21 Oct

How Ethical is Chanel?

Fashion changes, but style endures.

These are the wise words of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, who founded the eponymous brand in the 1920s. Chanel is known for revolutionising women’s fashion by ditching the restrictive corsets and replacing them with more flattering, functional, and minimalistic silhouettes. The late Karl Lagerfeld revived the luxury house in the 1980s, introducing the concept of the griffe (a proof of uniqueness and authenticity, hidden inside the dress) and making the brand one of the last 20th-century fashion houses still talked about today.

Style endures, but it looks like Chanel has had trouble adapting to the modern fashion industry and its efforts to become more sustainable. In 2018, and for the first time ever, the brand published a report on its environmental efforts and banned the use of exotic skins. This year, Chanel also took a minority stake in a green chemistry startup, showing that it’s finally starting to think about a broader sustainability strategy.

With this in mind, what is Chanel’s impact on people, the planet, and animals? And is Chanel ethical?

Environmental Impact

Chanel’s environment rating is ‘Not Good Enough’. The brand has set an absolute target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its operations by 50% by 2030. But, it doesn’t use eco-friendly materials and we found no evidence it has taken any meaningful action to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals or that it implements water reduction initiatives. We are in the middle of a climate emergency, and well-established brands need to clue in or they will be left behind!

Labour Conditions

Chanel’s labour rating is also ‘Not Good Enough’. Although the brand audits some of its supply chain, it doesn’t state what percentage. There is also no evidence it investigates and reports on safety incidents, that it ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain, or that it lists names or addresses for any of its suppliers. We know the impact of fashion on garment workers, and it is imperative that they are afforded the rights and payment they deserve.

Animal Welfare

Like many luxury brands, Chanel has stopped using fur, exotic animal skin, and angora. But it still uses leather and wool, as well as exotic animal hair and silk, which is why Chanel’s animal rating is ‘Not Good Enough’. With so many alternatives, the use of these harmful materials is entirely unnecessary!

Overall Rating: Not Good Enough

We gave Chanel an overall rating of ‘Not Good Enough’. The brand is not taking adequate steps to reduce textile waste in its supply chain, eliminate hazardous chemicals, or reduce its water consumption. What’s more, it needs to improve working conditions by investigating and reporting on safety incidents, but more importantly, ensuring workers in its supply chain are paid a living wage, and with the material innovations in the fashion industry today, there is simply no excuse for using cruel animal-based fabrics anymore. The brand has a long way to go if it intends to endure for the years to come.

See the rating.

If you’re looking for the unique and timeless Chanel style while having a better impact on people, the planet, and animals, fear not! We found ethical alternatives to Chanel to inspire you – check them out in the Good Swaps section at the end.

Good Swap

Ethical alternatives to Chanel

Stella McCartney

Rated: Good

Stella Star Flap-Over Shoulder Bag – Ships internationally

A member of the Ethical Trading Initiative and Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Stella McCartney has set some excellent environmental standards across the luxury fashion industry. Stella uses some eco-friendly materials, including recycled polyester and organic cotton, and has a strategy in place to reduce waste across its entire supply chain. It has also adopted the ETI Code of Conduct that includes a living wage definition!

See the rating.

Shop Stella McCartney @ Farfetch.

Bianca Spender

Rated: Good

Black Crepe Jacquette – Ships internationally

Bianca Spender is Australian fashion royalty, who has taken sustainability into the heart of her label. From smart workwear to statement gowns, this is a label that employs the highest standards of design and quality. Bianca Spender uses deadstock fabric and natural fibres, making all her garments in Ethical Clothing Australia-accredited factories. This is a re-rate for this designer, and we’re delighted to be able to give the brand a ‘Good’ rating.

See the rating.

Shop Bianca Spender @ Farfetch.

Reformation

Rated: Good

Lawrence Dress – Ships internationally

LA-based Reformation creates killer clothes that don’t kill the environment. The brand also ensures that a large proportion of its suppliers pay a living wage. Go Reformation!

See the rating.

Shop Reformation @ Farfetch.

Shop Reformation.

Arnsdorf

Rated: Good

Octavia Jacket – Ships internationally

Arnsdorf is a Melbourne and New York-based label by designer Jade Sarita Arnott, who brings a background in sculpture to her sharp but feminine designs. Arnsdorf uses some eco-friendly textiles such as organic cotton, Tencel and hemp, and minimises waste by producing only small runs of each line. It’s clothes are all made in-house in Melbourne and it traces most of its supply chain.

See the rating.

Shop Arnsdorf.

Vintage shops

Like Coco, we feel like style is timeless, so next time you’re in your favourite second-hand shop, why not have a look for vintage Chanel items? You never know what amazing treasures you might find.

When in doubt, rent it out

Nowadays, many websites allow you to rent dresses, items, and bags for an event, so think about this option next time you want to dazzle the crowd with a Chanel bag!

Editor's note: feature image via Pixabay, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You has big plans for ethical fashion in 2019! To support our work, we may earn a commission on sales made using our offers code or affiliate links.

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