The recent S/S 20 show season had its fair share of magical moments. My personal favourites ranged from the truly incredible Dries Van Noten/Christian Lacroix collaboration to Simone Rocha’s mesmerising presentation, inspired by Irish Wren boys, and Sarah Burton’s outstanding collection for Alexander McQueen, which showcased extraordinary craftsmanship overlaid with a heart-stopping sense of haunting drama. And then there was the breathtaking beauty of Mary Katrantzou’s show, held at the Temple of Poseidon, which reminded us how fashion at its best can be a truly transporting experience as well as a catalyst for good. But the biggest takeaway of all was that fashion is now collectively at a crucial juncture concerning the challenge of how to make the industry a more sustainable, cleaner and climate-friendly place. With luxury behemoths Kering and LVMH outlining how they’re pledging to take action, to individual designers such as Gabriela Hearst with her carbon-neutral show and Stella McCartney using her platform to call for the industry to join her in making sustainable fashion a must, not a choice, in their design process, the season was punctuated with moments that helped drive the conversation forward. Perhaps the greatest impact, however, came from16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg who, even while the shows were taking place, gave a brutally honest and stirring speech to world leaders at the UN summit, calling for actions rather than words. In short, it’s pretty clear that seismic changes regarding this issue need to happen, and they need to happen now.
So what might this look like in the future? How do we get from where we are now to a time, for example, when more “mindful” consumerism becomes the new way, indeed the only way, to shop? A time when brands adopt a more sustainable strategy and luxury customers choose heirloom/heritage pieces that can be loved and worn for years and passed on to future generations over “trends”? Whether that piece be a timeless handbag from Chanel or Louis Vuitton, a Pierpaolo Piccoli Valentino gown or a Gaia Repossi Berbere ring, all of these purchases will be underpinned by the idea that these choices will display a new “beyond-fashion” approach and inhabit a more meaningful and planet-friendly space in our collective thinking.
And then, of course, there’s the booming rental market which, a few years ago, would have being unthinkable but is now starting to feel like a sensible and desirable way of embracing fashion, particularly for “one-off” occasions such as weddings, black-tie events, significant life moments and and so forth. A time when buying something new and only wearing it once will be viewed as “outdated” and (cue sharp intake of breath)… unfashionable. The “resale” market is also growing, and an increasing number of brands are now partnering with sites such as the Real Real and Vestiare to encourage consumers to offload their unwanted purchases and shop for “preloved” items rather than replacing old with new…. All these are admirable steps to help encourage a circular economy and encourage less waste, too.
But I believe the biggest “changes” to create a brighter and truly more sustainable fashion future can and will be through innovation. So, let’s imagine a time when your luxury bag made from Zoa, a bio-fabricated collagen protein created by Modern Meadow, a forward-thinking innovation lab, felt like the ultimate luxury purchase and made the current standard leather offering a bit….well a bit passé frankly. Or a time when your fabulous new dress, fashioned from a regenerated fabric like Econyl or Nucyl, felt like a truly new statement about how to dress now. Or imagine when one-off creations constructed entirely from up-cycled/recycled fabrics became the ultimate couture statement made all the more “special” by really being one-of-a-kind, impossible-to-replicate designs. There are a handful of designers already making great strides in these areas, from the aforementioned Stella McCartney and Gabriela Hearst to the trailblazing new guard led by designers such as Paris-based Marine Serre and London-based Richard Malone and Richard Quinn, to name just a few. They’re all creating products that are no less “luxury” or desirable than their peers, and have sustainability at the core of their design process. And, if you want to learn more about all of these innovations and what steps fashion is taking to revolutionise the industry from the ground up, Dana Thomas’s brilliant book “Fashionopolis” really is a must-read on this subject.
In short, imagine if the fashion industry could galvanise its efforts and collectively come together and bring all of its creative genius and visionary thinking to the common aim of designing and producing fashion that would not only look beautiful but also lead the way in establishing a more sustainable and beautiful future for our planet and for all who inhabit it. Now just imagine how truly magical that could be.
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