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Can Fashion Week Withstand Sustainability Scrutiny?

Can Fashion Week Withstand Sustainability Scrutiny?

 


The biannual women's fashion week circus is underway. Editors, buyers, celebrities, influencers and countless other industry insiders and representatives travel between the big four fashion capitals, New York, London, Milan and Paris, to discover the new ideas the brands have to offer .

There will be new silhouettes, a few contenders for the new It Bag, and mind-blowing feats of design, but can the industry succeed when it comes to sustainability?

Fashion Week

Dolphin F24. Photo: GoRunway

Big promises

It’s been four years since a global fashion week reset was promised. In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, representatives from fashion giants including Chlo, Missoni, Dries Van Noten and Gucci signed an open letter to the fashion industry, pledging to increase sustainability throughout the supply chain and sales calendar through actions such as manufacturing fewer unnecessary products and reviewing and adapting fashion shows.

At the same time, the Council of Fashion Designers of America released a report promising to overhaul New York Fashion Week to create positive, lasting change. Meanwhile, the British Fashion Council (BFC) has encouraged brands to slow down and focus on sustainability. But has this transformation materialized?

As we write these lines, the fashion cohort has just settled in Milan, after visiting New York and then London. Consideration of alternative fashion show formats has been largely forgotten as brands with budgets continue to put on extravagant shows with top-notch production values. The hope therefore lies in the content of the parades.

I truly believe that lasting change in fashion must come from the designer. Uyen Tran

If you know where to look, you may discover positive changes. In New York, brands such as Lou Dallas, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Coach have used deadstock and recycled materials.

Coach, which has stepped up its sustainability efforts after being criticized for destroying unsold merchandise, has made denim pieces from second-hand jeans and assembled bomber jackets into cozy coats.

That feeling of creating, of designing with relevance and responsibility, and a certain sense of urgency, that's where I'm thinking, said Stuart Vevers, creative director of Coach. Vogue.

In London, upcycling was also on the agenda. Conner Ives, known for his talent for creating desirable pieces from old T-shirts, complemented his must-have jersey with military surplus materials, antique wall tapestries and embroidery made from unused headphone cables from an electronics factory.

Susan Fang crocheted tall boots using scraps from previous seasons as yarn; Young Tolu Coker's first London show featured recycled materials and reworked Ugg boots; and Patrick McDowell even reused broken instruments to make a tuba corset, cymbal dress and cello corset as part of his collection made in collaboration with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

sustainable fashion

Chemin des Collines F24. Photo: Umberto Fratini on behalf of GoRunway

New materials on the menu

It is essential that the fashion industry uses the millions of tonnes of discarded materials and clothing that already exist, but upcycling is difficult to produce, so brands must look for innovative materials that have the potential to evolve.

Gabriela Hearst, who put sustainability on the agenda when she was creative director of Chlo (a role she left last year), sent recycled cotton and hemp denim and fur cashmere woven on a runway made from reclaimed materials, while Collina Strada, another brand. known for its commitment to sustainability, launched Uggs made from a corn byproduct.

In 2023, Dauphinette is committed to making all of its next collections with at least 50% recycled materials. But in addition to using deadstock cashmere, deadstock from The RealReal, recycled leather, and vintage kimono silks for her kitsch-luxe AW24 collection, she launched two prosciutto leather bags made by TmTex.

The biodegradable, plastic-free material is made from chitosan, the second most abundant biopolymer after cellulose, which can be extracted from crustacean shells, insects and fungi.

All of this is of natural origin. And that's the key principle when we invent a new material: it doesn't contain plastic or toxic chemicals, says Uyen Tran, CEO and founder of the company.

sustainability of fashion week

Chemin des Collines F24. Photo: Umberto Fratini on behalf of GoRunway

A space to spark change

TmTex, founded in 2020, aims to increase its annual production capacity to 27,900 square meters this year, but cannot yet produce the bags on a commercial scale, which is why it is important to have such materials on hand. the podium.

Brands can introduce new innovations and create demand. Putting TmTex on the track means it can reach an audience of millions.

I truly believe that lasting change in fashion must come from the designer, says Tran. Durable materials are not considered sexy. You must make it desired.

Just as designers have the power to persuade their audiences to covet an extravagant new silhouette or a totally impractical shoe, they have the ability to make sustainability a must-have. However, if some major innovations filter through, efforts are fragmentary and applied according to the will of each designer.

A truly unified effort is sorely lacking, as many designers seem to view sustainability as too risky or difficult, and fashion councils fail to formalize their promises in the pandemic era. But this can be done.

In 2023, Copenhagen Fashion Week has set minimum requirements for sustainability. If a brand doesn't address factors like using preferred materials, supply chain due diligence, producing zero waste shows, and educating consumers about sustainability, it won't is not authorized to exhibit.

“Fashion Week has a very important role to play in showcasing and leading sustainability. Patty Perry

London Fashion Week reflected the strategy and applied it to BFC NEWGEN's emerging designers, but not to all the designers on its program, with the biggest of them having the budget and capacity to operate d huge structural changes.

Fashion Week has a very important role to play in showcasing and leading sustainability, says Patsy Perry, reader in fashion marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University. There is an opportunity to tell a positive story, to make it exciting, but there are no real requirements.

The lack of requirements means brands can remain wary of the true nature of their sustainability efforts. In 2023, Business Vogue asked 231 brands to share the main materials used in their SS24 collections and only 19 responded, most of whom were independent designers who tend to lead the way in sustainability across the board, according to data from Good On You .

To find more meaningful commitments to sustainability, Perry says, we may need to look elsewhere, to brands that avoid the frenzy of fashion week, which has transformed from an industry event for buyers to a media spectacle which stimulates consumption.

Until the industry comes to a consensus and commits to placing the same importance on sustainability as it does on design and commerciality, it will continue to fail at Fashion Week, except for the few designers dedicated people who push the needle.

Sustainability isn’t a selling point, it’s a necessity, Tran concludes.

Sources

1/ https://Google.com/

2/ https://www.theceomagazine.com/business/innovation-technology/fashion-week-under-sustainability-scrutiny/

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