Between PETA and Extinction Rebellion, London Fashion Week AW19 has faced some serious protests this month - all in the name of raising awareness of the environmental and ethical impacts of the British fashion industry.
We cannot argue with the facts: the fashion industry is a huge pollutant (more than shipping and aviation combined), with an enormous carbon footprint. Globally we now produce over 100bn garments per year, which stay in our lives for a record short time compared to the prized possessions of every generation before us. Based on the current trajectory, by 2050 the textile industry will account for one quarter of all carbon emissions. Something undoubtedly has to be done.
But, is Extinction Rebellion targeting the right brands and individuals? London Fashion Week showcases some of the most innovative, independent and ethical trailblazers. Many of these brands create expensive but cherished pieces that stay in wardrobes for years, and they push the boundaries for design and textile innovation (although acknowledging that many are very trend-orientated which may not last until AW20).
Meanwhile, brands with the greatest environmental impact including Boohoo, Misguided, Zara, H&M, Primark (need we go on?!) continue on their rampant march towards world domination with very few obstacles in their way. Instead of having a funeral procession to mark the end of London Fashion Week, shouldn’t we be targeting these companies to bring about some positive change? They are the ones who produce the most, with the poorest quality, from the least sustainable materials. They are the ones who influence consumer habits to make society believe we can’t wear the same dress twice on Instagram, £1 bikinis are desirable, independent brand designs can be ripped off, and 52 “seasons" a year is something to aspire to. They are also the ones who greenwash their brands with deceptive promises of sustainability.Nevertheless, Extinction Rebellion has stuck to its guns, arguing that London Fashion Week has the right cultural significance and high profile to raise awareness via protests and disruption. Indeed they have garnered global media attention, now all discussing the environmental impact of fashion. We agree with the cause, just less so with who it causes the most immediate harm to. Amongst many of the big luxury brands, there are individuals and independent brands who have spent an enormous amount of hard work and care to make this week a success. It seems wrong for them to be punished.
When it comes to PETA’s protests, most notably the one against leather, it is easier to understand why LFW was targeted. Their message of animal cruelty and environmental impact is a strong one that needs to ring through the entire fashion industry from the most luxury brands down to the high street.
So what’s our position on it all? Well, the successful awareness raising of these protests cannot be denied - and the more people that know about the environmental and social impact, the better. BUT, we would like to see the protests targeted at the biggest culprits rather than those attempting to make positive change for British fashion through capsule collections, ethical fabrics and quality garments.