Sustainability did not seat the front row at FW 2023/2024 Fashion Week

13.03.2023Alberto Bailin, Co-founder of LienzoPhoto by Ion Fet

Fashion week is over and, much to our regret, sustainability was not a part of the conversation these past weeks. While sustainability seems to be one of the industry’s hot topics during the rest of the year, in events, panels, and articles regarding environmental impact, upcoming regulations, traceability, and transparency, not much was said throughout the fashion weeks at any of the 4 capitals, New York, London, Milan or Paris. Sustainability seems to take a back seat during these periods, when what matters the most is attracting press and clients to the novelties presented by brands, without really taking into account the impact of the shows, the materials used, or the impact at any step of  the supply chain, including sourcing and/or workers rights. 

Very few designers took the eco-friendly route and included sustainability in their collections or shows. They represent an insignificant amount compared to the total number of shows that took place last month. However, it is worth mentioning a few cases that can serve as examples for other brands, and here at Lienzo we would like to showcase the successful cases in which sustainability was included at Fashion Week. 

Gabriela Hearst, designer of Chloé has stated several times that she doesn't care about trends, sustainability being her only concern and ambition. In the latest collection that the designer presented in Paris, the brand introduced a new traceability technology, in the form of a QR code or an NFC tag embedded in clothes. This innovative technology provides a digital ID that lists the information needed to properly store and repair products in the best possible way. The ID also includes a list of all the materials that were used to create the garment, and their provenance

Stella Mccartney, the English fashion designer once said: “If I’m doing my job right, you shouldn’t see any of the sustainability in my shows”.  The brand’s Winter 2023 ready-to-wear runway show, included 92% of conscious materials, showcased alongside new vegan and cruelty-free materials. Some of these innovative materials seen during the show include MIRUM, a new, plant-based “leather” that is perfect for footwear and is 100% plastic-free. Another material that was introduced in this collection is AppleSkin™ or apple leather also a new vegan and cruelty-free alternative to animal leather, a bio-based alternative made out of leftover pomace and peel from the fruit juice and compote industries.

Source: Action Plan Copenhagen Fashion Week 

These are just a few examples of brands that have introduced sustainability within their DNA, but as we have said before, they really are exceptions within the fashion weeks of the 4 capitals. However, other fashion weeks, of lesser size, are launching initiatives to exclusively showcase sustainable designers and shows. The Copenhagen fashion week, which takes place every year since 2006 at the beginning of February, published a list of requirements that brands had to comply with if they were to showcase their designs. These requirements, as listed below, include minimum standards for several focus areas such as material choices, working conditions, design, strategic direction or the shows themselves.

Copenhagen Fashion Week strives towards making substantial changes to the way in which events are executed, and works to encourage the industry to take steps towards more responsible business practices. One of their main goals is to make sustainability more attractive, to guide brands and to accelerate the industry’s sustainability efforts, with an emphasis on collaboration between all stakeholders in the industry (including trade shows, industry events, industry associations and, of course, fashion companies). 

At Lienzo, we believe that these initiatives have a positive impact by evening out the playing field and, additionally, helping to change the perceptions of many brands and consumers who believe that sustainable fashion has no place in the luxury industry and is not glamorous enough.  So, will we ever see other fashion week capitals follow these examples and initiatives to impose a list of requirements for brands to participate in the fashion weeks? Will London, Milan, NY, or Paris take the lead? Will this ever be regulated at an institutional level?