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