The world moves in mysterious ways, and perhaps no more mysterious than the rise of the uber-luxury water bottle.
Their ascent comes from two springboards. The first, and perhaps more surprisingly, was via last summer’s series of ITV’s hit show, Love Island. As millions tuned in to watch 20-somethings flirt with each other round a pool, in every shot was a personalised water bottle next to half-naked bodies baking in the Mediterranean heat.
It was a dream come true for environmental campaigners pushing to end single use plastic, as fans adopted the water bottle as an accessory. Over eight weeks, Love Island sold a quarter of a million of their £15 bottles (the Conservative party even launched their own branded water bottles in an effort to attract young voters). Britain's biggest influencers were carrying water bottles; Britain followed faithfully.
The second cause behind the shift from functional utensil to status symbol is the fact that calls for sustainable living have taken a very fashionable turn. While the likes of Stella McCartney have had a planet-friendly agenda for decades, the big fashion houses have finally got on board as their young consumers are buying into ethics as much as they are trends. In 2018, Burberry's CEO Marco Gobbetti said "Modern luxury means being socially and environmentally responsible." The fashion industry is redefining luxury as something that is inherently sustainable. As Meghan Markle said at the 2018 Fashion Awards, “it’s cool to be kind”.
And, of course, this has all taken place against the backdrop of the “Blue Planet effect”, the name given to the huge influence of David Attenborough's BBC docu-series on consumer awareness of the evils of plastic. As a result, we’ve seen measurable action being taken from increased investment in sustainable businesses to corporations, including the BBC, banning the use of plastic. Add celebrity endorsements into the mix - from the likes of Julia Roberts for S’well and Gisele for bkr, the humble water bottle, once seen exclusively inside gyms and on school trips, had found its purpose and had a major luxury makeover. Ranging in price, a S’well bottle costs from £35 to £75. A bkr sits at around £30.
Brands, unsurprisingly, have been quick to capitalise on its newfound cultural and ethical cache. Luxury bottle brand S’well has teamed up with Liberty London for a collaboration featuring bottles covered in the iconic prints. A Balenciaga branded water bottle bag made its way down the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week in March, whilst Evian debuted its first reusable bottle during New York fashion week, designed by Virgil Abloh, who they’ve also just appointed as their “Creative Advisor of Sustainable Innovations Design”.
And aside from the earth-friendly connotations, carrying a water bottle, as opposed to the once popular coffee, also nods at the ever-growing wellness trend. It's cool to be kind to the planet, but also to ourselves. Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop glow has also become a status symbol in its own right, and nothing suggests a healthy life and appetite for self-care more than glugging litres of water, especially if there is a hint of must-have millennial mysticism.
VitaJuwel sells glass bottles featuring ethically sourced gems to enhance the water, and, as its website claims, to provide “a piece of artwork”, much like American brand Gem-water. Meanwhile, Bellabeat’s £61 Spring bottle comes with an app to tell you if you are drinking enough water and monitor your water drinking habits.
As the bottle has become the latest ‘it’ accessory, it's not surprising that water has taken on an elevated luxury quality; affiliated with precious stones, monitored by the latest tech and the ultimate symbol of our most desirable asset - wellness.
And so, if you want the world to know that you hate plastic, but love yourself, make a luxe water bottle a sustainable investment. However cynical you may be, they are good for the planet and drinking water is good for you. This may be a bandwagon I will happily jump on.
Main image credit: Gamma Rapho via Getty Images