London, Paris, Milan and New York have all been joined by cities such as; Copenhagen, Shanghai and Seoul in the major fashion week events that are held on multiple occasions during the year. Designers from all around the globe come together and showcase, admittedly, wonderful collections of new and exciting designs to buyers and industry leaders. But in recent times, the relevancy and sustainability of these elaborate catwalk shows have been in question.
A typical high-end runway show can cost anything between $125,000 to $312,000, when you break down into the costs regarding hiring models, set design, backstage, catering, seating, production, sound, lighting and the rent of the venue. To then to showcase a hoard of new trends to the destructive industry that is responsible for immense wastage and key global environmental issues, makes for an argument to seriously revise this tradition. Should we not be ONLY be showcasing leading technological advancements that help combat textile wastage and to celebrate the brands that are striving for a circular economy instead of a continuum of in-and-out styles.
The new circular fashion system as briefly explained below, has been curated through the Ellen McCarthy Foundation that looks to revise the entire fashion system to reject the fast fashion model and enable the regeneration of natural systems that helps combat the climate emergency.
Last year, Stockholm cancelled their fashion week on the grounds of sustainability concerns and stated they would only continue when new ways are founded to present fashion more ecologically. This ideology paves the way for other cities and highlights the extent of the issues which are apparent as long as fashion continues to move at this dangerously fast-pace. Although fast fashion has the most to answer for, the historically bi-annual runway collections as showcased by luxury fashion houses, have increased to succumb the pressure of the trend-thirsty consumer who now expects new styles every week, let alone seasonally.
However, fashion weeks around the world enable designers to inspire and showcase the pure craftsmanship that goes into luxury garment design. In recent years, fashion has been able to challenge key societal issues, so it would be upsetting to many to lose such an iconic aspect of the industry that demonstrates the roots of fashion within the creative and artistic process.
Brands that are making a conscious effort to come away from the current, linear fashion system should be recognised, yet they are lost within the intensity of the dominating houses. And with the vast technological advancements within digital fashion, should we be looking to showcase environmentally-sound collections via the digital scope, such as VR?
The development of digital fashion brands that don’t involve any physical product is an example of how the industry is evolving, fashion week should be no different. If people are simply buying an outfit to post on their Instagram, surely the physical product is not needed. Amsterdam-based digital fashion brand, ‘The Fabricant’ and Scandinavian-born ‘Carlings’ both lead the way in offering the more sustainable solution – downloadable garments. The popularity of online spaces such as ‘Fortnite’ where players can buy outfits or ‘skins’ creates a basis for the expected growth in intangible clothing.
The industry is moving in a way that should no longer require elaborate, expensive and linear fashion systems that revolve around multiple runway collections. Instead, it should crave the growth of brands such as Vollebak and Ecolaf that are forming amazing solutions to the issues surrounding fashion. Vollebak’s plant and algae Tshirt and Ecolaf’s recycling processes need to be recognised on the same level that the Chanel, Dior or Burberry runway collections trend on Twitter each time.
So, does that mean abolishing fashion week altogether or is there another way in which fashion can inspire without the damaging effects?