In recent years Gucci has soared to the top of luxury consumer’s minds and the forefront of fashion connoisseurs’ closets. The brand has managed to gain a cult following and a distinctive place within parent company Kering’s portfolio. However, will that all be enough collateral to back their latest venture?
Gucci has just announced that beginning Spring 2018, it will be going fur-free. A bold decision for a fashion house, considering that the fur industry rakes in $35.8 billion dollars annually in retail sales. That being said, more and more companies seem to be choosing ethical and sustainable alternatives throughout their operations, and the fashion industry is picking up on this trend. Other luxury brands have already taken this step before, including Stella McCartney and Giorgio Armani. Nonetheless, it remains a mystery as to why a fashion house would change it’s strategy at the peak of it’s success. Gucci has released record breaking sales results recently, so what exactly prompted a change of heart from a brand that has used fur for nearly a century?
“Gucci is so visible, so well-known — we need to use that in a positive way” — Marco Bizzari (Gucci CEO)
Gucci has chosen a first-mover approach to addressing a prevalent issue in the fashion industry — the use of animal fur to produce clothing. The majority of luxury brands have continued to sell fur, as there is an abundance of buyers still willing to pay for these products. However, the sustainability of this business strategy comes into question, especially with the up-and-coming generation entering fashion houses with pay-cheques in hand. Older luxury shoppers seem to be relatively indifferent to the idea of fur, but the younger generation care far more about the ethicality of the products they are purchasing. Look at the success of American outdoor company Patagonia, a brand hailed for their social and environmental initiatives, with the younger demographic. They are a group that have a stronger moral stance than any preceding generation, whether that be due to increased education or far simpler access to information.
For this reason, Gucci has taken yet another step to accessing it’s target market at the moment, the NGG (Next Gucci Generation). Their targeting strategy can also be seen through their product offerings, athletic slides and simple tees bearing Gucci’s logo, as well as through their advertising, utilizing “memes” to launch their new wristwatch collection. Many brands herald young adopters as brand-harming or -diluting, however Gucci seems to be successfully capitalizing on a younger crowd to boost sales. Therefore, ethicality is not only a motion towards Corporate Social Responsibility, but another way of positioning their brand to better serve their target market.
Gucci is also banking on the potential decline in the supply of fur products sometime in the future. Killing animals is becoming more and more of a prevalent issue in domestic communities, prompting many local governments to restrict and even ban fur farming entirely. This could present problems for brands that are dependent on the sale of fur products to boost their bottom line. As a result, it may be a wise move to exit the industry before the well runs dry.
Is this a promising strategy for Gucci? Quite possibly. The press they have received for this latest announcement has no doubt left an impression on their target market. Additionally, Gucci’s top selling products at the moment include their shoes, bags and accessories, meaning that the brand won’t take a major hit in terms of sales once they drop fur. As a result, Gucci can be applauded for finding a profitable way to work ethicality into their business model.
That being said, can every brand do this? The answer is no, at least not right now. Fur fanatics make up a significant consumer base for brands like Fendi and Yves St. Laurent. Consequently, if they were to attempt to eliminate fur from all of their products, their sales and brand integrity would be seriously harmed. This initiative simply does not work for these fashion houses and the current markets they serve. Hope remains, however, within the rising young consumer, who seems to believe that a business is as much of a citizen in society as people are. They will be the ones to deem whether fur will continue to rule the runways, or whether a fur-free fashion revolution is in order.