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Different dimensions of durability

Jan 18 - 18h Hester VANACKER (IFM / Kering)

As luxury fashion brands need to address the environmental impact of their products (both internally and externally), a framework to achieve a common and accessible language becomes paramount to avoid confusing claims. Tools, such as Life Cycle Assessment and Eco-Design, help companies assess and reduce the negative effects of their products on the environment; nonetheless, more work is needed. The desire to create durable goods is a direct reaction to the current throw-away culture perpetuated by planned obsolescence during the production phase of many fast-fashion brands. However, without a proper understanding of the term ‘durability’ and its different dimensions, a common language cannot be adopted by the various actors in the value chain (both up- and down-stream). Particularly, the characteristics of terms such as ‘resilience’ are mistakenly confused with those of ‘durability.’ Here, we review the literature from 2011 to date for determining clear definitions for both terms. A self-developed analysis framework was used for the systematic review of the literature, slightly adapting the methodology from an established process. The different levels (A, B, and C) of the framework reveal, in a structured manner, what a ‘durable’ or ‘resilient’ product is (at every stage of its lifecycle). We show that two dimensions should be considered for both concepts: ‘intrinsic’ (also referred to as ‘physical’ in the existing literature) and ‘extrinsic’ (often referred to as ‘emotional’). Most authors fail to acknowledge the existence of both terms or use them inconsistently. Consequently, a thorough assessment of product durability and resilience is lacking, as studies have focused solely on one of the two dimensions or on a single lifecycle stage (most often the design phase) of a product. Thus, beyond its original aim, our model analysis framework can also help evaluate the environmental impact of luxury fashion products at each stage of their lifecycle.