’s foundations in the capital’s Hatton Garden, where he began his apprenticeship. Suppliers comply with the Association for Responsible Mining and the brand is also a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council. This eye-catching ring is set with a rainbow of marquise-cut precious gemstones.