It has been a year since the pandemic first shut down the world and took its toll on the luxury industry. But since then, style and fashion have found a new purpose, and we’re seeing brands step up to the challenge of creating luxury experiences in a post-pandemic world. One of the most prominent designers to rise from the ashes of the COVID-19 is Robert Pattinson Dior. In 2021, the luxury house made the bold move of rebranding its womenswear collection with a dark twist, repurposing its most iconic elements in a modern twist. Inspired by the designer’s travels to Africa in search of alternative materials and the rich colours found there, the new collection draws a vivid contrast to the pastel colours that were such a feature of the house’s spring/summer 2021 collection.
The designer’s website highlights the brand’s new “spirit of adventure” in the collection’s tagline, promising “new dimensions of sensualism” and that the collection will “inspire your journeys”. The new brand identity is certainly striking; with its high-contrast colour palette and earthy hues, the collection is a vivid testament to the designer’s travels. The choice of the new name is also significant, as Dior is most well-known for its fragrance, not its clothing. However, it’s not the first time that the designer has dipped its toe into menswear. In fact, its ready-to-wear line, Dior Homme, was first designed for men, back in 1939. This new venture, however, is undoubtedly the most daring yet.
The Evolution of Luxury
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when and where the luxury industry went wrong. There are several factors that could be held responsible: the 2008 financial crisis, the rise of the ‘sharing economy’ and, most notably, the pandemic. The latter, in particular, took its toll on luxury, as the wealthy travelled to resorts far away from home and cancelled trips to the beach. Those who could afford to do so preserved their privacy and confined themselves to their homes, limiting their exposure to Covid-19 and the world at large.
Since the beginning of this year, luxury brands have been struggling to figure out what came next. Some, like Yves Saint Laurent, have pivoted to creating healthcare products and accessories for the elderly. Others, like Ralph Lauren, have responded to the pandemic with a temporary closing of their stores and a reduction in their workforce. Still, others, like Dior, have boldly stepped up their game, repurposing their existing ready-to-wear collection for women and incorporating their menswear offerings into a single collection aimed at both men and women.
With the luxury industry in tatters, it’s a relief to see established brands rebranding and evolving to find a new purpose. But, as with any major transition, there is a degree of anxiety that comes with the uncertainty of what comes next. Will these bold rebrands last? Does this mean that the luxury industry is done recovering? These are the questions that linger as we look ahead to the next chapter.
The New Dior
The luxury industry has shifted with the times and adapted to new challenges, emerging more resilient and, in many cases, stronger than ever. This is most evident in the new Dior collection. Where once there was uncertainty, now there is a determined spirit of adventure.
The brand’s new look is certainly striking, if not entirely representative of the designer’s journeyman work. But, perhaps most significantly, it is a reflection of where the luxury industry is heading in the future. As the designer’s website highlights, “it is a spirit of adventure which led us to repurpose the most iconic elements of our womenswear collection for a new generation of women”.
The Dark Side Of Luxury
There is an undeniably dark side to luxury: the opulence of the brands, the conspicuous consumption of the wealthy, the exclusivity of the lifestyle. With the shift to a post-pandemic world, there is a need to balance this side with a more sustainable and thoughtful approach to luxury. It is, however, an approach that many luxury brands are hesitant to embrace. As with any taboo, there is a danger in confronting the issue head-on.
This inclination towards self-preservation is understandable; after all, no one wants to risk losing customers due to public backlash over controversial statements or questionable business practices. But there is an opportunity to shine a light on these issues and, as a result, create a more positive impression of luxury. This is a key tenet of advertising campaigns like Burberry’s “Icons and Idols” and Ralph Lauren’s “Change the Conversation”, which seek to disrupt our traditional perceptions of luxury and showcase the more ethical and sustainable sides of the industry.
Dior’s Commitment To Sustainability
One of the ways in which the luxury industry can emerge from this pandemic with its reputation intact is by taking a more sustainable approach to product design and manufacturing. This is, in part, what inspired Dior’s new look: to create something modern and striking that is as suitable for the digital age as it is for a luxurious night out.
Dior, much like other luxury brands, sources the majority of its silk from China and sources the majority of its cotton from Uzbekistan, both countries with a dubious track record in terms of sustainability. It is also, however, a brand that is renowned for the quality of its leather and suede, a commitment to animal rights, a focus on recyclable packaging and promoting reuse and minimization. Most significantly, Dior commits to using materials that are as sustainable as possible in its product design and manufacturing process.
There is, however, another side to luxury that often gets lost in the glare of brand power and conspicuous consumption: the quest for sustainable materials. This trend, which can be traced back to the ‘ethical luxury’ movement of the early 2000s, strives to reduce our global footprint by reducing the need to consume scarce resources and materials. This trend is, in part, responsible for the meteoric rise in popularity of vegan fashion and cruelty-free products since the start of this year.
Cruelty-free products, for example, are essentially made without using any animal-based products in the manufacturing process, instead drawing on plant-based materials. This, in turn, reduces the strain that animals face at the hands of humans. And since many luxury brands source the majority of their silk from China and cotton from Uzbekistan, both of which are infamous for their abysmal record in terms of animal husbandry, this is no mean feat.
Another example of a sustainable material used by luxury brands is the jade. Back in 2010, Chinese companies began to source the material from Myanmar, where it is abundant and easy to access. But it is still a stone associated with wealth and power in the region; notably, the country’s largest trading company, the Myanma Jade Group, is known as the “king of jade”. Much like other gemstones used by luxury brands, jade is a very expensive material to source and process.
As with any luxury brand, Dior is not afraid to experiment with new materials and alternative sources to source its products. But it is a brand that is most keen to point out that it uses sustainable materials where possible and that it is committed to environmental causes and product design that is both durable and recyclable. It is an approach that has, in part, been responsible for the longevity of the brand in the face of the pandemic.
The Rebirth of Luxury
With the luxury industry in tatters, it is not hard to see how some brands managed to buck the trend and emerge stronger than ever. This is, in part, due to careful planning and, in some cases, the implementation of ‘dark tourism’ as a PR stunt. But it is also, in part, down to the courage of the brands to confront their critics head-on and do what they feel is right. It is, however, an approach that carries a heavy burden: the public backlash that can follow the brave or foolhardy.
This is, in part, why we, as a society, need to be so wary of rebranding and why it is so important that established brands do not hesitate to step away from the status quo. We need to be wary of these trends because they can easily be co-opted to serve a brand rather than a sustainable agenda. But, as always, there is a silver lining: this backlash can drive the demand for more ethical products and, in turn, shape the future of luxury.