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LCF23: Addressing the sustainability practices of luxury fashion brands

Clothing racks of red and white cloths
  • Written byK. Apeagyei
  • Published date 16 February 2023
Clothing racks of red and white cloths
Credit: Thom-bradley (unsplash)

We caught up with Yuki Hasagawa, an MA Strategic Fashion Marketing student, who produced a report assessing the sustainability practices of Nanushka, a Budapest-based accessible luxury fashion brand.

The report is featured in LCF Postgraduate Class of 2023, from 18-19 February 2023, as part of London Fashion Week. It is also available to read online in further detail: Sustainability Strategy report: Nanushka (PDF 3.75MB)

Please tell us about your report assessing the sustainability practices of Nanushka and why you chose to focus on this brand.

I chose to focus on Nanushka for three reasons.

  1. Nanushka's designer, Sandra Sándor, is an LCF alum, who graduated in 2005. Her commitment to create fashion that was both attractive and sustainable was inspiring.
  2. Nanushka has become one of the most successful sustainable brands in the world. I wanted to analyse how they managed to do so, despite the overwhelming challenges that sustainable fashion companies face in the current market.
  3. I chose Nanushka because I was impressed by their openness and resolve to continue using vegan leather despite receiving criticism on the subject. The way Nanushka was able to pivot from what could have been a brand-destroying PR disaster, to a PR win, was truly inspiring.
Did you learn anything about Nanushka or sustainability practices that surprised you?

I learned that being honest with your stakeholders does not always guarantee negative consequences. Nanushka was one of the first brands to openly come out and

admit that vegan leather was not perfect. They patiently educated both their critics and clients about the necessary trade-offs of its use. This is in stark contrast to the greenwashing that other fashion brands undertake by only highlighting the positive aspects of their sustainability efforts.

I come from Japan where building relationships with clients is considered one of the core virtues of any business. However, usually, this is done by hiding challenges from customers and not sharing them. To do so is considered both a weakness and disrespect for burdening others with one’s problems. However, Nanushka surprised not only me but the whole industry. Counter-intuitively, their honesty and transparency about the challenges of becoming a more sustainable brand led to better and more enduring relationships with their clients. I learned through the research for my dissertation that customers feel loyal to brands that inform them of the challenges they face on the sustainability journey.

This is certainly a lesson for more companies doing business, in my home country of Japan and other countries. Nanushka showed that putting respect and trust at the centre of its brand’s messaging yielded higher long-term returns than superficial or false platitudes about its sustainability practices.

Your report talks about the importance of implementing vegan leather aftercare services, can you speak about some of the barriers to aftercare services and how they can be overcome? 

There are various barriers to providing aftercare services, that generally revolve around the challenge of cost. However, I believe it is important to provide these services because they strengthen Nanushka’s relationship with customers who not only love the brand's products but also its efforts to try to make its fashion items more sustainable. For example, the cost relates to providing cleaning services and selling care products. To overcome this challenge I would recommend negotiating a distributor agreement between cleaning and care-product companies, and Nanushka, on a consignment basis. The other barrier is associated with labour costs for workshops and service delivery. I suggest that these costs can be turned into profit by using the workshops and service delivery as an opportunity to know how customers use the items, their lifestyles, etc., and to deepen the relationship with them to increase the number of loyal customers.

The final barrier that would need to be dealt with relates to the costs of communicating the program to the public and promoting consumer buy-in. This could be done in various ways. For example, in my report, I proposed the idea of a marketing campaign to promote the use of care products at home, which could be sold at Nanushka. By producing an instructional video for consumers and publishing it on YouTube and social media, more people could gain knowledge about the programme.

In sum, while aftercare is not a big profit-maker in the short term, I firmly believe that by following my recommendations, it can become so in the long term.

What do you hope the impact of this work could be?

While I believe that companies and brands need to continue to invest their resources to find ways of producing products that do not negatively impact the environment, my research has revealed that consumers also want the opportunity to do their part. Unfortunately, many of them think that sustainable fashion items are too difficult to take care of.

So, if I could hope for any positive impact to come from my work, it would be an overall change in the consumer mindset regarding their relationship with brands. In the past, it was merely a transactional one. The relationship a consumer had with a brand started with their purchase of a product and ended when the product was disposed of. Going forward, I think consumers need to see themselves as members of a team with the brands they like. This could be facilitated by brands through the provision of after-care services that could act as a bridge to a more sustainable future for fashion items, the consumer, the brand, and the Earth itself.

Read Yuki's report online: Sustainability Strategy report: Nanushka (PDF 3.75MB)