Amidst an environmental crisis, environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion is calling for the cancellation of London Fashion Week. But what would cancelling London Fashion Week really achieve, and how would it affect independent designers not participating in mass production?
The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters impacting our planet right now, and it is not looking good. There is an endless cycle of clothes ending up in landfills annually (over a million tonnes of which are from the U.K. alone), the industry produces around 10 percent of the global greenhouse emissions, and chemical dyes polluting water produce about 20 percent of water waste yearly. This industry is predicted to grow by 63 percent by 2030, and the textile industry is expected to produce 25 percent of all carbon emissions by 2050.
The Swedish Fashion Council cancelled the upcoming Stockholm Fashion Week, and Extinction Rebellion demands the British Fashion Council do the same. By planning creative disruptive actions throughout the event, with a funeral commemorating the loss of life due to climate change, the organisation hopes to bring our awareness to just how harmful the fashion industry is. A number of companies within the industry are also taking a stand to boycott LFW in various ways—London-based fashion magazine Bricks, as an example, decided not to cover LFW this year.
Here is the thing, though, London Fashion Week is a platform that showcases a number of independent and emerging talent, many of whom don’t even have the means to mass-produce if they wanted to (then we would be having an entirely different conversation). Many designers each year advocate awareness for sustainability and choose to use recycled fabrics and environmentally friendly textiles. That is not to say that LFW only supports independent designers, with big companies like Burberry participating who are far from being sustainable, but the real evil is the fast fashion industry.
It is, of course, important to note that without high end fashion, fast fashion would never exist in the first place. Emerging in the 90s, fast fashion promotes rapid and mass production of cheap clothing to meet the most recent fashion trends. These fashion trends are inspired by high end fashion designers and most independent designers, and it is understandable why people choose to purchase fast fashion. In the real world, who can actually afford to splash out hundreds or thousands of pounds per clothing item? It is so unrealistic and exclusive. Plus, in the age of Instagram culture, where everybody feels they have to show off how stylish they are to their followers, overconsumption is inevitable.
By all means, this needs to change. We do engage in constant, mindless consumption, and so many of us already have more clothing than we need. But fast fashion brands don’t showcase their work during LFW—independent designers do. So is it fair to punish them by taking away their platform? Fashion is a form of art, and LFW is equivalent to Frieze Art Fair or the Venice Biennale of fashion. Many designers showcasing at LFW have worked incredibly hard to get where they are, and we simply cannot take this away from them.
Don’t get me wrong, the fashion industry does need to be regulated, ASAP. In an interview with Screen Shot, Fashion Revolution’s founder and creative director Orsola de Castro claims she is “against” canceling fashion week, saying that we need to “redesign them rather than shutting them down.” De Castro believes that, “As far as being disruptive, we need to be constructive at the same time.”
Taking into consideration how much power and energy are invested in the production of these shows: the number of flights needed to transport models, editors, influencers, buyers, and garments, greener alternatives must be found. Designers showcasing twice a year is certainly excessive, and it would be better have all fashion weeks take place once a year maximum. Recycling previous collections into their new season should also be a must—yes, many independent designers already use recycled materials, but this can be elevated.
Fashion Open Studio is also a great alternative to this, which is a week of presentations, talks, openings, and workshops shining a light on emerging designers. “We need to use Fashion Week as a place to discuss conspicuous consumption, to discuss innovation, to discuss new parameters,” says de Castro—and rightfully so. Re-showcasing work from previous seasons would also be incredibly beneficial. The second hand fashion market is set to grow bigger than the high end and luxury ones by 2022, which is great news and could help support emerging talent instead of forcing them to keep up with the pressures of creating new work and being relevant.
Let’s all start investing into second hand and thrift shopping as our go-to option. Let’s push Instagram Influencers and celebrities to promote second hand clothing over brand partnerships with fast fashion brands. We could even go as far as demanding a new law that would prohibit the promotion of fast fashion brands or brands who use unethical resources when creating clothing. We need to reconsider how we, as consumers, view fashion once and for all, and start appreciating high end fashion as an art form rather than try and replicate it. But, please, let’s not punish emerging talented artists who have worked through blood and sweat to be able to express themselves through fashion.
It’s almost the end of the summer, and for most parents, it means back-to-school shopping for their kids. Just in time, Nike announced that it’s launching a kids sneaker subscription called the Nike Adventure Club, aka “a parent’s best friend” as it is described on the brand’s website. Nike’s first footwear subscription service will let kids select Nike and Converse shoes as their feet constantly grow. Although it is presenting this concept as a favour to busy parents, it’s clear that the company merely discovered another great way of making big money in a less than ethical way.
The club’s pricing begins at $20 per month, so that kids can get new shoes every 90 days. For $30 per month, kids get six pairs per year, and for $50 per month, kids will get new shoes every month. For children, even six pairs of shoes a year seems excessive. According to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (yes, that is a thing), children over the age of three usually only grow one-half a foot size every 4 to 6 months. This means that, technically, older kids need two pairs a year. Of course, parents should be allowed to buy their kids new shoes from time to time, but is it really necessary to get them involved in our consumerist society from the age of two?
With the emergence of social media, especially Instagram, our posing skills evolved, and our wardrobes filled up some more. Why? Because we all feel like we need to have a strong ‘insta game’ and show everyone online that we have a great fashion sense. Not only did we see the rise of fashion influencers, but we also witnessed the rise of fashion kid influencers. Don’t get me wrong, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I sometimes scroll through 8-year-old Coco’s Instagram page, because she does have great style. But let’s just stop our Instagram craze and think for a minute. Isn’t Instagram an unhealthy platform for kids to be looking at? And is it really okay for big fashion brands like Nike to harvest new ‘sneaker heads’ before they can even decide if they actually want to become one?
When it comes to children, our society always taught us to be more careful and to spare them from what we as adults are mature enough to handle—understandably. Apparently, that doesn’t apply to Nike and its aim to start building loyal customers as young as aged two, and neither does it apply to other brands. When I typed ‘kid influencers’ on Google, the first link that came up was titled “12 Kid Influencers That Can Help You Target the Younger Generation”, giving brands advice on how to engage with parents and kids at the same time, and how to create content for two different target audiences.
Advertising to kids is an increasingly regulated practice in the U.S. and Europe and, yet, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the under 13 digital media market is showing a 25 percent year-on-year growth rate. On Nike’s website, Dominique Shortell, director of product experience and retention for Nike Adventure Club says, “We’re always trying to answer, ‘What do kids want?’”. Until now, children between two and ten probably never felt the need to receive new pairs of shoes every 90 days, but that could soon change. Nike went as far as thinking of a way to entice kids by creating a printed box that shows up with their name on it and an adventure guide that comes with each delivery.
Having said that, things aren’t always black and white. Nike Adventure Club offers one more service, one that could reduce the waste impact this invitation to consumerism will have, at least one tiny bit. Members of the club will be able to send back one pair of old shoes every time they receive a new one. The returned trainers will either be donated or recycled. We can try to look on the bright side and hope for the best for the future generation.