Ecodesigning Our Hangers to Reduce Our Environmental Footprint
Echoing our historic roots as an expert trunk-maker and packer, the materials Louis Vuitton uses to transport our goods are rooted in the Maison’s original trade: to protect the most precious goods. Today, we are reinforcing this commitment by developing sustainable packing materials for every aspect of our business. To this end, in December 2019 teams from a wide range of departments including, Visual Merchandising, Purchasing, Ready-to-Wear Operations and Quality Control, Packaging Design and Development, and Environment teams, held a brainstorming session with a shared objective: how can we reduce the environmental impact of the hangers we use to transport Louis Vuitton clothing from our warehouses to our stores?
“We could have rationalized that it’s just hangers, telling ourselves that they have no real impact on the environment – but, though it’s seemingly a minor object, a hanger has a substantial footprint,” explains Béatrice from Hong Kong, where she piloted the redesign project. “Manufacturing all our transport hangers consumes tremendous amounts of polystyrene plastic, their primary component. When we committed to eliminating single-use plastics in our packaging by 2025, replacing these hangers became a crucial step in our progress there,” reports Marion from the Environment team. She adds, “There were also quality issues to address: The velvet-like coating on the hangers left dark fibers on some light-colored garments.” Together, these two serious concerns motivated the project’s stakeholders to not only take action without delay but also to prioritize environmental considerations for all future developments. “Our main incentive was to do everything possible to ensure our future hangers were as eco-friendly as possible,” recalls Romain, at the helm of Women’s Ready-to-Wear Operations. This quest for reduced impact led the teams to solicit proposals from third party suppliers, stipulating the requirements that recycled and recyclable materials must be used and the problematic coating eliminated: “These new restrictive parameters had to be taken into account by even our longstanding suppliers, but they were essential for us to move toward our goal,” says Pauline, Raw Materials Buyer for Men’s Ready-to-Wear.
Four proposals underwent Life-Cycle Assessments (LCA), the most demanding method for evaluating an article’s overall environmental impact (all the hanger’s components are examined, as well as its life stages) as well as its impact on a variety of factors including greenhouse emissions, resource depletion, and water pollution. This rigorous study identified one clear winner that would reduce the environmental footprint of our hangers by 45% by using recycled plastic, also reducing the hanger’s total weight. After being refined and approved by both the Design and Quality Control Departments, the prototypes immediately went into production and, since January 2021, have been gradually replacing the old hangers.
“Bringing all these stakeholders to the table was an unusual degree of collaboration, joining forces to achieve our shared objective of ecodesign,” reports Béatrice a few months after the project team’s final meeting. Such innovative collaboration bodes well for the future, given that this focus on continuous improvement has already led the team to contemplate other new, more eco-friendly packaging improvements.