Preserving the Past

One of the most underestimated areas within sustainability is heritage brands. Put simply, heritage brands are brands and companies that have been around for a very long time and are still committed to the same traditions, values, and products that they started with. They are brands that believe in what they do and have maintained the highest levels of devotion and dedication to their craft, passing the skills and lessons of their trade from generation to generation. In turn, this means products that are purposefully built and, importantly for us, made to last. Better products mean longer lifetime, slower consumption, and a more sustainable impact, it’s as easy as that.

In the modern techno-world, heritage brands that maintain traditional methods of production, and have been able to conserve their traditional missions, have a massive role to play within the sustainability sphere. “Retailers, both big and small, continue to plant their flags on fashion’s sustainability landscape. But no one stands to make a bigger impact than heritage brands” is how Kellie Ell, writing for Women’s Wear Daily, describes it. These brands have a large consumer base, a high-quality, internally standardised product, and huge ability to communicate their impactful information. Brands such as Hunter, Dents, Cornelia James, and Magee 1866 continue to commit to creating high-quality products.

Magee 1866 Autumn/Winter

Unfortunately, some of the heritage crafts and techniques that have been maintained for so long are struggling to find relevance in the modern world. For companies that aren’t as big or as well-founded as some heritage brands, the continuation of their craft is being threatened. Within the UK, some popular fashion crafts such as watch making, hat making and diamond cutting, even find themselves on the “critically endangered” list. There are many reasons for this, a lack of skilled people to teach, changes in school’s curricula, poor income security, an ageing workforce, changes in technology, a lack of awareness, and poor market competitiveness. Despite this, there is still a market for such heritage crafts. A study in 2016 found that heritage crafts contributed up to £4.4 billion to the UK economy – and this number is expected to rise. Importantly for these crafts though, is that they can learn from bigger, older, and more established heritage brands. The scale that older brands have means that the research and development that they institute can be shared with smaller brands and heritage crafts can continue to grow, increasing the sustainable impact for consumers.

There are brands who have maintained their status within the retail space for hundreds of years specifically because of their commitment to making durable and timeless products that are built to last. Heritage brands are becoming more and more important for the modern-day retail space. They can have a huge impact for consumers prioritising investment pieces and longevity over low cost and fast delivered goods that become short-lived. Most importantly, these brands can have a significant impact on communities and the world as they preserve ancient techniques and traditional craftsmanship.