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The Environmental Cost Of Fashion Weeks


After New York, London Fashion Week has just come to an end. Next to come Milan and Paris. But everywhere in the world people are protesting against the so-called fashion month.

Why? Because creating one-off pieces to showcase on the runways as the new trend of the upcoming season is costing a lot. Not in terms of money but in terms of environment.

According to the new report Zero to Market, published a few days ago in the New York Times, the carbon emission produced annually by fashion people and clothing collections moving around the planet for runways is about 241,000 tons. To give you a sense of the number, it is enough to power Times Square for 58 years.

The report was released by the fashion technology company Ordre.com and a climate-change consultancy called the Carbon Trust. They analysed last year’s data from the thousands of retailers and brands that sent people to major Fashion Weeks and trade shows. And now let’s just say that the results were simply disastrous.

The obvious questions now are: why are we still doing fashion weeks? Can they become more sustainable?

With scrutiny on fashion’s environmental impact mounting, the excess of major fashion weeks is increasingly at odds with the public commitments of major brands to operate more sustainably.

That’s why, in 2011, the British Fashion Council (BFC) announced that it would host the first sustainable fashion show on the London Fashion Week catwalk, in partnership with START, an initiative by The Prince’s Charities Foundation to promote and celebrate sustainable living.

That wasn’t enough, to the point that, a few days ago, the Extinction Rebellion once again called for the British Fashion Council to cancel London Fashion Week.

Credit picture: Vogue.com

The environmental campaign group wrote to the BFC urging the organisation to lobby for legislation “to stop the fashion industry’s exploitation of planet, people and animals”. It was signed by other leading climate change campaigners, including Livia Firth of Eco-Age, Safia Minney MBE, and Simone Cipriani of Ethical Fashion Initiative.

They asked to cancel September 2020 fashion week and “immediately start work on an emergency action plan that aids stakeholders through change.”

Fashion shows are inherently wasteful, with glossy sets built, torn down, and landfilled after a ten-minute spectacle. And let’s not talk about the first-class flights and the luxury cars from fashion capital to fashion capital.

But something is moving in the right direction. Some of the designers – Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Versace Group to name a few – are highlighting how important sustainability is. Since then, other luxury brands have read the room and started recycling and reusing runway set materials, offsetting the carbon emissions emitted by guests, and nodding to the coming apocalypse with logo face masks and recycled materials.


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