This article eclectically brings together hip hop music, ethical fashion and viral YouTube videos. Think that’s even possible? I dare you to read on.

Back in 2011, a little known white female rapper named Kreayshawn had a viral hit song called “Gucci Gucci”. The flow was slick, the chorus was catchy and the beat happened to be at the forefront of a new direction in production led by Odd Future, Clams Casino and the A$AP Mob. “Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi, Prada, the basic b**ches wear that s**t but I don’t even bother” was the anthem of the music genre for the month of May. Here’s the YouTube video that went viral:

Fast forward four years. In addition to following hip hop music, I have a new hobby volunteering for Good On You, Australia’s go-to online store for ethical shopping. It is an ambitious and amazing project that filters out all the brands available in Australia that do not meet basic environmental and social standards. These are all laid out very transparently on the Good On You website. Check it out.

So when I was asked to research clothing brands for rating and filtering on Good On You, I decided to rate Gucci, Louis, Fendi and Prada. My overall brand summaries are included.

Gucci

"Gucci" by Stephen Carlile on Flickr
“Gucci” by Stephen Carlile on Flickr

Gucci has an average rating for Rank a Brand’s methodology. Gucci’s parent company, Kering SA, explains Gucci’s action on a number of important and material sustainability issues for the fashion industry. It has pledged to eliminate hazardous chemicals from production by 2020. It has a strong commitment to labour rights and worker health and safety through its supply chain, demonstrated by its alignment to Social Accountability International (SAI) and its SA 8000 standard. On these issues, Gucci appears to have made firm policies and goals.

When it comes to other issues such as the use of chromium and PVC, leather sourcing and environmentally preferred raw materials, it is still on a journey. Step actions are taking place, opportunities to be more comprehensive are not being taken, and commitments are avoided. A good example is on chromium: Rank a Brand report that Gucci plans to start a new initiative to reduce chromium use and optimise water consumption for its two Italian tanneries, but when and how this will happen is not stated.

Overall though, you have to be impressed with the brand’s ability to cover most social and environmental sustainability issues whilst excelling in labour rights, health and safety.

Louis Vuitton

"striped button down+DIY cargo skirt+TOMS shoes+Louis Vuitton speedy -7" by Maegen Tintari on Flickr
“striped button down+DIY cargo skirt+TOMS shoes+Louis Vuitton speedy -7” by Maegen Tintari on Flickr

Louis Vuitton scores very low on Rank a Brand’s scale. Its only positives are a basic code of conduct for labour conditions and that it has taken actions on its carbon footprint. Its policies and targets on environmental issues such as PVC, chromium and environmentally preferred raw materials, among others, are absent. Its policies and targets on labour issues such as supplier lists, production chains and regular public reporting, are similarly absent. Where the brand does indicate some form of policy, such as freedom of association or VOC chemicals, it is typically a basic claim with no evidence of anything else to substantiate it.

Fendi

Actually I did not get to rate Fendi. Someone else already took it. The basic jist is though that they are terrible. Rank a Brand gives them a score of E.

Prada

The Prada brand is owned by Prada spa. This company has a general Code of Ethics, containing general statements about supply chain and the environment. However, this information is not sufficiently specific, it is not clear if Prada has any policies, initiatives, plans or goals. The significant lack of transparency is concerning.

"Prada Marfa" by informedmindstravel on Flickr
“Prada Marfa” by informedmindstravel on Flickr

Is there any environmentally/socially conscious luxury brand?

I also rated Versace, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana: all awful.

In fact, the highest rated brand on European “sister site” Rank a Brand is Stella McCartney, Burberry, Saint Laurent and Gucci. Rank a Brand gives these scores of C and D (think school grading).

So what are the implications? Luxury brands across the board care little about their carbon footprints, factory occupational health and safety, animal welfare or threatening chemicals in the manufacturing process. More than 30 years ago, The Gap and Nike were beaten with significant negative press around labour issues around forced labour, child labour, excessive overtime and wages below the poverty line. Even these most basic socially responsible practices appear lost for the luxury brands. If you wish to integrate human rights, social and environmental impacts into your purchasing criteria – avoid these brands.

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