A couple of weeks ago I got the chance to chat with a group of students at Central Saint Martins, they are doing an MA in Innovation Management. It is a fascinating program; we are so glad that CSM is championing the circular economy and exploring disruptive business models. After a brief introduction to the Elvis & Kresse story we went deep into fantastic questions about the nature of fashion, the structure of retail, how difficult and complicated it will be to shift to a circular economy, and the definition of luxury.
When we first started to rescue fire hose, back in 2005, we felt we had just one mission: to save London's damaged decommissioned hoses from landfill. That's right, we started Elvis & Kresse to solve a waste problem. So there is a certain irony here, reclaiming hoses brought us into the industry whose wastefulness we are now talking about!
However, when we started to make our first range of belts, bags and wallets we discovered that our very singular mission meant we would have to face many additional challenges. We had to effectively invent a new textile and several new manufacturing and cleaning processes. We learned to design, make and ruthlessly improve the quality of our pieces. We had to build a market for our products and convince people that 25 year old vintage fire hose was indeed a luxury material.
Historically luxury was about quality of materials, production and design. In the last several decades it has also become synonymous with specific global brands and displays of wealth. Elvis & I have a different definition of luxury, one that we are still working through; it reflects what we do and how we do it.
Never think we aren't focused on the quality of materials, production and design, but that is a very low bar. Luxury is also about community, the environment, the freedom to live according to your values and pursue your dreams. If the whole process of producing luxury goods is wonderful and sustainable for absolutely everyone involved, then it is what it should be, a genuine celebration of the best that we can do.
We are redefining luxury. We would love to explore this with you. Tell us what you think luxury is and use #thisisluxury to share your thoughts. This is the first in a series of blogs we are going to do as part of the Huffington Post Reclaim Initiative. We think reclaiming the concept of luxury, making sure the definition is up to you, is a good place to start.
This post is part of our "Reclaim" initiative, which showcases solutions to the issue of fashion waste and engages our readers to take action. You can find all the posts in this initiative, as well as feature pieces, investigative stories and video, here. Follow the initiative on Twitter at #Reclaim. And if you'd like to add your own thoughts to our series, sign up here for a HuffPost blog account.