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The Wastefulness of Fashion Week: Can Fashion Shows be Sustainable?

Fashion Weeks have been a cornerstone of the fashion industry for decades, allowing designers to push their artistic limits and share fresh ideas with the world. However, these shows have recently garnered a lot of criticism for the amount of waste they create with little benefit to offer for everyday consumers. With elaborate sets that will be used only once and elites jetting first-class around the world, the shows are responsible for a large amount of waste and carbon emissions. While Fashion Week events are responsible for a relatively small amount of waste compared to the industry as a whole, Alden Wicker points out that the elaborate shows “represent everything that is wrong” with the industry today. One major example of the environmental harm created by Fashion Weeks was the Saint Laurent’s Spring/Summer 2020 show, which illegally took place on a delicate California beach ecosystem.

This February, climate advocacy group Extinction Rebellion staged protests outside of London fashion show venues and Gatwick airport to raise awareness for the wastefulness of the event and the urgent need for sustainability in the industry.

Those in favor of discontinuing such shows altogether point out that the nature of fashion shows and the market have changed in recent years. The shows are increasingly about capturing the perfect Instagram moment, with many of the pieces never reaching the public. At the same time, Generation Z is becoming a core customer base for the fashion industry. Younger consumers are known to be more environmentally-aware in their purchases, and care about the values that a brand represents.

In the name of sustainability, Stockholm cancelled their Fashion Week in 2019 and have not announced plans to bring it back anytime soon. However, Gucci and other major fashion houses have made it clear that they are not ready to give up on their highly-produced shows just yet.

Instead of abandoning Fashion Week, many brands are taking steps to reduce their environmental impact and move towards more sustainable practices in the future.

For example, this year Armani created a capsule collection made of recycled fabrics for their brand extension, Emporio Armani. Miuccia Prada made the goal to use 90% sustainable fabrics for her designs.

The National Chamber of Italian Fashion and Eco-Age hosted the Green Carpet Awards during Milan Fashion Week 2019, which highlighted and celebrated designers who are working towards a more sustainable industry.

While the fashion industry has to make immense changes to become truly sustainable and environmentally-conscious, the movement to change the way we do Fashion Week represents a shift towards that change.

Written by: Brianna Wren

Edited by: Nicola Curci

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