ecology and luxury
ecological and social, yet pure luxury? surely, these three things couldn’t possibly go together! at least not until about two years ago, when the dane peter ingwersen founded his “ecological” fashion label noir with its focus on “becoming the brand that makes sustainability and corporate social responsibility sexy!”, thus uniting these previously quite contrasting elements.

on the shelves of noir, you won’t find baggy sweaters, colourful scarves or birkenstock-style sandals – the fashion icons of the “eco look”. instead, you will find sexy, feminine and provocative clothes for modern, luxury-loving women. however, all these fashion items have been produced with environmental matters and social aspects in mind. for instance, noir’s founder peter ingwersen has not only established the well-known fashion label but also the fair-trade business “illuminati ll” in uganda, which produces high-quality organic cotton. and even though you might not notice this at first glance – these very fabrics have already been used in the label’s current spring/summer collection 2008. the company’s social responsibility is mainly focused on protecting the rights of their factory workers. the task of the established foundation is not only to offer their employees fair wages and regular working hours but also to make use of profit returns to provide them with primary health care and good education. in the near future, the company plans to expand the project and also sell the high-quality ecological cotton to other high-end fashion companies.

so is this increased environmental awareness in the world of fashion just a passing trend? surely not, says peter ingwersen. although the generally increased tendency towards more ecological awareness in society may be an individual thing, it’s much more than just a seasonal phenomenon for ingwersen. the dane is convinced that it all depends on individual consumers and whether their buying behaviour is more influenced by current news headlines or a general, conscious lifestyle including a preference of eu eco-labelled clothes. in any case, all these aspects seem to constitute a positive development towards an increased global environmental awareness.

however, how does noir boss ingwersen justify the fact that despite its focus on ecological awareness and fair trade, noir also sells fur? “we are a scandinavian brand and fur has always been an essential part of nordic fashion. fur is simply a part of nordic culture”, explains ingwersen. the noir mastermind goes on to stress the fact that fur is an irreplaceable fabric for a luxury brand and that he wouldn’t want to refrain from using it. on the contrary, he rather intends to use it as an act of provocation: “i’d like to stir up a debate on sustainability within the luxury industry!” naturally, ingwersen places great importance on the origin of his furs just like for all other fabrics used by the label: for instance, all animals for cow hides and goatskins come from food farming while all other furs are purchased from “kopenhagen fur”, a supplier of skins from state-controlled productions. with noir, peter ingwersen wants to set an example and create fashion with a deeper meaning. consequently, the transparency of the current spring/summer collection 2008 does not only refer to the literal meaning of the word – for instance represented by the special lingerie collection “nu noir” (“naked noir”) - but also to the company’s openness, responsibility and honesty. despite ingwersen’s good intentions regarding sustainability, young brands like noir also have to fight for their survival in the shark pool of the fashion world, especially within the luxury sector. however, their current market situation makes ingwersen hopeful: both the international press and buyers were enthusiastic about the company’s previous collections. and what’s more, noir is already present in select, exclusive fashion stores around the world, ranging from copenhagen, hong kong, antwerp and munich to vienna and the fashion capital of new york, where noir has been part of the new york fashion shows for more than a year. in any case, in future things will surely often look black – or “noir”- in the world of fashion!

patrick taschler