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Sustainability And Environment Issues In The Design Industry

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Sustainability and Environmental Issues in the Design Business

For this assignment I am required to compile a report on the sustainable and environmental values held by a well-known company. The company I will be reporting on is Chanel. Chanel is one of the fashion leaders of the world specializing in both hand made couture and 'off the rack' ready to wear fashions. Their target audiences are the wealthy members of society. Their logo and distinctive fashion styles since the 1920's have moulded this fashion label into a much sought after commodity. Many teenagers through to elderly women either would desire this image statement or are proud to be able to afford it and wear it. It is a very highly recognized brand with a luxury and superior image. The linked 'C's' logo alone stands for quality, style, glamour, being chic, respectable, classic fashion and over all having lots and lots and lots of money!

I have chosen this company as despite its popularity and desirability there are some environmental, social and health issues that are not necessarily correct in today's political climate.

Chanel has been in the firing line in the past for some of the methods that they used to produce their make-up, perfume and clothes.

Throughout this report I will attempt to highlight some of these issues and then to suggest possible ways in which through their corporate design and identity they could best portray the messages they wish to convey effectively. Chanel will not and I believe has not suffered dramatically through past press reports over the decades despite the fact that their consumers are such a small percentage of the world's population, however bearing this small number in mind it is important to keep them happy and wanting to continue spending hundreds of pounds their way.

One of Chanel's most famous fragrances, which was immortilised by Marilyn Monroe, who famously quoted that it was all she wore to bed, is Chanel No 5. This product which has become Chanel's signature smell unfortunately is made with thanks to the cost of thousands of the rare Musk Deer's discomfort. The 'musky' element to the scent is gathered by scraping the sex glands of this rare deer. Chanel in the past has claimed that the animals did not suffer and even went so far as to say that commercial interest can prevent a species from becoming extinct. However the charity Beauty Without Cruelty disagreed entirely and claimed that the process of gathering the scent is so cruel and crude that the animal was left severely traumatized.

Coco Chanel, the founder of Chanel, was herself inadvertently also held responsible for bringing the trend of having a deep dark suntan, according to an article published by The Body Shop. The consequences of which has led to a dramatic and alarming increase in skin cancers. Up until Coco Chanel disembarked a plane from her holiday sometime between the two world wars it was highly unfashionable to have a tan. If you were sun-kissed at all it meant that you were of a low working class needing to labour outside for your living. Pale white skin had been widely admired even leading women in the 16th century to wear masks that were held on their faces by buttons clamped between their teeth,

Chanel are also unashamed in the use of animal furs in their garments. One possible reason for why they still use this much talked about natural material and how their consumers still purchase and adorn themselves with them I think is summed up quite concisely in the following quote:

'Perhaps it reveals too clearly that violence has always been the method by which institutions demonstrate their superiority. . . . Male political dominance might be less a matter of moral superiority than of crude brute force and this would remove a degree of glamour from the dominance itself.'

(Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman n.d; The Cultural politics of fur, Emberley 1997)

Here the idea of money and power and its relationship with fur make it seem easy to understand why the shock and brutality of using it would not deter the average Chanel consumer. Fur is much more expensive than man made fibers and to wear a Chanel fur displays wealth, traditionalism and almost being a member of the 'old school', classic, timeless fashion club, not adhering to new fads or social and environmental equality changes created by the younger generations. Indeed anyone who buys Chanel is wanting to make a statement to the world, as the logo is widely recognized and brandished across most of their retail items for all to see.

However, being conscious of the environment has become a responsibility for all of the world's citizens and in particular a responsibility for business's, not only for the impact they can have by having so much power and using so many resources, but also as a PR exercise in order to appeal to the rising market who, has time passes will be in a position to be their new client base, replacing the originals. Thus all companies have to constantly be aware of what affect they are having and how to better it - no matter how well established and Chanel should be no exception.

How can Chanel develop a more politically correct persona for them selves? And indeed would it be possible?

They have already opted for the non-testing of animals on their cosmetics and fragrances which is briefly outlined on their website under the FAQ section. Also under this section they detail their environmental policy to participate in packaging waste recuperation programs in all the cities across Europe. They go on to say that they have developed their own worksites in an attempt to limit the potentially damaging affect their packaging could have on the environment.

Although Chanel does not test its final cosmetic and fragrance products on animals, it does not have any agreement or policy in place with the suppliers that the ingredients they use have not been. In order to become more sustainable they will need to abolish any kind of vivisection from their manufacturing process.

On a more social level the non-renewal of super model Kate Moss's Ј1million contract following her public and self proclaiming cocaine habits have indicated that she no longer represents the core values that Chanel wishes to hold. This could be commended and applauded, but would hold more weight and less irony if they stood up and shouted so loudly at a lot of other issues they apparently choose to ignore.

How could Chanel better communicate the changes they have made regarding these issues? Until researching this topic I was unaware that they as a company were concerned



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