The Sustainability Of Fashion Week

  • by Vivienne Austin

Just as we do with every fashion season, we’ve watched a lot of luxury shows and analysed every single piece of clothing walking down those runways. While we usually fall in love with a lot of new and established designers and their creative approach to fashion, this year we started seeing things a little differently.

Sustainability is out of Fashion



Reflecting back to September 2019, sustainability took centre stage on the catwalks. Burberry and Gabriela Hearst led the way with their first carbon-neutral shows, while Gucci made a groundbreaking move by achieving carbon neutrality throughout its supply chain. Dior highlighted biodiversity with tree-lined runways, Marni crafted dresses from recycled bottles, and Miu Miu and Louis Vuitton showcased fully recyclable sets.


Fast forward to the AW24 fashion week, and many of these sustainability efforts have dwindled, apart from a few standout instances. Stella McCartney, a long-time advocate for the environment, introduced bags and shoes made from Yatay, a blend of agricultural waste and recycled plastics. Coach featured upcycled denim and deconstructed aviator jackets, while Balenciaga stirred excitement with show invitations disguised as eBay packages, although the circularity of the collection remained unclear. Despite including upcycled pieces in previous seasons, Balenciaga confirmed their absence this time.


Overall, sustainability appears to have taken a back seat in the fashion world, as the industry shifts its focus to new trends, such as both real and faux fur, to go along with the mob-wife aesthetic that is populating both social media and catwalks alike. It looks like sustainability was just a trend, and just like any other trends, it’s not in fashion anymore.


The Real Cost of Fashion Week



The link between Fashion Week and sustainability is not just about what’s presented on the catwalk though. While fashion shows captivate with their glamour, they also significantly contribute to today's environmental crisis.


While fashion shows themselves only represent a fraction of the industry's environmental footprint, they are central to the marketing machinery that perpetuates overconsumption. The recent bi-annual women’s fashion week circuit in Paris, London, Milan, and New York exemplifies this phenomenon. Despite efforts to reduce emissions and waste associated with these events, the underlying issue of overproduction and overconsumption persists.

Fashion weeks not only showcase new collections but also trigger a chain reaction of consumerism. The trends they promote, the media attention they attract, and the subsequent shopping frenzy all contribute to their environmental impact. Luxury brands, in particular, bear a significant responsibility, as their extravagant displays of wealth drive demand for not only runway collections but also a plethora of related products. The fact that these brands are no longer focusing on sustainability only makes their negative impact bigger. If the luxury brands are not focusing on what’s best for the environment, neither will the plethora of related products that come from smaller brands.


Acknowledging this reality, initiatives like Copenhagen Fashion Week have emerged, championing sustainability as a prerequisite for participation. By imposing strict sustainability criteria on designers and brands, such platforms signal a departure from conventional practices towards more responsible alternatives. So our question is, why can’t Fashion Weeks around the world take on the same principles?! 

Fashion has the power to inspire change. Rethinking fashion shows is not about stifling creativity but redirecting it towards a more purposeful direction, like Copenhagen has done. It's about embracing innovation that prioritises people, planet, and profits alike. Only by challenging the status quo can we pave the way for a fashion industry that is truly sustainable and equitable.


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