Oct 1st, 2019, 05:55 PM

Sustainability in Fashion Month Misses the Mark

By Liza Cameron
Rokh Spring 2020 Backtage/ Image Credit: Liza Cameron
Rokh Spring 2020 Backtage/ Image Credit: Liza Cameron
While brands work toward more sustainable practices, the industry falls short in key ways

There was new energy this September as the fashion world presented the Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear Collections in New York, London, Milan, and Paris. This month, we saw critical improvements in sustainable fashion from awards to fashion shows demonstrating apparent urgency in the industry to become more eco-friendly. While these efforts didn’t go unnoticed, the industry needs to continue to change to secure its place in a world that is growingly concerned with issues of sustainability. 

The final and most challenging change to amend would be to remedy the problems concerning the vast amount of flights taken to these respective fashion week cities. The international business-to-business fashion platform, FashionUnited, identifies that Paris Fashion Week alone has a yearly average of 30,000 unique visitors. According to my calculations, even if only a fourth of these visitors come from New York City, those round trip flights create 12,150 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Notably, the fashion conglomerate, Kering, has committed to full carbon neutrality. While this commitment is significant, it does not take into account the travel costs associated with the fashion shows the group’s brands present. Many brands made similar commitments that don't acknowledge the more prominent issues related to travel costs and the environment, according to a 2019 Vogue article.

Heritage Display at Kering/ Image Credit: Liza Cameron

To truly remedy the travel emissions caused by fashion week, extreme measures should be taken. With the constant live-streaming of shows on Instagram, YouTube, and even Amazon Prime, there is less of a need for every key player in the fashion industry to be physically present at every show. If even half of the visitors went to the shows in person, the travel emissions would be much less harmful. 

However, flights and travel aren’t the only sustainability problems associated with fashion month. The ‘new is best’ mindset has also stifled the efforts of fashion houses to become genuinely sustainable. According to NYLON magazine, fast fashion takes its cues from new trends shown at fashion week and the throw-away culture of fast fashion is a critical issue in the industry’s lack of sustainability.

As the great Miranda Priestly said, “florals for spring? Groundbreaking,” and while the sarcasm still resonates today, the concept of “florals for spring” is what the fashion world needs- classic pieces and themes that last longer than one season and aren’t thrown out when the next best trend arises.

Dior’s now well-known Spring 2020 show implemented a large number of sustainable practices. The practices give way to a trend in the fashion industry where we can see an effort more than ever before to eradicate wasteful practices in these huge industry events. In reference to the new collection, Vogue’s Sally Singer states, “these are buy-now-wear-forever dresses; they should take root in one’s closet and grow in emotional value over time.” This is evidence for where the industry should be headed, towards longterm pieces that won’t be thrown out next season.


Articles from The Guardian and Vogue note that this year’s fashion month has taken strides in sustainability thanks to cultural forces such as climate activist, Gretta Thunberg, and French President, Emmanuel Macron. However, these changes have not been substantial enough to give fashion month full credibility in terms of sustainable practices. 

Fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan, and Paris all need to continue to strive for sustainability in every aspect of the week from travel to materials and even overall styles. Greenwashing will continue to be discounted as more and more people take notice of the issues the industry creates in eco-friendly practices. 

I encourage brands and consumers alike to realize the longterm effects that fashion week can have on our environment. In doing so, we can work together to remedy the severe problems caused by these monumental fashion events.

To help incite change in the fashion industry, click here to sign the petition and contribute to sustainable practices.