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Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week may be over for another year, but the fashion world is still talking about the glamour and frivolity seen on the runway. Whilst the star-studded guest list and celebrity looks may be the topics on everyone’s lips, but one thing we noticed was a distinct lack of focus on sustainability.

This comes as a bit of a surprise as sustainable fashion has been a trending topic for a number of years now; indeed, there were calls in 2022 for fashion weeks in cities including New York, London and Milan to take responsibility for their impact on the environment and stop contributing to the climate crisis. On historical average, a typical fashion week emits up to 48000 metric tons of CO2 (stats from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)). This total includes:

  • Emissions from attendees (often upward of 10,000 people), including arriving at their destination and trips once they are there.
  • Production of the set and the collections on show.
  • Manufacture of sets, props, samples, and other goods.
  • Associated waste.

This total does not include the ongoing influence that every Fashion Week has on the amount of clothing that will then be created and purchased, and how much will end up in landfill.

“Sustainable Fashion” – a trending term

The term “sustainable fashion” is an up-and-coming trend online, with the sustainable credentials and ethics of clothing manufacturers becoming increasingly important to buyers who want to do their bit for the planet. Whilst wearing items made from recycled materials or even bought second-hand may have once felt like a taboo topic, perspectives are quickly changing to embrace these aspects, especially with the cost-of-living crisis here in the UK hitting pockets hard. Second hand marketplaces such as Vinted and eBay are extremely popular with bargain seekers, and places like charity shops have reported an upturn in footfall as people want to pad out their wardrobes for less.

The added incentive to reuse rather than new to help reduce our carbon footprint has been a secondary one for a long time but is now also rising in popularity as we understand more how our actions directly influence climate change.

With this change in attitude, not just of everyday buyers but also celebrities, influencers and fashion gurus, Sarah Willersdorf, Boston Consulting Group’s global head of luxury has stated that, “Sustainability is not a nice-to-have anymore. It is essential both for our planet and for the long term prosperity of the fashion industry.”

How could Fashion Weeks become more sustainable?

Whilst making small changes will not have immediate effects overnight, there are definitely ways in which each Fashion Week could change to be more eco conscious and reduce their impact on the environment, whilst still providing the glamour and frivolity that these events have become famous for. Being sustainable does not mean being boring, but thinking outside the box and changing established customs is the first place for these events to start. After all, the influencers, celebrities and fashion icons in attendance are in great positions to encourage others to think about their carbon footprint, change encouraged “from the top” as it were.

Examples include:

  • Discourage “fast fashion” – that is, poor quality materials that cannot be recycled and make break down easily.
  • Be aware of the influence that each Fashion Week has on society – fast fashion is often a result of people wanting the latest trend but being unable to afford to buy luxury clothing items.
  • Combine more events together, to reduce the amount of production needed in aspects like set manufacture. This would also reduce the amount of travel required for all involved with the show, as well as attendees.
  • Use more digital technology to showcase collections, meaning less travel for more people as well as reduced need to move physical products around.
  • Encourage the 4R’s – Reduce, Rewear, Repurpose, Recycle.

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