October 21, 2019
You may or may not have heard rumours about the fashion industry being the second largest polluting on the planet. How accurate this is seeming almost irrelevant, as we know that the current system of production and consumption is flawed. The rise of fast and cheap throwaway garments is only increasing in demand, whilst another community of fashion devotee’s and the environmentally conscious are becoming alarmed and demanding change.
However, an often-overlooked detail until now has been the carbon footprint of fashion shows themselves. Generally large spectacles the shows command teams upon teams of runners, make-up artists, show space designers, whimsical invites and air travel for attendees and more. Imagine the global impact with so many ‘seasons’ in the fashion calendar, and an ever-increasing volume of designers in the fashion-sphere.
All is not lost though, as new and seasoned designers are paving a way for ‘sustainable’ fashion shows from London to New York, showing that change is possible, and it’s not as backbreaking as others may think.
Take Stella McCartney, who has been environmentally mindful since the very beginning of her brand back in 1995. For her Spring/Summer 2020 show in Paris Fashion Week, Stella placed a green informational sheet on every guests’ seat, listing her brand accomplishments and milestones from introducing organic cotton in 2008 to forest friendly viscose. Guests included Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova, who wore ecologic faux fur – made from corn. Yes, corn!
She wanted the timeline sheet to reflect that small changes made gradually can make a large overall impact over time. She doesn’t want to ‘terrify’ people or force them to sacrifice their style, she wants to provide a sustainable solution. Stella wants everyone to look at the models, the fabrics, the music and the setting and see ‘just a fashion show’, as opposed to a sustainable fashion show – because ‘we have to get to that place’.
An incredible first for the industry this season just gone, came in the form of Gabriela Hearst and her completely carbon neutral fashion show at New York Fashion Week. Models used were strictly only girls that didn’t have to be flown in to the venue, and no appliances were used for hair and beauty (although you couldn’t tell).
Hearst worked with a company called Eco Act to calculate processes such as appliance use from catering and food, how props and items are carried, and measured their carbon footprint. Any minor emissions that couldn’t be cut, were then offset by the designer.
Show favours for attendees were twill silk scarves, printed with insects that have recently become extinct due to climate change and urbanisation. A donation was also made in the name of each guest to Our Children’s Trust – a non-profit organisation which files lawsuits against governments fighting for children’s rights to a stable climate system and healthy planet.
Fashion followers also enjoyed the theme of nature-conscious designer Christopher Kane’s Spring 2020 show in London ‘Eco-Sexual’. Kane commented, “It’s about people who love nature. Making love in nature. Being in touch with the Earth. Sleeping with the stars!” British Vogue’s Sarah Mower described in her review of the collection how female fans testify that Kane’s work doesn’t date and are timeless art pieces to be worn year after year.
We also found creative director of Christian Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri, lining her Spring/Summer 2020 runway with 100 trees in a collaboration with environmental Paris design collective Coloco, which were then donated and planted in projects around the city. In addition, there was also a focus on ensuring that each of the collection pieces were buy-now-wear-forever classics, crafted carefully and lovingly by the house and made to treasure for years to come.
There is also the army of new designers to consider, most young and responsible fresh out of fashion school and looking at fashion in a whole new light. Take Matthew Needham, the Central Saint Martin’s graduate using environmental waste such as fly-tipped rubbish and upcycled Chanel tweed for his collections. Will he and his other mindful and informed peers view fashion shows as a waste of energy and just another redundant carbon impression on the earth? Will they invent and discover new innovative ways to showcase their work in completely clean and ‘green’ settings? Who knows, but the footprint of fashion and its impact on our future could well be in their hands.