For ‘Die-In’ Out Loud!
Catherine Lloyd ruminates on sustainability in the fashion industry post-London Fashion Week
Fashion has always been political. From the politically loaded ‘Choose Life’ Katherine Hamnett slogan tees, to the donning of black on Hollywood’s red carpet amid the Time’s Up campaign; fashion is a tool that allows us to engage when we don’t have the necessary platform and means to. A wardrobe can be an armoury. A dress choice is not simply a dress choice; it can be swathed in political agency. Wearing H&M garments, whether you like it or not, is a political decision. You have aligned yourself with their sweatshop malpractice, their untenable business model and exorbitant waste. A dress choice can lose you a campaign, determine your professional capability and disallow you entry into corporate spaces. Fashion should no longer be deemed as fabrics, pleats and tassels alone but an opportunity to spur political change. And change starts at home. Our own fashion decisions should be as conscious as the media’s scrutiny of Theresa May’s leopard heel choice.
A wardrobe can be an armoury. A dress choice is not simply a dress choice; it can be swathed in political agency
From climate change naysayers pitted against the placards of Extinction Rebellion’s protesters to schoolgirl Greta Thunberg’s scathing condemnation of climate inaction at the UN address; our current world is polarised. This division was nowhere more active this month than London Fashion Week. LFW saw Extinction Rebellion protestors take to the streets with a staged ‘die-in’, at odds with the catwalk mentality of disposable trends and fashion week’s profit-driven agenda just metres from them. Doused in blood, the message was stark: the blood is on your hands.
To end their critique of London Fashion Week, the protesters enrobed in black, orchestrated a mock funeral outside the BFC venue. Calling time on the gross excess of global textile production which emits 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, an urgency shrouded this years London Fashion Week. Outcry has broken even within the industry with designers Vin + Omi shunning LFW and Bels Jacobs lamenting it should be ‘cancelled’. Whilst we must hold the fashion industry publicly to account, the consumer is not devoid of blame. With 80 billion pieces of clothing consumed a year, the world at large needs to become ethically conscious. We are in an age of climate activism and fashion has joined the conversation.
Fashion Week typically is a parade of excess where a throwaway consumer culture reigns king. The fashion industry is hardly languishing when clothing production is set for a 63% increase between now and 2030. The spectacle of adorned garments for the short-term pleasure of the fashion gentry has unfortunately, not worn off. With silks and cashmere clippings on the cutting room floor, virgin materials aimlessly discarded and a dependence on synthetic fibres; fashion has entered a crisis.
The BFC (British Fashion Council) has made positive change, launching the Institute of Positive Fashion. Alongside this the international conglomerate Kering – famed for owning Balenciaga and Gucci – announced that it is now entirely carbon neutral by offsetting its annual greenhouse gas emissions. Offsetting, however, is an offloading of the problem by compensating elsewhere, an infeasible long-term solution.
These attempts seem to be lacklustre as many of the fashion houses remain firmly opposed to change. A damning indictment of how a stubborn few can stall sustainable growth, solely to prioritise the commercial bottom line. Dior – a house-hold name of high fashion – decorated their show space with a reported 164 trees in an attempt to promote the need for biodiversity. But the 164 trees tell of another story: that of profiteering under the facade of sustainability. Whilst Dior present an eco-conscious message of biodiversity in front of the press, it is strategic to protect their profile. Dior still generate countless collections of garments made up of synthetic fibres. Your new Dior polyester jumper is non-biodegradable thus, taking up to 200 years to decompose. Sloganed tees and trees adorning a catwalk will keep a brand relevant but ultimately will fail to shape real change.
Fashion Week typically is a parade of excess where a throwaway consumer culture reigns king
If there is to be a future in fashion, waste creation must be endorsed by the fashion elite. The cycle of production, consumption, disposal underpins an insecure industry; if we fall back in love with our pre-loved clothing, repurpose deadstock fabric and choose recycled fibres: we may still have a chance of preserving fashion’s legacy. Inform yourself. The power is in the hands of the consumer, if we opt out of fast fashion and reduce our consumption, industry will be forced to follow suit. Your wallet is the bargaining chip.