Part-memoir, part-proclamation, in a book called Open Spaces, Thomas Burberry sought to harness the pioneering courage of the adventurers and explorers he outfitted to inspire his vision for the company. Published in 1930, it became a roadmap for the British brand, has remained the connective thread nearly 100 years later, and during a time of uncertainty for everyone, provides Burberry with its own true north, and, according to a company statement, defines its purpose “to unlock the power of imagination to push boundaries and +open new possibilities for our people, our customers and our communities.”
Thomas Burberry may not have envisaged an Italian Chief Creative Officer at the helm of the house today, but the revolutionary spirit, pride in its craftsmanship, and commitment to quality with which Riccardo Tisci imbues the collections was already written into its history, and, in doing so, assured its future. Today, Burberry has taken this idea and made it a motto. “We believe creativity opens spaces,” it affirms, using a play on words as a starting point for short films, store design, and even a venture into the metaverse. Most maisons can only wish for this kind of clarity from their founder to plan their path ahead.
Furthermore Mademoiselle Chanel’s support of avant-garde artists of her time and her desire to be part of the nouvelle vague has led to the Chanel Culture Fund. This global programme of initiatives supports cultural innovators in developing new ideas and greater representation in culture and society. The Chanel Next Prize – an international award that inspires innovation across arts and culture, grants €100,000 plus access to mentorship and networking to 10 winners. And while Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel, announced the cost of four core SS22 handbags were rising in Europe, the U.K., Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong – the sixth increase since the start of the pandemic – might these philanthropic endeavours make it a price we’re more willing to pay?
Chanel is not alone in it patronage of the arts and support for the talent of tomorrow. Since 2013, the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers has awarded the likes of Marques’Almeida and Simon Porte Jacquemus €300,000 plus one year’s mentorship from a dedicated LVMH team. And Louvre Abu Dhabi has just named Bahraini American artist Nasser Alzayani as the winner of its inaugural Richard Mille Art Prize, which comes with a grant of $50,000.
Fashion brands are certainly becoming the new benefactors with Tod’s pledging €25 million for the restoration of the Colosseum which began in 2013. The same year, Fendi CEO Pietro Beccari agreed to fund the €2 million restoration of the Trevi Fountain as a “gesture of love” to Rome. And when a fireset the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris ablaze in 2019, the Arnault family and the LVMH Group donated a total sum of €200 million to fund its repair while François-Henri Pinault, the chairman and CEO of Kering – whose brands include Gucci, Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, and Balenciaga – pledged €100 million to restore “the jewel of our heritage” to its former glory.
Beyond billionaires beautifying their own backyards, Hermès has been supporting the restoration of furniture in the royal complexes of Seoul such as Deoksugung and Gyeongbokgung Palace under the purview of its One Protector for One Cultural Heritage initiative since 2015. However, such benevolence isn’t always welcome. Lest we forget that in 2017, Greek Culture Minister Lydia Koniordou refused a €2 million offer from Gucci to pay for the restoration of the Acropolis in exchange for presenting a catwalk show at the UNESCO World Heritage site.
STRAPPY FLORAL PRINT MINI DRESS, LANVIN, SHOP SIMILAR
Undeterred, on 5 June 2018, to coincide with World Environment Day, Gucci Equilibrium was born as “a commitment to generate positive change for people and our planet”. In addition to “a 10-year plan to embed a comprehensive sustainability strategy into and around the brand, governed by a Culture of Purpose”, Gucci’s efforts are being focused on social change, gender equality, diversity and inclusion.
Given the current climate crisis, a transparent sustainability strategy should be an expectation rather than a cause for congratulations, however, when it comes to cruelty-free collections – in particular the use of fur and exotic skins – the industry’s remains divided. “Fur? I am out of that,” Donatella Versace declared with a dramatic eye roll. “I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion.” Versace joins Gucci, Dolce&Gabbana, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Giorgio Armani, Moncler, Stella McCartney, John Galliano and more to denounce fur, leaving others conspicuous by their silence.
The pandemic has not only changed the way we shop but also has evolved the fashion conversation from questioning “who made our clothes, in what conditions and at what cost to the planet?” to “how is this brand contributing to the betterment of humanity?” And amid a cacophony of today’s consumer choices, what we choose to wear not only has the power to express who we are and how we feel, but also show the change we want to see in the world.