Two Lessons on Sustainable Luxury from Paris

I’ve been in France for the last two weeks meeting investors and social impact luxury brands to learn the art of sustainable chic firsthand.

Sustainability is knowing how something is made, what it’s made of, who made it, and whether it makes the world better — and feeling good about the answers to these questions.

(To that end, I launched a contest last week to win a trip to Africa with me to meet the producers of our raw ingredients at LXMI — sign up here if you’d like to join!)

Artisanal producers have long asked themselves these questions, because the very idea of luxury is tied to high levels of quality and craftsmanship. As mass production has changed the way we perceive luxury, many entrepreneurs urge a return to the roots.

I met a few of them here in France, and summarized their lessons for you:

#1 Fast, or Best?

Beautiful fair trade shoe brand Veja, founded by a French duo tired of their banking jobs, aimed to reinvent the sneaker industry when they launched a decade ago. They quickly became one of the most chic brands in France, with coveted distribution in concept stores like Collette. I met cofounder Sebastien Kopp last week, and we got into a debate. “Why isn’t Veja bigger?” I asked. “We don’t want to use gimmicky marketing or make our customers feel like we’re not genuine,” said Sebastien in his atelier.

Veja is incredible. But still — my heart is torn. I worry that if impact brands don’t adopt the same techniques as big brands and move faster, they’ll be eclipsed by Nike and Adidas and the world will take too long to change.

My view: move as fast as you can, without sacrificing the integrity of your mission.

#2 Presentation is Everything

Fany, the lovely founder of MyLittleParis (think Daily Candy, but for cool Parisian girls) met me last week and told me I had to go to Merci, a concept store known for highlighting cool international brands, on Boulevard Beaumarchais.

So off I went. I LOVED this shop, from the little cafe I entered through to the highly curated collection of bags, scarves, bike gear, jewelry, and even furniture. And it got me thinking: why don’t we have more showcases like this for sustainable brands?

The entrance to Merci in Paris

Sebastien and his team opened Centre Comercial recently, which aims to be just this — but there are still very few curation engines for sustainable luxury.

The thing that first hooks consumers isn’t sustainability — it’s presentation, curation, and aesthetic — the eye for detail that makes shops like Merci and the even better-known Colette so popular.

We try to present our story alongside our product whenever we can. For this reason, we launched on QVC several months ago — QVC is a television platform for selling, and for telling stories (I’ll be live on QVC this Tuesday, April 18th at 2pm ET sharing LXMI with the world, in case you’d like to see the demo.)

What do you think? Fast or best? And does good presentation matter to you, as it does to the chic Parisians?