Monday 23rd September

| BY Paul Toner

Halfway Through Fashion Month, What Does the New-Found Focus on Sustainable Luxury Really Mean?

Gabriela Hearst SS20

On both sides of the pond, fashion weeks are smothered in an overt sense of luxury. Editors, journalists, influencers and their personal Insta paparazzi are escorted across all corners of the city in juggernaut Mercedes buses. Approaching the show space, they’re greeted with goody bags coated in plastic, and teenie-weenie bottles of water which they’ll most probably take one sip of before lashing in the nearest bin. The invitation they show at the door is chunky; it lights up, comes in a zip lock bag or folds out into an A2 poster. It’ll most likely be left on the frow as the fashion pack pile into the swanky tanks with blacked-out windows once again in a panicked scamper to the next show.

Whilst young designers are spearheading a sustainable revolution, it’s time to push things forward on a wider scale. It’s a step into the right direction that more fashion houses are beginning to design with an eco-friendly output in mind. Yet, the excess waste produced at fashion shows, flagships and studios needs to be rethought in order to save our dying planet. At her SS20 co-ed presentation, Phoebe English declared the fashion industry is “in a time of emergency.” She mapped out her plans to evolve how designers should create on inspector room-sized cork boards. Along with instructing what fabrics should be avoided (one poster read “no virgin polyester or nylon”), English displayed step-by-step instructions how to pattern-cut without wasting excess fabrics. She recommended the most sustainable methods of sourcing fabric and created a transparent coat plastered with care labels of products she would no longer use moving forward. Upon arrival, guests were even offered the chance to donate a tree to help grow the new largest native forest.

Few and far between will attempt to dedicate their practice to saving our planet as English does. Though increased carbon neutrality has transcended across the SS20 shows, and it’s the bigger houses paving the way. Just yesterday, Gucci wrapped up Milan Fashion Week with its first catwalk show as a completely carbon neutral brand. In a press release, the house announced it will be offsetting “all remaining Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions annually from its own operations and the entire supply chain.”

Gucci SS20

To do this, Gucci has worked rigorously on a ten-year sustainability strategy for the house whilst working alongside four vital REDD+ projects that support forest conservation. The house breaks down their mission statement into two crucial sections. The first; avoid and reduce. The renewable energy in all Gucci’s operations, stores and offices included, will now stand at 100%. Less water and chemicals will be used to treat leather produce with traditional processing techniques across all sectors will be replaced for sustainable methods, now exclusively only using recyclable plastics also. The second breakdown; restore and offset, centres around Gucci’s sourcing of raw materials. The brand will now only source from agricultural systems that restore soils and promise to “support the conservation and restoration of the world’s most important biodiversity refuges.”

Focusing here on fashion in the big smoke, Roland Mouret aims to save the fashion industry – one eco-friendly hanger at a time. “There’s a responsibility that comes with being creative,” the designer explained backstage at his ethereal SS20 show, held at the Royal Academy of Arts. Partnering with Arch & Hook, the world’s first and only sustainable hanger brand, Mouret has made his own recyclable hanger. He calls it Blueand likes his clothes, he wants to create something that could be cherished for a lifetime, or a product that won’t damage the planet if you decide to chuck it. It’s made from 80% recycled marine plastic, with an aluminium hook. It’s slick, environmentally-friendly and will spruce up that tatty old clothes rail in your room.

Always a highlight on the NYFW schedule, like Gucci, Gabriela Hearst used her SS20 catwalk to stage her first carbon-neutral show. Hearst covered all bases, including catering, transportation of the team and models to the show and even using no electricity during the hair and make-up stage. Minimising the show’s carbon footprint massively, the indicative price of the offset amount was donated to the Hifadhi-Livelihoods Project who will provide cookstoves to the Emby and Tharaka Nithi counties in Kenya. Imagine if more shows on the fashion month schedule followed suit? Surely a curly blow could be sacrificed here and there if it meant cooking facilities that both carbon emissions and the time families spend gathering wood is sliced by up to 60 percent? Small changes eventually add up to huge results.

Backstage photographs by Jason Lloyd-Evans.


Roland Mouret SS20