Digital fashion week: the beginning of a new Sustainable era?

Coronavirus has significantly affected the fashion industry, accelerating the transition towards technology and sustainability.

Digital fashion weeks are the first outcome of this revolution.

London broke the ice last June with a gender agnostic fashion week which was entirely digital. Paris was the following one that has successfully carried out the digital fashion week 9th-13th July.

Are we facing the beginning of a new era towards ethic and sustainability?

Digital Fashion weeks improve the inclusivity of a system that has always been elitist through unique events and exclusive guest lists.

The higher accessibility and the possibility to share contents with a wider network are a meaningful upgrade towards the democratisation of fashion.

It is a further opportunity for minorities to penetrate a system that has been untouchable for too long.

The pandemic and the last social movements like #blacklivesmatters are forcing the adoption of innovative technologies and digital strategies. An important step towards a more inclusive, ethic and sustainable world.

Valentino Haute Couture FW20-21
Valentino Haute Couture FW20-21.

What do Digital Fashion weeks represent?

They are a new opportunity for young generations and for the industry itself.

Emerging talents and minorities have the opportunity to enter the market while companies can collect precise information about their audience.

A new paradigm. A new win-win model that opens the door to a wider group of people while building up a new database of information.

This is the time to embrace a disruptive innovation approach starting from the future’s key factors: technology, new generations and diversity.

What is the environmental impact of a Fashion Week?

The pandemic has forced the conversion to a digitally-led fashion week format. However it could be a practical answer to the criticism raised over the years, intimating that brands produce unsustainable fashion shows, putting stress on the planet.

The technology platform “Ordre” together with “Carbon Trust”, have measured the environmental impact produced by travels associated with designers and buyers attending international fashion weeks.

Every year they release in the atmosphere an average of 241,000 tonnes of CO2. For an easy reference, this number corresponds to the pollution produced by 42.000 homes powered for a whole year.

According to the Zero Market Report, a fashion buyer produces twice the carbon footprints of a regular citizen. International air travel is the primary reason of carbon emission during fashion weeks followed by accommodation. The overall estimated cost reaches $1.4 billion.

The aforementioned emissions and the related costs are only referred to travels of buyers, retailers, models and designers. A negative impact is given by all the wastes and the emissions produced by the scraps, the chemicals and the materials used for the products but also for the staging of sets. That most of the time come from all over the world contributing to pollute the environment.

Digital Fashion Week: an environmentally-friendly solution?

Virtual and augmented reality are able to provide extraordinary and exclusive sets without neither transferring nor producing materials. Interactive and fun, those technologies create memorable scenographies which are also sustainable and eco friendly.

It is now the time to protect and invest on local businesses. It is the time to reduce transfers and emissions enhancing the “Made in”. Global markets are facing an unprecedented crisis due to the pandemic and the climate change. So now is the time to support local economies and consequntly the environment.

Last year Jacquemus’ Pink Catwalk was in a lavender field in Provence. The stunning backdrop of nature was enough to avoid any staging of sets and to limit wastes. In order to minimize the transfers and the emission, the guests invited lived mainly in the country.

Jacquemus ready-to-wear spring/summer 2020
Jacquemus ready-to-wear spring/summer 2020. Image credit Getty Images

Dior proved its commitment towards sustainability by planting the 164 trees used as scenography during the catwalk. Burberry and Gucci are realising “carbon neutral” runway shows. Gucci in addition, is also investing in cirular lines collection.

What should we expect in the future?

Oslo, Amsterdam and Melbourne Fashion Weeks have already embraced a sustainable approach, banning furs from their catwalks.

Sustainability Report.
Copenaghen Fashion Week has its own Sustainability Report, with the aim to reduce and offset carbon emissions, becoming the first carbon-neutral Fashion Week. The sustainability report takes into account the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) included in the Agenda 2030. Diversity of brands and employees together with equal treatments and inclusivity are only few of the SDGs measured in the Sustainability Report of Copenaghen FW.

Reduction of Seasons.
A reduction of seasons is a remarkable signal with immediate effects.

Another proposal is to create Districts during Fashion Weeks, by encouraging the events’ proximity in order to avoid traffic congestions and deterring the use of cars and cabs.

Circular business model for the set pieces.
It is a strategic project that implies the recovery and re-use of the set either for the following edition or for other events.

A Fashion Week produces 700 tons of Co2, where 200 tons come from the production of the event itself while the remaining 500 tons are related to international flights. Even if a fashion show lasts on average 15 minutes, its environmental impact lasts forever.

Let’s accelerate the change and slow down the system.

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