Arc’teryx & the Luxury of Disruption: Sustainable Drivers of a Fashionable Brand. Conference Presentation, In Pursuit of Luxury Conference, May 26-27, 2022, Milan, Italy

Arc’teryx & the Luxury of Disruption: Sustainable Drivers of a Fashionable Brand. Conference Presentation, In Pursuit of Luxury Conference, May 26-27, 2022, Milan, Italy


In Canada we struggle to recognize homegrown fashion talent, and our benchmarks for identifying quality work are based on imported luxury brands. Paradoxically, however, where we are most successful is when we are at our most Canadian. The Arc’teryx label for example. This brand that grew from a passion for rock climbing, and whose gear subsequently expanded into luxury athleisure has a uniquely Canadian DNA; one that actively engages with the natural world, the elements, and whose design and manufacturing directives are guided by a deep respect for sustainable principles. The methodology for this presentation draws upon interviews with key company employees, and also examines trade data and promotional collateral to study the manufacturing model employed by Arc’teryx and how the fundamental corporate ethos drives decision making. For Arc’teryx, there may not be the same cachet of status-based cosseted luxury or aspirational identification with a rarefied clientele which a European haute couture fashionable item carries. Conversely, this brand may illustrate, that there is more to the ontology of luxury than just the narrow parameters of the Faubourg Saint Honoré or 5th Avenue. No, Arc’teryx is more about an athletic, holistic aesthetic, one that espouses the “luxury” of a strong, healthy body that actively engages with a pristine, natural environment. Worthwhile aspirations that can have much wider implications when applied to a business model. Historically, Canada has been a locus of colonial imports, and of raw resource export, perhaps now, the cultural values of Canada can constitute another valuable export commodity. One that is sorely needed as the fashion industry as a whole—in its current structure and practices—is massively destructive to the environment, and the workers who manufacture our fashionable luxuries. 

Key Words: Contemporary Notions of Luxury; Eco-design and the Circular Economy; Sustainable Luxury; Canadian Fashion; Future of Luxury; Ontology of Luxury 

Works Cited

Alamgir, Fahreen, and Subhabrata Bobby Banerjee. 2019. “Contested Compliance Regimes in Global Production Networks: Insights From the Bangladesh Garment Industry.” Human Relations 72, no. 2, 272-297.

Allwood, Julian M., Soren Ellebaek Laursen, Cecilia Malvido de Rodriguez, and Nancy MP Bocken. 2015.  “Well Dressed?: The Present and Future Sustainability of Clothing and Textiles in the United Kingdom. Journal of the Home Economics Institute of Australia 22, no. 1: 42.

Alcaraz, Jose M., and Eappen Thiruvattal. 2010. “An Interview with Manuel Escudero The United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Management Education: a Global Call for Sustainability.” Academy of Management Learning & Education 9, no. 3: 542-550.

Amed, Imran, Achim Berg, Leonie Brantberg, Saskia Hedrich, Jonattan Leon, and Robb Young. 2017. “The State of Fashion 2017.” McKinsey & Company, December 2016.

Auchter, Lothar. 2016. “Supply Chain Responsibilities and the Need for an Integrative Ethic Management in Emerging Economies.” International Journal of Business and Economic Development (IJBED) 3, no. 1, 31-46.

Baldwin, John R., and Jiang Li. 2017. The Changing Importance of Foreign Control in Canadian Manufacturing. Statistics Canada= Statistique Canada.

Bales, Kevin. 2012. Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. Berkeley: Univ of California Press.

Beard, Nathaniel Dafydd. 2008. “The Branding of Ethical Fashion and the Consumer: a Luxury Niche or Mass-Market Reality?.” Fashion Theory 12, no. 4, 447-467.

Bennett, Jane. 2009. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham NC: Duke University Press.

Berlanstein, Lenard R., ed. 2003. The Industrial Revolution and Work in Nineteenth Century Europe. New York & London, Routledge.

Bhuiyan, Mohammad Amir Hossain, Nahid I. Suruvi, Samuel B. Dampare, M. A. Islam, Shamshad B. Quraishi, Samuel Ganyaglo, and Shigeyuki Suzuki. 2011. “Investigation of the possible sources of heavy metal contamination in lagoon and canal water in the tannery industrial area in Dhaka, Bangladesh.” Environmental monitoring and assessment 175, no. 1-4, 633-649.

Black, Sandy. 2008. Eco Chic: The Fashion Paradox. London: Black Dog Publishing.

Braidotti, Rosi. 2013. The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Brown, Sass, and Valerie Steele. 2010. Eco Fashion. London: Laurence King.

Canadian Apparel Federation Website. Accessed Feb 8, 2020. 

Canadian Competition Bureau. n.d. “Guide to the Textile Labelling and Advertising Regulations”. Accessed November 29, 2018.

Caniato, Federico, Maria Caridi, Luca Crippa, and Antonella Moretto. 2012. “Environmental Sustainability in Fashion Supply Chains: An Exploratory Case Based Research.” International journal of production economics 135, no.2: 659-670.

Cavusoglu, Lena and Dakhli, Mourad. 2016. “The Impact of Ethical Concerns on Fashion Consumerism: A Review,” Markets, Globalization & Development Review: Vol. 1: No. 2, Article 5. 

Clarke, Jean S and Robin Holt. 2016. “Vivienne Westwood and the Ethics of Consuming Fashion.” Journal of Management Inquiry 25, no. 2, 199-213.

Colin, Nicole, Alberto Maceda-Veiga, Núria Flor-Arnau, Josep Mora, Pau Fortuño, Cristiana Vieira, Narcís Prat, Jaume Cambra, and Adolfo de Sostoa. 2016. “Ecological Impact and Recovery of a Mediterranean River after Receiving the Effluent From a Textile Dyeing Industry.” Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 132: 295-303.

Collier, Paul. 2010. The Plundered Planet: Why We Must-and how we can-Manage Nature for Global Prosperity. Oxford UK: Oxford University Press.

Clarke, Jean S., and Robin Holt. 2016. “Vivienne Westwood and the Ethics of Consuming Fashion.” Journal of Management Inquiry 25, no. 2: 199-213.

D’Anolfo, Marco, Cesare Amatulli, Matteo De Angelis, and Giovanni Pino. 2017. “Luxury, Sustainability, and Corporate Social Responsibility: Insights from Fashion Luxury Case Studies and Consumers’ Perceptions.” In Sustainable Management of Luxury, edited by Miguel Angel Gardetti, 427-448. N.p: Springer Singapore.

De Angelis, Matteo, Feray Adıgüzel, and Cesare Amatulli. 2017. “The Role of Design Similarity in Consumers’ Evaluation of New Green Products: An Investigation of Luxury Fashion Brands.” Journal of Cleaner Production 141, 1515-1527.

Dickson, Marsha A. 2000. “Personal Values, Beliefs, Knowledge, and Attitudes Relating to Intentions to Purchase Apparel from Socially Responsible Businesses.” Clothing and Textiles Research Journal 18, no. 1, 19-30.

Ehrenfeld, John, and Andrew Hoffman. 2013. Flourishing: A Frank Conversation about Sustainability. N.p: Stanford University Press.

Fletcher, Kate. 2016. Craft of Use: Post-Growth Fashion. London: Routledge.

Fletcher, Kate. 2007. “Not one but Many: New Visions for Fashion.” In Future Fashion: White Papers, edited by Leslie Hoffman, 275-293. N.p: Earth Pledge Foundation.

Fletcher, Kate. 2010. “Slow Fashion: An Invitation for Systems Change.” Fashion Practice 2, no. 2, 259-265.

Fletcher, Kate. 2013. “Sustainable Fashion.” In The Handbook of Design for Sustainability, 283. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Fletcher, Kate, Lynda Grose, and Paul Hawken. 2012. Fashion & Sustainability: Design for Change. London: Laurence King.

Franklin, Ursula. 1999. The Real World of Technology. Toronto: House of Anansi.

Friedman, Thomas. 2005. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Globalized World in the 21st Century. London: Allen Lane.

Gam, Hae Jin. 2011. “Are Fashion-conscious Consumers More Likely to Adopt Eco-friendly Clothing?.” Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal 15, no. 2, 178-193.

Gereffi, Gary & Olga Memedovic. 2003. “The Global Apparel Value Chain.” United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

Government of Canada Website. Accessed March 11, 2022.

Hawken, Paul, Amory B. Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins. 2013. Natural Capitalism: The Next Industrial Revolution. New York & London: Routledge.

Hustvedt, Gwendolyn, and John C. Bernard. 2008. “Consumer Willingness to Pay for Sustainable Apparel: the Influence of labelling for Fibre Origin and Production Methods.” International Journal of Consumer Studies 32, no. 5, 491-498.

Innis, Harold A. [1930] 1966. The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Joy, Annamma, John F. Sherry, Alladi Venkatesh, Jeff Wang, and Ricky Chan. 2012. “Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands.” Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture 16, no. 3: 273-295.

Kering. Corporate Website. Accessed March 1, 2016

Krugman, Paul. 1991. Geography and Trade. Boston, MIT press.

Krugman, Paul. 2009. “Increasing Returns in a Comparative Advantage World.”

Landgren, Trudy M., and Anupama Pasricha. 2011. “Transforming the Fashion and Apparel Curriculum to Incorporate Sustainability.” International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education 4, no. 3, 187-196.

Lock, Ineke C., and Satoshi Ikeda. 2005. “Clothes Encounters: Consumption, Culture, Ecology, and Economy.” Consuming Sustainability: Critical Social Analyses of Ecological Change: 20-46.

Lury, Celia. 2004. Brands: The Logos of the Global Economy. London & New York: Routledge.

Luz, Claudio. 2007. “Waste couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry”: A449-A454. Accessed March 11. 2022.

Lyttle, Timothy. Interview at Arc’teryx store, Yorkdale Mall, May 10, 2019. Toronto, ON Canada.

Manik Julfikar Ali, & Nida Najar. 2015. “Bangladesh Police Charge 41 With Murder Over Rana Plaza Collapse”. June 2, 2015. The New York Times. Accessed Feb 2, 2020.

Marx, Karl. 1978 [1867]. “Selections from Capital.” In The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 302-29. New York: Norton.

McCartney, Stella. 2015. Interview BoF in Conversation with Stella McCartney. Business of Fashion (Online Edition) March 22. 2015. Accessed Feb 8, 2020.

McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart. 2010. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things. New York: North Point Press.

Mitchell, Lorianne D., and Wesley D. Ramey. 2011. “Look how Green I Am! An Individual-level Explanation for Greenwashing.” Journal of Applied Business and Economics 12, no. 6: 40-45.

Morris, Mike and Justin Barnes. 2009. “Globalization, the Changed Global Dynamics of the Clothing and Textile Value Chains and the Impact on Sub-Saharan Africa”. United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Vienna, Austria.

Ryohin-Keikaku (Muji). Accessed March 11, 2022.

Niinimäki, Kirsi. 2011. From Disposable to Sustainable: The Complex Interplay Between Design and Consumption of Textiles and Clothing. N.p: Aalto University.

O’Connell, Mark Joseph. 2021. “Browsing the Virtual Boutique with Baudrillard: The New Realities of Online, Device-Based, Luxury Fashion Design and Consumption.” Journal of Design, Business & Society 7, no. 1: 11-27.

O’Connell, Mark. 2019. “Lux Perpetua: Future Pioneers Utilizing Historical Precedent as Design Innovation within Fashion.” Textile Journal of Cloth & Culture: 1-18.

OECD, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Canada).

Orr, David W. 2004a. “Hope in Hard Times.” Conservation Biology 18, no. 2, 295-298.

Orr, David W. 2004b. Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect. Washington DC: Island Press.

Orr, David W. 2002. The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture, and Human Intention. Oxfrod UK: Oxford University Press.

Parikka, Jussi. 2015. A Geology of Media. Minneapolis MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Pepper, David. 2002. Eco-Socialism: from Deep Ecology to Social Justice. London & New York: Routledge.

Pepper, David. 2010 “On Contemporary Eco-socialism.” In Eco-socialism as Politics. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands: 33-44.

Prentice, Rebecca, and Geert De Neve, eds. 2017. Unmaking the Global Sweatshop: Health and Safety of the World’s Garment Workers. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Rahman, Shahidur. 2013. Broken Promises of Globalization: The Case of the Bangladesh Garment Industry. N.p. Lexington Books, 2013.

Remy, Nathalie, Eveline Speelman and Steven Swartz. 2016. “Style that’s Sustainable: a new Fast-Fashion Formula.” Blog post. Accessed November March 11, 2022.

Rissanen, Timo, and Holly McQuillan. 2016. Zero Waste Fashion Design. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Rissanen, Timo. and Alison Gwilt. 2011. Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way we Make and Use Clothes. N.p: Routledge.

Rivoli, Pietra. 2014. The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade. New Preface and Epilogue with Updates on Economic Issues and Main Characters. N.p: John Wiley & Sons.

Rodrik, Dani. 2008. One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.

Rodrik, Dani. 2017. Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy. Princeton University Press.

Rosen, Ellen Israel. 2002. Making sweatshops: The globalization of the US apparel industry. N.p: University of California Press.

Ross, Andrew. 1997. Ed. No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade, and the Rights of Garment Workers. N.p:Verso.

Sachs, Jeffrey. 2008. Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet. N.p: Penguin.

Sassen, Saskia. 2008. Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages. N.p: Princeton University Press.

Schor, Juliet B. 2005. “Prices and Quantities: Unsustainable Consumption and the Global Economy.” Ecological Economics 55, No.3, 309-20.

Seabrook, Jeremy. 2015. The Song of the Shirt: Cheap Clothes Across Continents and Centuries. London: Hurst & Co.

Sen, Amartya. 2002. “How to Judge Globalism.” The American Prospect, Winter, A2-A6. Accessed March 11, 2022. (2002).

Sen, Amartya. 2001. Development as Freedom. London: Oxford Paperbacks.

Siegle, Lucy. 2011. To Die For: is Fashion Wearing out the World? N.P: HarperCollins UK.

Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2020. Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy . WW Norton & Company.

Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2015. The Great Divide. N.p: Penguin UK.

Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2007. Making Globalization Work. WW Norton & Company.

Talaga, Tanya. 2015. “Rana Plaza Garment Factory Victims’ Fund Reaches $37M Goal” Toronto Star Online Edition. Accessed April 7, 2017.

Thomas, Dana. 2018. “Why Won’t we Learn from the Survivors of the Rana Plaza Disaster?” New York Times, last modified Apr 24. 2018. Accessed April 25, 2020.

Tickell, Adam and Jamie A. Peck. 1995. “Social regulation after Fordism : regulation theory, neo-liberalism and the global-local nexus.” Economy and Society 24, no.3, 357-386.

Ur-Rehman, Zia; Declan Walsh & Salman Masood. 2012. “More Than 300 Killed in Pakistani Factory Fires”. New York Times Online Edition. Accessed April, 9, 2017.

Vogel, Steven. 2015. Thinking like a Mall: Environmental Philosophy after the End of Nature. N.p: Mit Press.

WTO. 2018. “World Trade Statistical Review 2018.” Accessed November 29, 2018.

WTO. 2018. “The World Trade Statistical Review 2017.” Accessed November 29, 2018.

Wyatt, Lee T. 2009.The Industrial Revolution. Vol. 1. US: Greenwood Press.

Yardley, Jim. 2013. “Report on Deadly Factory Collapse in Bangladesh Finds Widespread Blame.” New York Times 22: 1-3.

Yúdice, George. 2003. The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era. N.p: Duke University Press.


Slide 2: The resurrection of the Nuclei FL” 2020. Photographer: John Price, image courtesy Arc’teryx Equipment, Inc.

Slide 3:

Slide 4:

Slide 5:

Slide 6:

Slide 7:


Slide 11:

Slide 16:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s