Fashion Weeks Are Starting to Take the Lead for a Sustainable Future, but Is It Enough?
The hottest styles of the year are causing pollution like they actually are on fire, and your attendance is fanning the flames.
The most important fashion events of the year include, without a doubt, Fashion Week. And they aren’t exactly fleeting. The four primary fashion weeks of Milan, Paris, London and New York cover four women’s wear and two men’s wear seasons over approximately four months each year, while major trade shows in cities like Copenhagen, Tokyo, and Seoul add another two months of attendance and participation.
Now imagine you’re responsible for attending all these shows. In 2020, B2B fashion business platform Ordre.com and the Carbon Trust collaborated on Zero to Market, a report that quantified carbon emissions produced from traveling to these fashion shows. According to the report, the travel undertaken by buyers and brands resulted in about 241,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year. That’s equivalent to burning 242 million pounds of coal or enough energy to light up Times Square for 58 years.
As the fashion industry grows, it’s clear its environmental impact is unsustainable, with millions attending fashion weeks, leaving behind an enormous carbon footprint. But as awareness grows, some Fashion Weeks are taking action towards sustainable practices.
From Trendsetter to Standard-setter
None are leading the way to an eco-friendlier future like Copenhagen Fashion Week. Copenhagen has established an 18-point sustainability action plan covering areas such as strategic direction, design, material choices, working conditions, consumer engagement, and show production. Brands must use at least 50% certified, preferred, upcycled, or recycled materials to be featured in the fashion week line-up. The goal is to set a new standard for all other Fashion Weeks to follow.
The Brains Behind the Beauty
The Institute of Positive Fashion, established by the British Fashion Council (organizer of London Fashion Week), launched the Future of Fashion Innovation Showcase, which connects fashion brands and innovators to address sustainability and responsible business challenges and promote a more circular fashion model. The IPF operates globally to bring together industry, government, academia, and other stakeholders to drive transformation programs that accelerate change.
And The Green Awards Goes To…
Milan Fashion Week, instead, is encouraging social responsibility through recognition, which acts as a positive endorsement for those working towards a greener fashion industry. Milan held the CNMI Sustainable Fashion Awards 2022, which honored personalities and organizations committed to sustainability in vision, innovation, craftsmanship, inclusivity, circular economy, human rights, and environmental justice.
The Fashion Weeks mentioned above are moving in the direction of sustainability and are helping to drive change and create a more sustainable future for the fashion industry. According to the experts, however, it is still not enough. The Zero to Market report outlines three main points to consider in attempting to curb Fashion Week emissions:
- Combine men’s and women’s events and show main and pre-collections simultaneously
- Limit locations of fashion shows, showrooms, and presentations to defined areas, use shared venues, establish sustainable production codes, and embrace digital technology.
- Reduce travel impact by avoiding business class, using trains over flying, electric vehicles, shared accommodations, and partnering with sustainable travel companies.
As consumers continue to demand more environmentally friendly products and practices, we will likely see even more progress and innovation in the coming years. In the meantime, there are smaller choices we can make every day that’ll make a difference.
That, and hoping all the others become more like Copenhagen.
 “ZERO TO MARKET: Measuring the Carbon Emissions of Fashion Week.” Available at: https://www.ordre.com/en/news/sustainable-fashion-week-cfda-eco-carbon-travel-1409
 Equivalency calculator. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator#results
 “How Copenhagen Became The World’s Most Sustainable Fashion Week.” Available at: https://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/article/copenhagen-fashion-week-sustainability
 British Fashion Council. Institute of Positive Fashion. Available at: https://www.britishfashioncouncil.co.uk/Institute-of-Positive-Fashion
 “Milan Fashion Week closes with the CNMI Sustainable Fashion Awards.” Available at: https://www.hausvoneden.com/lifestyle/milan-fashion-week-schliesst-mit-den-cnmi-sustainable-fashion-awards/
Author: Giuseppe Scandariato
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