To become a Vogue Business Member and receive the Sustainability Edit newsletter, Click here.
Ralph Lauren takes circularity seriously. To get there, the American brand plans to build better products that last longer and pilot new “recirculation” programs to keep them alive, from resale and repair to recycling and rental.
The new strategy, Live On, is launched today. In an exclusive interview with Business in vogueVice President of Sustainability Devon Leahy says Ralph Lauren plans to enable all past and future products to live responsibly by 2030.
It’s a big company, and the brand admits it doesn’t have all the answers. First, Ralph Lauren is committed to designing products according to self-defined circular principles, which include improving five iconic products to achieve Cradle to Cradle certification; increase its use of recycled cotton; and investing in scaling regenerative practices, including the US Regenerative Cotton Fund and natural fiber recycling startup Natural Fiber Welding. The new commitments have a 2030 deadline, with meaningful progress to be made by 2025. So far, the brand has not shared how far it needs to go in this tighter three-year timeframe, saying that she is in “learning mode” and that she will. provide updates as it measures the impact of various drivers.
Product design will play a key role in enabling circular business models, says Leahy. On that front, the brand picked five iconic styles to rework so they could be certified by Cradle to Cradle. The first is its purple-labeled cashmere sweater, whose label is now an organic cream cotton instead of its signature purple polyester – one of the changes needed to achieve certification. It will be available for purchase later this year, and customers will have the option to ‘recycle’ it through Ralph Lauren’s new cashmere recycling program.
The changes involved working closely with existing partners and factories to make every element more sustainable, from sewn labels to yarns, dyes and hang tags. “Cradle to Cradle is very holistic,” says Leahy. “Everything must be taken into account and thought through.” The other four items to be certified have yet to be announced but will also be selected from the brand’s signature styles, becoming progressively more complex. While the brand only plans to certify five items, it will apply the learnings across its entire collection.
Ralph Lauren isn’t the only brand considering expanding its circular business models in a bid to separate financial growth from reliance on new product launches. Isabel Marant, Oscar de la Renta and Jean Paul Gaultier have all launched in-app resale offerings in the past year. French conglomerate Kering has invested in handbag rental company Cocoon and luxury resale platform Vestiaire Collective. Brands from Hermès to Arc’teryx have either increased repair operations or intensified communication around them.