Touch and Feel: Signals That Make a Difference
Journal of Corporate Citizenship
We use a multi-source, longitudinal case study of one of the world's first and best eco-fashion brands, Osklen, founded by Oskar Metsavaht in Brazil in 1989, to advance a multi-sensorial signalling theory account of sustainable luxury. Our induc- tive theory-building extends traditional signalling theory, especially its recent applica- tions to sustainability, by adding an appreciation of multiple senses and leveraging multi-sensorial methodologies increasingly popular in the marketing and design disciplines. In contrast to the traditional literature on signalling from economics which suggests that signals are most influential when they are visible, clear and easy to interpret (thus carrying unambiguous messages from sender to receiver), we show that balancing luxury and sustainability requires and relies on multi-sensorial, com- plex, even contested signals. We catalogue, classify and compare the signals sent by Osklen within and across the 15 different collections Oskar Metsavaht designed between 2005 and 2013 to explain how signals are deliberately de- and re-composed to combine luxury and sustainability. Our findings encourage sustainability research- ers to take senses seriously and offer practical how-to recommendations to luxury designers committed to making a difference.
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