On February 19th, New York Fashion Week concluded, having showcased the newest designs for next winter. Being considered the number one trendsetting fashion week in the world, you might expect for the organization and designers to have something to say about one of the major topics in the fashion industry at the moment: sustainability. However, no explicit statements were made during or surrounding the event. David Dietz of sustainable fashion platform Modavanti feels like NYFW has dropped the ball on sustainable fashion. Being, of course, a strong advocate for the sustainable cause (and also having a commercial interest in this, I assume), he states that at a moment when the sustainability movement is becoming stronger and stronger, the subject should at least be picked up in some form by the main shows. While my initial reaction was to agree with Dietz, I think there are two different lines of argument in this discussion.
A. Sustainability should become an inherent part of fashion, the industry should change in silence while using fashion weeks such as NYFW just to showcase the newest designs and the art of fashion in general.
NYFW designers and its organization should concern themselves with sustainability for sure, and start to change a lot of bad practices the industry now embodies (did you know fashion appears to be the second dirtiest industry in the world…). During fashion weeks however no explicit mentioning of this process has to be made since in the end, it should become just a normal practice to produce any piece of clothing sustainably. This way credits for designers and artists will remain purely about the fashion in itself, and not about the way it was (sustainably!) produced. One example of a relatively ‘silent’ sustainable brand is Edun, present at this recent New York Fashion Week as well (picture above shows the collection they presented).
B. Having such a strong voice and trendsetting capabilities, the call for sustainable fashion should in any case be made explicitly during New York Fashion Week, to shake up the fashion industry in general.
It is relatively easy to make a clear statement in fashion, the message could even be subtly included in a design. That way, reaching a very large fashion-loving audience immediately, making them aware of the importance of change. Influential designers can make the claim for sustainable fashion and at the same time lead by example. The organization should give a voice to this message, not by having separate showrooms for ethical designers like in Berlin (which is a great first step if you ask me), but by making sustainable fashion the main part of the big shows. Because in the end, producing fashion sustainably should not be viewed as an exception or something ‘special’. Only by visibly paying attention, will sustainable fashion in the end become the norm in the business. Especially NYFW should take responsibility with regards to its trendsetting capabilities in this case. I myself am strongly in favor of this second approach. Only when leading by example and making the importance of sustainably producing fashion known to the world in an explicit way. Explaining the transition so to say, from the traditional polluting and irresponsible fashion industry towards a fashion industry that can proudly hold its head high in this day and age as well. However, since the industry is so vast and unwieldy, I doubt such a change in general behavior is possible when considering all interests involved. The ideal scenario would be for NYFW to actively promote sustainable fashion (maybe even demote unsustainable fashion), but I don’t think it is a realistic one. Maybe the hardest, and hopefully final, push towards general sustainable practices in fashion can only come from the outside. From designers and advocates passionate about the case and by consumers demanding change. Right now.