Missed Chance To Shine a Spotlight on Sustainability

by Briana Sisler ‘24

Fashion Week is a week-long event taking place in the “Big Four” fashion capitals of New York, Milan, Paris, and London. Artists and companies show off their latest collections and lines to millions of people around the world, who watch in person or follow the trends after the fact, in hopes of selling them to collectors and fans alike. New York Fashion Week (NYFW) took place February 10-15 and the London Fashion Week (LFW) occurred the following week. Many breakout artists displayed their works for the first time during these events, but many returning brands and designers also took to the runway. Behind the meticulously crafted designs lie the imperfections of Fashion Week. The lack of attention to sustainability from the larger brands is proving detrimental to the environment.

The problems of Fashion Week include the thousands of viewers that travel typically in planes with large carbon footprints, the products and outfits being thrown away after shows after months of designing and crafting, and the wastefulness of the venues who utilize plastic water bottles for numerous guests. Fashion Week has seen changes on a smaller scale; cities like Copenhagen have instituted restrictions on fashion designers and companies to limit their carbon footprint and increase sustainability, but the Big Four have not made any major changes.

The main drawback of Fashion Week lies in the materials used in these lavish clothing items. Companies typically used heap, synthetic, and unsustainable materials in order to save money and produce profit. Leather serves as a prime example. The tanning process to make leather suitable for clothing involves numerous chemicals that if handled improperly can produce water pollutants. Several brands, such as SIMKHAI, Brandon Maxwell and Altuzarra, showed off long leather dresses on the runways and created trends. These brands opted to use faux leather, which is made with chemicals and plastics. The different plastics used in the making of faux leather are made from fossil fuels and produce dangerous toxins.

Another example is fur. Brands like AKNVAS and Colin LoCascio displayed some fur coats, spurring a trend. But fur is riddled with controversies surrounding sustainability. If companies use faux fur, the synthetic plastics could end up contributing to the growing problem of microplastics in the ocean. On the other hand if companies use real fur they contribute to factory farms and their numerous negative effects on the environment. Better choices than either of these are several alternatives like denim or hemp fur. Cheap, synthetic, and unsustainable materials are rampant at Fashion Week. The many “alternatives” to products are equally as harmful to the environment as the originals, like faux fur and faux leather. Clothing is the basis for Fashion Week, and selling and trending pieces are the driving force. With how many eyes and dollars go to Fashion Week, sustainability deserves more attention and effort. The Fashion Week runway should shine more light on using sustainable products in the making of their thousand-dollar pieces.