The Trench Coat: Finding Sustainability in Classic Luxury Fashion Brands

Luxury trench coats are a timeless and integral part of a wardrobe. Modernization of “the trench coat” is beginning to include one of the largest forces propelling the fashion industry into a new era: sustainability. People who buy luxury clothing expect the highest quality possible. As consumers are becoming more aware of potential social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry, they are starting to include these ideas in their quality assessment of a brand.1

            It may seem like the concepts of “sustainability” and “luxury clothing” are antithetical to one another. When someone thinks of a luxury customer, they will probably envision someone who is “snobby” and “superficial”, while sustainability is focused on concepts like “altruism and morality”.2 However, it can be argued that the luxury fashion industry is sustainable in itself. Most luxury brands only produce a certain amount of a particular piece, therefore decreasing waste and mass production of clothing as seen in “fast fashion”.1 Luxury brands also focus on durability and craftsmanship.1 In other words, a high-quality Burberry trench coat will last years with a small amount of wear and tear if it is well cared for, but a trench coat from Forever 21 will fall apart sooner and with less wear due to the lower quality of the textiles used. A Burberry trench coat may be much more expensive than a Forever 21 trench coat, but you will have to buy a new trench coat more often if you are wearing low-quality materials, which means more money in the end.

            The materials and textiles used by luxury brands are usually derived from high-quality resources.2 For example, one of the most popular natural resources for fabric is silk from insects. Made of fibroin and sericin proteins, silk is strong and elastic along with its well-known smoothness and softness. Fibers from various goat fur types such as mohair and cashmere share defining luxury qualities such as durability, heat insulation and fine texture. Along with insects and goats, animal fibers such as rabbit fur and camelid fibers contribute to the luxury textiles industry.3 Because these textiles are a large part of what brings the “rarity” to a luxury brand, the brand will want to conserve the materials to ensure that their appeal remains strong to their consumers.2 Therefore, there will be less unnecessary waste during production. With the use of natural resources such as animal or insect fibers to synthesize luxury textiles, there is a higher likelihood that the that these textiles will have a biodegradable potential than purely synthetic textiles that were synthesized unnaturally. Again, these concepts of preservation and fine workmanship are the opposite of the cheap, “throwaway” culture that gave rise to the “fast fashion” industry.2

            Luxury fashion brands have the potential to be at the forefront of scientific research. If “exclusivity” is what luxury brands revolve around, then incorporating highly functional, novel fibers discovered by scientists could push them over the top of being “rare”. For example, biopolymers such as cotton fibers are derived from petroleum, agricultural and animal sources. Smart textiles synthesized from intelligent biopolymers can adapt to environmental conditions and stimuli such as hot and cold.4 Therefore, if a trench coat was to be made out of an intelligent biopolymer, the wearer would have a higher degree of thermoregulation and heat insulation in response to a colder environment. Another beneficial quality of biopolymer-based textiles is that they are biodegradable in the natural environment by micro-organisms (fungi, bacteria, etc.).4 As luxury brands continue to be at the forefront of the fashion industry, their ability to set an example for sustainability has the potential to be highly influential to both consumers and upcoming, smaller fashion brands.

Works Cited

1. Amatulli, C.;  Costabile, M.;  De Angelis, M.; Guido, G., Introduction: Sustainability in Luxury Branding. Palgrave Macmillan UK: 2017; pp 1-5.

2. Amatulli, C.;  Costabile, M.;  De Angelis, M.; Guido, G., Luxury, Sustainability, and “Made In”. Palgrave Macmillan UK: 2017; pp 35-96.

3. Hassan, M. M., Sustainable Processing of Luxury Textiles. Springer Singapore: 2015; pp 101-120.

4. Younes, B., Classification, characterization, and the production processes of biopolymers used in the textiles industry. The Journal of The Textile Institute 2017, 108 (5), 674-682.

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