Unless the industry starts taking sustainability seriously, it risks becoming the thing it most dreads – uncool
Fashion has become a dirty word – and believe me, it hurts. Not long ago, fashion was the VIP room of popular culture and movie stars and politicians flocked to the front row. Now it has come to symbolise everything that is wrong with the modern world – from carbon emissions to global inequality and from crass materialism to unrealistic beauty standards. Fashion is not the only polluting industry, or the only morally dubious one. But even if you love fashion, as I do, it’s hard to deny that it tracks in the 99th percentile for pretty much all of the most problematic contemporary issues.
Everyone in fashion knows that they need to get back on the right side of history, and fast. Sustainability is a baseline responsibility that every self-respecting brand must be seen to engage with. The New York brand Collina Strada last week staged one of the first live shows of the first back-to-real-life catwalk season on the rooftop of Brooklyn Grange, an organic city farm that donates 30% of its produce to community members with limited means. Much of the collection was made out of “deadstock” – fabric and product that already exists, rather than being newly produced. Clothes made in 2020, which had been stuck in lockdown and never shipped or sold, were cut up and repurposed into something new. “Old birthday presents” were taken apart and reassembled into beaded bags and rhinestone jewellery, said the designer Hillary Taymour. Taymour was rewarded with a benediction in the form of Ella Emhoff, stepdaughter of the vice-president, Kamala Harris, applauding from the front row.