Over the past few years at London Fashion Week, we have steadily witnessed the topic of sustainability transition from a peripheral conversation to centre stage.
And now, almost 6 months since Extinction Rebellion first took to the streets to boycott fashion week, it’s increasingly hard for the British Fashion Council to ignore their calls, and the global need for change.
So what – if any- real change are we seeing at London Fashion Week? Are the motivations for change internal- or being driven by outside forces like Extinction Rebellion? Should we listen to Extinction Rebellion and cancel Fashion Week altogether? Here’s what we have noticed over the past few Fashion Weeks as sustainability becomes increasingly important for everyone involved.
London Fashion Week Attendees Are – and have been - Pushing for Sustainability
A year ago, we took a camera crew to London Fashion Week to find out how attendees envisioned the future of fashion. While some spoke about design trends and “it” colours of the coming years, over 75% of the people we interviewed explicitly stated the need for greater sustainability and ethics within the fashion industry. When asking the infamous question “who are you wearing”, we also noted a noticeable increase in people responding with “second-hand”, or “vintage”. Now we certainly can’t paint every attendee of LFW with the same sustainability brush, but we can confirm that sustainability was certainly on the radar for many, and at least being spoken about if nothing else. However, when you also learn that searches for “Sustainable Fashion” increased 66% in 2018, I think we can say with confidence that there is a growing base which doesn’t want to give up on fashion, but would like the industry to improve.
Extinction Rebellion Has Arrived in Force at London Fashion Week
Extinction Rebellion debuted at London Fashion Week this past September, when they hosted a series of events and protests to “shut down” fashion week, and raise awareness of the industry’s extreme carbon footprint and negative environmental impact. This year, they were back on the streets and penned a second letter to the British Fashion Council urging the organisation to address the industry’s “exploitation of planet, people and animals”. Heavy weight fashion activists including Livia Firth of Eco-Age and Safia Minney MBE also signed the letter showing that you can still have a passion for fashion while demanding change.
The British Fashion Council is Walking the Walk on Sustainability
Yes, there is still need for immense improvement throughout London Fashion Week, but we can’t deny the visible efforts being made by the BFC. In 2018, they hosted their first “fur-free” London Fashion Week, and in September 2019 they re-launched the Designer Showrooms as The Positive Fashion Exhibition. Today, the Positive Fashion Exhibition showcases stories and designers (including our very own Riley Studio!) who are making waves in the sustainability space. The BFC cites the three strategic pillars of Positive Fashion as Environment, People, and Craftsmanship & Community, and these themes are discussed throughout the exhibit. We know that talking about the environment is not the same thing as proactively fighting for it. But we believe in giving credit where credit is due and take our hats off to London Fashion Week for starting to walk the walk. Plus, this year, they hosted their first every clothes swap in the London Fashion Week venue!
So Should London Fashion Week Be Cancelled?
Well, let’s face reality. We don’t think London Fashion Week is going anywhere. And while there are still huge strides to be made to improve the fashion industry, the BFC have certainly been making a point to listen. We believe that if we are going to truly change the industry for the better- everyone needs to be involved. Customers, designers, makers, executives and everyone in between. So we salut Extinction Rebellion for creating much needed awareness, and the BFC for putting sustainability on the agenda. Let’s see if this is just a passing phase, or the start of real change.