1.618’s Barbara Coignet interview on Sustainable Luxury

Umesh Mukhi

Barbara COIGNET, Founder of 1.618 shares her wisdom on how CEO’s should think and why Luxury and Sustainability are compatible.

The Interview is an exclusive part of Mindthis Sustainable Leadership Series which features cutting edge thought leadership from change makers across the world.

Sustainable Leadership Initiative in conversation with Barbara COIGNET, CEO of 1.618 Paris  about her voyage in Sustainable Luxury.


How 1.618 Paris did started, what was the inspiration behind it?

Throughout my career in art, photo and fashion I had the privilege to be surrounded by and work with some of the most beautiful and luxurious products the world has seen; developed by some of the most well known artists and designers of our time.  My unique position at the center of these creative industries allowed me the opportunity to observe first-hand their evolution over the past 20 years.  It was clear to me that the notion of luxury was changing, due to outside forces linked to political, industrial and environmental events, as well as an increased demand from consumers for greater engagement.

The tipping point for me came after an excursion to an eco-lodge which seamlessly integrated well-being, beauty and creativity with sustainability.  From that experience, the idea for 1.618 was born and for two years I began sourcing products from all over the world across sectors that successfully combined luxury (defined by creativity, innovation, emotion, heritage, and beauty) and sustainability.  We officially created 1.618 in 2009 and are continually inspired by the ingenuity and beauty present in products and services throughout the world which respond to consumer demand.  Our organization serves as an important resource for consumers to access and develop personal relationships with these products and services through our 1.618 Sustainable Luxury event and guide.  Our organization plays an important role in building a better world, one in harmony with nature and man.

The Idea of Luxury blending with Sustainability if often ironic, what is your opinion regarding industry trends now?

Luxury and sustainability are one in the same.  It is important to note that it all depends on your definition of luxury.  If we consider the origin of luxury which is defined as know-how, heritage, rarity, transmission, respect for materials and human rights, and quality- you arrive at a definition that mirrors that of sustainability.

From leadership perspective what are main challenges faced by Luxury brands to integrate Sustainability in their strategy?

Luxury brands across sectors have very specific issues which are unique to their business and present very real challenges. The jewelry industry is constrained in terms of their ability to source enough ethical and qualitative materials needed to respond to demand.  The cosmetics industry must overcome the reduced lifespan of their products which is a direct result of using all natural materials.  The fashion industry faces a tremendous challenge in terms of managing the supply chain from start to finish, ensuring the ethical treatment of their workforce, as well as sourcing appropriate and high-end fabric.  In the end, there is an issue that is faced by all and that is the retail environment.  Brands must also ensure that their products are sold in a space that is respectful of the environment, energy efficient, etc.

There is tremendous potential that we will be able to overcome these obstacles but we still have much to accomplish.  We are driven by the belief that from obstacles comes innovation which continues to inspire our work and vision.

 How is 1.618 different from other organizations, what is the mindset of 1.618?

1.618 is leading the effort to re-define luxury in the 21st Century.  We are a unique network of passionate individuals who believe that there is an urgent need to alter our approach to luxury and design across sectors based on consumers’ demands.  Our goal is to inspire the industry to commit to developing products and services that incorporate aesthetics, creativity, quality and that are sustainable on behalf of consumers.

We are one of the few organizations to source products/services and validate them by an independent expert committee.  We are free to make our own choices and to do things our own way.  We are committed and believe that the possibilities are endless.

What is the link between “creation, emotion, art, innovation and sustainability”?

When you add aesthetics, these ideas represent our definition of Luxury in the 21st Century.

What is your vision regarding 21st century luxury and how do you plan to achieve it?

Our vision of 21st Century luxury is Creation, Emotion, Art, Beauty, Innovation, and sustainability.  Our mission is to communicate, educate, and influence our professional and consumer community through our 1.618 Sustainable Luxury event, digital Guide, and professional courses.

If you have to give three key suggestions to CEO’s of luxury brands, what would that be?

Focus on the long term, take risks-be innovative, and believe in your ability to influence.

About 1.618 Paris

1.618 Paris is best known for its work at  the cross-section of luxury and sustainable development . It is best-known for its 1.618 Sustainable Luxury event and 1.618 Sustainable Luxury Guide, which is considered a industry reference by leading professionals.  The event and guide both serve to reveal the initiatives and stories behind the 1.618 brand selection, propose a moment of reflection through art, and provides access to opinions from leading creative, luxury, sustainable development experts from around the world.

The Interview can also be accessed on Sustainable Leadership Blog. The Sustainable Leadership Initiative is global platform to showcase best practices and engage trans-sector dialogue from business, government and social sector across the world in context of sustainability and leadership. You can follow them on Twitter: @sleadersummit and make sure you like them on Facebook!