Guest contribution by Milena Cvijanovich
Women are undoubtedly the leaders of the fabulously successful new Sustainable Luxury business model. They show us through their amazing results how cool, glamorous, sophisticated AND essentially powerful Luxury can be when it has the mission to respect our planet and life of its inhabitants.
High-profile individuals such as Livia Firth with her Green Carpet Challenge and Francine LeFrak, founder of Same Sky, help break the vicious circle of poverty, discrimination and marginalization through beautiful objects handcrafted by women for a market which can afford to help this change. Unsung heroines such as social entrepreneurs Adriana Marina of Animan; and Aissa Dione, a Senegalese textile designer, are further shining examples of the beauty of this new-found synergy. These businesswomen have brought hope and pride back to their own struggling communities with the highly successful manufacture of exquisite textile and other heritage crafts sold to top designers worldwide.
I’ve collected just a very small sampling of these inspiring women and their contribution to the powerful duo-luxury and women’s empowerment.
Livia Firth, wife of actor Collin Firth, seduced the fashion industry, taking clever advantage of her A-list status to launch the Green Carpet Challenge. Throwing the gauntlet to celeb sand designers to take on eco textiles, she got stellar results: Gucci’s new zero-deforestation handbag line, Valentino’s haute couture eco gowns worn at the Oscars, Mette-Marit, crown princess of Norway’s sustainable Pucci dress at a royal wedding. Eco Age, Livia’s venture, is sky-rocketing with star-studded partnerships. As Livia says, “No one has to wear hemp and sandals” to show eco-awareness. With a wink she makes me feel her soft black dress whispering, “Hemp – by Valentino.”
Francine Le Frak has been a philanthropist practically since her childhood. Well-known in the entertainment industry, she is an award-winning theatrical, television and movie producer and has been recognized as a social issue film producer. In 2008, Francine founded Same Sky, a socially-conscious jewelry venture. The company began in Rwanda to give women who had survived the Rwandan genocide a new chance in life. “My vision for Same Sky is to continue partnering with other like-minded companies in order to build a marketplace for products that are handmade, possess authenticity and support artisan communities around the globe. Ultimately we want to spread the idea that shopping can change the world.”
“The beauty of having a successful business is it gives you a wonderful economic platform from which to do good.” Connie Duckworth, retired Partner and Managing Director of GoldmanSachs, transforms the lives of Afghan women through Arzu Studio Hope, a highly successful social enterprise offering stunning bespoke carpets. Working with renowned designers including Zaha Hadid and Michael Graves, Connie celebrates the art of weaving while bringing education and economic independence to women in a struggling,war-torn country.
While the traditional textile industry was disappearing in Senegal with the influx of foreign products, textile designer Aissa Dione came along, an Amazon in shining armor, and launched in 1992 a company specialized in high-end weaving employing over a hundred people. Attracting international designers such as Jacques Grange, Peter Marino and Christian Liaigre with her exquisite furniture textiles, Aissa is perpetuating the skills of traditional Mandjaque weavers and the processing of local African cottons and natural dyes. Aissa’s graphic transformation of traditional patterns into fusion designs for the Western luxury market has brought economic transformation to her impoverished region.
Sustainable Luxury drives positive change through financially viable, culturally enriching and environmentally respectful business opportunities, empowering women from all corners of the globe to connect at all levels and create profitable (and memorable) ventures.
About Milena Cvijanovich:
Serbo-swiss architect Milena Cvijanovich holds a Masters in Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University in the USA. Founder of MCM Designstudio, an international architecture, design and sustainability consulting firm based in Switzerland, Milena lectures on sustainability and the luxury design world and is active in impact investment and gender equality projects. She is also the founder of the Ethnosphere trademark label to be launched end 2013 with the mission to drive change through design.
[Image credit: 123RF]