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LVMH, the luxury fashion group behind Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, wants to build a new facility dedicated to sustainability. Slated to open in late 2024, the new R&D centre will focus on new materials and digital solutions. But its main goal is “getting rid of plastics”.
LVMH says it’s now going to build a new R&D centre in France to develop sustainable luxury fashion solutions. The site will be located near Paris in Saclay, and will be open in late 2024 or mid-2025.
While plans are still being finalised, LVMH says the facility is going to be anything but small. It estimates that as many as 300 employees will be based in the centre.
“It will be a big facility,” Jean Baptiste Voisin, LVMH’s chief strategy officer told WWD. “We are [still] not sure of the exact size.”
Sustainability a priority
For LVMH, this latest project is going to be among the top of its priorities. Voisin said that the group’s chairman and CEO Bernard Arnaut is “fast-tracking” the facility and pushing ahead with recruitment.
In terms of what teams will be working on, the focus will mainly be on materials, biotechnology, and digital solutions. These target areas will seek to reduce the environmental footprint of products, from the manufacturing process to end-of-life.
Voisin explained that it would be “extremely product and solutions driven”. He added that “getting rid of plastics is at the core”.
Researchers at LVMH’s Saclay hub will be taking a scientific approach when it comes to figuring out how to make luxury fashion more sustainable. They will evaluate the impact of novel materials, for instance, taking into account recycled content, emissions, and energy consumption.
That way, the company will be able to find which solutions are “really improving the full ecosystem,” said Voisin.
These solutions won’t just be applied to LVMH’s list of luxury fashion brands, among them Fendi and Marc Jacobs, but also the group’s beauty, cosmetics and jewellery labels. These include Guerlain, Bulgari, and Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty.
Conscious consumerism on the rise
The decision to invest in a brand new sustainability R&D facility is a sign that brands are no longer able to ignore the strong demand from consumers. While LVMH did not disclose the finances behind the project, WWD reported sources estimating a range from €30 million to €75 million.
Consumers, especially younger Gen Zs, are now prioritising value-led branding more than ever before. Latest polls show that shoppers are factoring in businesses’ social and environmental impact in their purchases.
It’s one of the reasons why fashion giants like LVMH are now doubling down on things like novel material innovation. Rival group Kering is also jumping on the trend, having backed the mushroom vegan leather startup Bolt Threads next to Stella McCartney and Adidas.
According to a recent analysis, the demand for more sustainable materials will see the “next-gen” material sector become a US$2.2 billion global market.
All images courtesy of LVMH.