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Responsible Luxury: Aligning Luxury and Sustainability through Practice Theories

Faculty of Business and Law

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Dr M Ghaffari , Prof D Vazquez-Brust Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3-year full-time or 6-year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised by Dr Mahsa Ghaffari and Professor Diego Vazquez-Brust.

The work on this project could involve:
-Working in an interdisciplinary research team
-Researching on the world’s challenges in regard to sustainability and community development
-Working in an active group focused on sustainability
-Opportunity to act as ambassadors of global environmental issues to industry and society
-Opportunity to develop partnership with industries in luxury sector

Project description
There is an ongoing debate about Luxury and sustainability. From one side luxury products are perceived to be durable and lasting worth (Kapferer, 2010) and hence contributing to sustainable development (SD), however from the other side, research on luxury consumption report reluctance of consumers in embracing sustainability and their lack of care about sustainability when consuming these products (e.g., Davies et al., 2012; Moraes et al., 2017). For example, Moraes et al (2017) found consumers’ less favourable attitudes toward the introduction of recycled materials into the luxury products. Furthermore, luxury by its definition reinforce the idea of exclusivity and social stratification, hence its core value seems incompatible with one of the main pillars of sustainability which is social inclusiveness (Kapferer and Bastien, 2012; Kapferer and Michaut-Denizeau 2014)

Despite these tensions (Achabou and Dekhili 2013), due to the increased importance of sustainability in businesses and the vital need to make sustainable production, many luxury producers are endorsing their products with sustainability (e.g. Yves Saint-Laurent launch of “New vintage” collection using recycled fabric from previous seasons; Gucci Equilibrium, an online platform where every member of staff can dedicate one percent of their working time to volunteering in local communities). However, if the producers’ attempts to be sustainable are not corresponding with consumers’ responses in the luxury sector, the ultimate aim of creating a sustainable luxury business model is not yet achieved.

The main aim of this project is to understand the meanings associated with luxury consumption and try to identify ways to align sustainability with luxury consumption in a way that they organically support each other.

As the theoretical framework for this research, we propose social practice theory (Schatzki 2001) to understand the components of luxury consumption. A successful candidate will be looking at the practice of luxury consumption, and its evolution to explore the systematic arrangement of meanings, know-how, infrastructures, sayings, doings and material objects required for performing it (Warde 2005) and identify the role of luxury consumption practice in understanding change towards sustainable consumption (Shove and Walker 2010).
You could use interpretivist approach to explore the subjective meanings and understandings, which interconnect participants’ nexus of luxury consumption practices. A qualitative approach including interviews, ethnographic research, field observation or virtual ethnographic fieldwork, and perhaps action research depending on the core research skills of the PhD candidate can be applied.

General admissions criteria
You’ll need an upper second class degree from an internationally recognised university or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements
You should have a background in social science (e.g. Marketing, Sociology, cultural studies and other relevant disciplines) with an interest in sustainability and consumption practices. A familiarity with interpretivists approach and qualitative methods is desirable. You should be familiar with with ethnographic research and keen to design your own research strategies depending on your interest and core skills.

How to Apply
We’d encourage you to contact Dr Mahsa Ghaffari ([Email Address Removed], and/or Prof. Diego Vazquez-Brust ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form (please follow the institution website link to access it) . Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

Please quote project code MKTG5090220 when applying.

Funding Notes

Self-funded PhD students only.

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

The Faculty of Business and Law offers funding to attend conferences (currently £550), training (currently £450), and a work-based placement (currently a maximum of £3,000 tied up to the period of 12 weeks).


Achabou, M. A. and Dekhili, S. (2013). Luxury and sustainable development: Is there a match? Journal of Business Research 66, 1896-1903.
Davies, I. A., Lee, Z., & Ahonkhai, I. (2012). Do consumers care about ethical-luxury?. Journal of Business Ethics, 106(1), 37-51.
Kapferer, J. N., & Bastien, V. (2012). The luxury strategy: Break the rules of marketing to build luxury brands. Kogan page publishers.
Kapferer, J. N., & Michaut-Denizeau, A. (2014). Is luxury compatible with sustainability? Luxury consumers’ viewpoint. Journal of Brand Management, 21(1), 1-22.
Kapferer, J. N. (2010). All that glitters is not green: the challenge of sustainable luxury. European business review, (11), 40-45.
Moraes, C., Carrigan, M., Bosangit, C., Ferreira, C., & McGrath, M. (2017). Understanding ethical luxury consumption through practice theories: A study of fine jewellery purchases. Journal of Business Ethics, 145(3), 525-543.
Schatzki, T. (2001). Introduction: practice theory. The practice turn in contemporary theory. Routledge.
Shove, E., & Walker, G. (2010). Governing transitions in the sustainability of everyday life. Research policy, 39(4), 471-476.
Warde, A. (2005). Consumption and theories of practice. Journal of consumer culture, 5(2), 131-153.
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