Fashion and sustainability: Can they finally be friends?

After a month of nonstop catwalks and glam, the four biggest fashion weeks — held in New York, London, Milan and Paris — came to an end. 

While fashion enthusiasts were excited to get a glimpse of the upcoming 2020 fall and winter collections, they were equally pleased to see that sustainability was a major theme in this year’s semi-annual shows. 

As a major contributor to pollution, the fashion industry has been making an effort to minimize its environmental impact, especially after French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal of the Fashion Pact during the 2019 G7 Summit. The pact, signed by over 150 brands, aims to protect the climate, biodiversity and oceans. 

According to a survey conducted by A.T. Kearney — an American global management consulting firm — younger consumers, ages 18-44, are rapidly gaining interest in fashion sustainability. Thirty-seven percent of young consumers said they are likely to change their shopping purchases in apparel this year. 

In comparison to the two previous years, Google searches for sustainable fashion have also increased by 130%, proving the shift of mindset in consumers.

“I only shop at local thrift stores,” said Daniela Lopez, a second-year computer information systems student. “It’s inexpensive and fun. But most importantly, it’s sustainable. I also make sure to donate clothes that I no longer wear so that (they) can be recycled.”  

Marni’s enviornment-conscious collection includes outfits made from leftover fabric from previous seasons.
( Courtesy of Corey Tenold)

Under government pressure and consumer demand, fashion houses made a few obvious changes to incorporate sustainability for this year’s fashion weeks. 

In Milan, Marni showcased its recycled clothing made by patches of leftover fabric from the previous seasons. Creative Director Francesco Risso described the environment-conscious collection to The Guardian as “finding beauty in the leftovers.”  

( Courtesy of Jacopo Raule)

Emporio Armani brought back some of its classics, showing velvet sets and sleek suits. The twist, however, was the bold letters that lit up the showroom in its opening: “I’m Saying Yes to Recycling.” The collection included 18 upcycled garments, which designer Giorgio Armani said is just “the beginning of the discussion,” according to the Associated Press.  

In Paris, Stella McCartney, a London-based fashion house that has been animal-free and sustainable since 2001, unveiled its full collection created with vegan and biodegradable materials. During the finale of the show, models dressed in animal costumes walked the runway clutching new-season handbags, reminding the audience of veganism in fashion with a touch of humor. 

Founder Stella McCartney told The Guardian that the brand is trying “to sugarcoat a powerful, meaningful message … to make (its) point in a palatable and digestible way so that people listen.”

Cal Poly Pomona students also host annual fashion shows through the club Fashion Society. Student designers for the latest show last spring said the environment should always be a part of the equation.

In his dorm room, Anthony Handa, a second-year business student who was one of the designers for last year’s show, created some of the show’s highlights — a vest made from a pair of Dickies, a jacket redesigned from a pair of size 42 Carhartt jeans and a varsity jacket created by deconstructing a pair of Yves Saint Laurent dress pants. 

“I wanted to blend sustainability with the visions I had for my collection,” Handa said. “I try my best to repurpose all my clothing.” 

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