Fashion Week

Milan Fashion week. How much does Fashion Week weigh on the environment?

  • During the Month of Fashion, that is the combination of the four most important Fashion Weeks in the world, 241 thousand tons of CO2 are emitted.
  • It is necessary to seriously reflect on the future of events such as the Fashion Weeks in a historical moment in which the very protagonists of the system want to change it.
  • The Helsinki and Copenhagen Fashion Weeks were the forerunners in this sense, but also the National Chamber of Italian fashion has already started a path towards a greener future for some time.

Keeping the Eiffel Tower lit for three thousand years, or the entire Times Square for 58, has more or less the same environmental impact as Fashion monththat is the combination of the Fashion week of the most relevant cities for the world of fashion: Paris, Milano, New York e London. I am indeed 241 thousand le tons of CO2 issued during Fashion Month according to Zero to marketa 2020 study carried out by the fashion tech company Order.

Written in collaboration with Carbon trustthe research produced this result by adding together the annual emissions of all transportwhich form an integral part of the bulk purchaseand by measuring the carbon footprint beyond seven thousand people including buyers and designers who usually participate in the four Fashion Weeks examined.

Una sfilata dell’ultima London fashion week © Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Kaushik Velendra

The carbon footprint of the Fashion Weeks

“The emissions calculated by Carbon Trust in the report are only a marginal part of carbon footprint of the fashion industry. However, the research provides a significant picture of the sector’s impacts on carbon emissions which, given in hand, could positively influence the stakeholders of the fashion system and lead them to make more informed choices, professionally and personally “, he argues. Leonardo Boeribusiness development executive per il sud Europa di Carbon trust.

“To reduce the environmental impacts of these types of events we should aim for reduce travel emissions, preferring the train to the plane whenever possible and opting for the use of electric vehicles. To avoid moving around the city, dedicated hubs could be set up and events planned there, while as regards the scenographies it would be a good idea to minimize the production of disposable materials, first of all avoiding non-recyclable equipment and encouraging the shared use of venues and places for shows during the week “.

Giorgio Armani at Milan fashion week 2022
Giorgio Armani at Milan fashion week 2022 © Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

There are many aspects to take into consideration

Ordre’s estimate is just the tip of the iceberg: in addition to buyers and stylists, there are also journalists, models, photographers, make-up artists, hair stylists, fitters, international guests and many others to move between the various locations. Not only that: events such as Fashion Weeks involve a massive movement of people even within individual cities to reach the shows, which are held in different locations and which, by their very nature, have a very high energy requirement; it is enough to think only of the lights used for each single catwalk and of the fittings, often created ad hoc.

“The Ordre study focused above all on the movements of professionals: accurately measuring the carbon footprint of one or more Fashion Weeks is very complex because we need to consider a lot of data, for example: how many people actually participated, the transport they used to reach the events, energy consumption, catering, waste generated as well as all the activities involved, from preparation to dismantling. Furthermore, we are talking about a sector, that of fashion, in which the measurement of emissions is already in itself particularly complex due to the breadth and variety of the production chains of the processes “, he adds. Andrea Maggianifounder and CEO of Carbonsinka company specializing in climate strategies that has recently joined the international South pole group.

Fashion weeks, as we know them, are events that we can no longer afford from an environmental point of view. Ordre’s research, although partial, clearly highlighted this as early as February 2020, a few weeks before the outbreak of the health emergency linked to the pandemic from Covid-19, just a moment before the global confinement imposed the forced stop of any event. In the two years in which the parades in presence were very few and limited and alternative methods were tested, such as digital showsit seemed that the square could somehow be found to drastically reduce the energy expenditure linked at least to this aspect of fashion systembut two years later and the restrictions ended, in reality little has changed.

Fashion Week
Events such as Fashion Weeks involve massive displacement © Ming Yeung / 2022 Getty Images

The model of Helsinki and Copenhagen

The climate crisis however it is still there and requires us to seriously reflect on the future of events such as the Fashion Weeks in a historical moment in which the very protagonists of the system want to change it. At a time when brands and designers are rethinking their business to become more sustainable, it sounds like a mistake not to do the same with fashion shows. Things need to evolve, but is there a better, greener alternative that actually works? The forerunners in this sense were the Fashion Weeks of Helsinki e Copenaghenbut also the National Chamber of Italian Fashion (CNMI) has been on the path towards a greener future for quite some time.

New York Fashion Week
We must reflect on the future of fashion at a time when the protagonists of the system themselves want to change it © Roy Rochlin / Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows

The Helsinki event was the first to propose itself and be recognized as sustainable thanks to three fundamental cardinal principles: attention to production from the embryonic design stage, involvement of designers who meet certain sustainability criteria and, last but not least, the environmental assessment of the location chosen for the shows, which translates into examining how much water and energy are used and in ‘possible appeal a renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. As for the food offered during the event, the indication is to prefer vegan menu e seasonal ingredients.

As for the Copenhagen Fashion Week, however, starting from 2023 the brands that intend to participate will necessarily have to satisfy certain sustainability requirements. Stylists will be able to earn points based on their design practices, working conditions and production of the show or presentation, and if they do not reach a minimum threshold they will be judged ineligible to participate.

Copenhagen Fashion Week
At Copenhagen Fashion Week the focus on sustainability is evident right now © Lars Ronbog / Getty Images for Copenhagen Fashion Week

The green initiatives of the Milan Fashion Week

For Italy, the issue is slightly more complicated, both due to the importance of the brands present in the calendar and the conformation of the city itself, but the CNMI has started to put on its agenda initiatives for a more sustainable change in the sector already starting from 2012, when the Manifesto for the sustainability of Italian fashion which immediately involved over two hundred brands. “Since then, periodic initiatives have followed such as technical working groups, publication of documents and guidelines for the entire sector and training events aimed at designers”, explains the president Carlo Capasa. “As regards the Milan fashion week, for several editions we have given space to brands focused on the theme of sustainability, planning ad hoc sections within our show week and our Fashion hub. We have been hosting for five years Designer for the Planetan event in which five brands, whose work is based on rigorous environmental sustainability criteria, present their collections “.

Furthermore, as regards social sustainability, a new space will be inaugurated within the Fashion hub during this edition: Designer for ethical fashion, dedicated to the theme of ethical and social fashion with particular attention to disadvantaged women, victims of violence, immigrants and refugees. Finally, all the Cnmi spaces, such as the Fashion hub and the presentation room, were set up with recycled and reused materials and, in recent years, we have moved on to solo digital accreditation, eliminating paper to reduce paper waste. “Aware of the pollution resulting from travel, we have maintained and implemented our digital platform that allows follow the Fashion week all over the world remotely. The push on digital was given by the pandemic, but we believe it has become an essential tool also in terms of sustainability and inclusion”, Concludes Capasa.

Milan fashion week
The Fendi show at Milan Fashion week © Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

A glimpse into the Italian fashion and luxury sector

In April 2021, Carbonsink produced a report entitled Climate changed. Time to act entirely dedicated to the fashion and luxury sector in Italy. The study focuses on a sample of ninety companies of which publicly available information has been collected and evaluated (such as i sustainability report and non-financial statements) with the aim of improving understanding of how the sector is addressing the challenges posed by the climate transition.

It found that over 90 percent of the companies surveyed consider i climate changes relevant to its business and has begun to take its first steps towards greener production. The road is certainly long and uphill, but with the efforts of all the players in the sector, a future made up of more conscientious brands and events from an environmental point of view is certainly possible as well as desirable.

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This work is licensed under license Creative Commons Attribution – Non commercial – No derivative works 4.0 International.

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