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Opinion

Luxury and guilt

Cyrille Vigneron

By Cyrille Vigneron05 novembre 2020

Is the «deconsumption» movement a threat for Luxury in general, and for our Maison in particular? At first glance, this threat looks like a clear and precise danger. In reality, it is just the opposite. True luxury is a response to the deconsumption equation.

Considering it as a threat is a confusion between «reducing consumption» and «utilitarianism».

We all need to consume less, especially useful things, air, water, energy, food. We must consume less resources from the planet, and pollute it less. Utilitarianism states that we should first of all avoid anything which is not «useful». The problem starts when you try to define the border: what is useful? Where does comfort and pleasure starts? Where does necessity stops? Diogenes raised the same question more than 2000 years ago. The truth is: there is no answer. We get used to what we used to consider as luxury: hot water, washing machine, easy transport, medicine, health.

Human aspirations always go beyond necessity, to what can be called «the necessary superfluous». Luxury is part of it, like art or beauty in general. You do not need it, but you aspire to it because it makes life more beautiful.

Today’s environment issues are challenging our lifestyle more than our desire for luxury. We must reduce our carbon footprint, eat less, avoid wastage. This existential question applies to everything, including luxury in its opulent forms. But luxury is not only opulence. Luxury can be frugal, durable and sustainable. In particular, watches and jewellery consume very few resources, can be reused, transmitted, repaired and recycled.

For centuries, frugality was the norm, as resources were scarce. Spending was criticised. Luxury could however develop in such an environment, by stimulating the desire and offering at the same time the justification for such an indulgence. Luxury goods moved from being an expense to a durable investment, the expression of a rare savoir-faire, a tangible reward for effort, a proof of love, a sign of belonging, a celebration, a personal signifier.

In today’s shifting values, luxury must show more frugality and durability, step even further from wastage and pollution, but stay part of our life.

For Cartier the global yearly gold consumption is only 10 tons, and more than 90% is recycled. Diamonds represent less than 0,4% of the world production, and can last forever. We strive to make our creations constantly more durable, repairable, transmittable. We strive to reduce our carbon footprint in everything we do, from manufacturing to boutiques and offices. As everyone should do.

To continue to offer what no one needs, but everyone wants, what makes all of us happy. Happiness is not useful, but we all aspire to it.

Cyrille Vigneron is President and CEO of Cartier International

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