The Greta Issue

So tell me, what’s your take on sustainability? Mademoiselle Lili reports on the latest fashion topic of the Paris Fashion Week.

Miuccia Prada once said that fashion no longer exists and all that is left is style. And she was right. For more than a decade, fashion has seemed to be dissolving into a world of indifference in which all trends apply at once. Be it broad or narrow shoulders and maxi or mini styles, it makes no difference: anything goes. Something or other is always experiencing a revival. Only one topic is constantly coming to the forefront: climate protection and sustainability. From Dior to Marine Serre, the Kering Group to the industry giant LVMH and Rick Owens to Courrèges, everyone is promising to improve in this area. 

Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of fashionistas from all over the globe will soon again be heading to Paris to admire the latest autumn-winter collections 2020/21. And they will not be staying climate-neutral and sailing like Greta Thunberg, but flying. When visiting shows, they prefer to take a taxi and sit in traffic jams for hours on end than travel by underground or bike, and nobody seems to notice the irony of it all. 

Dior recently planted an entire forest for just one single show. Each of the trees bearing the label #PlantingForTheFuture went on to be used in a reforestation programme. The newcomer Marine Serre has created a grim representation of an oil spill: her recently launched spring collection “Marée noire” reflects her thoughts on how people will dress after the climate apocalypse, namely re-using the waste of modern-day civilisation. With her upcycled fashion using scrap fabric, the 27-year-old is currently the most consistent advocate of a fashion avant-garde with a truly ecological approach. When it relaunched two years ago, Courrèges announced “the end of plastic”. Yet the label is now again showcasing vinyl, its typical fetish material, but with a difference: its algae-based alternative uses ten times less plastic. “Our new vinyl is not perfect – it is better. Sustainability is not a destination but a process: it is about creativity – not austerity; pleasure – not abstinence; today – not tomorrow”, the company declared in a press release that sounds a bit like a government’s climate package: half-hearted. 

These words reveal the balancing act that fashion brands want to achieve. They sound a bit like overweight individuals who claim that drinking Diet Coke with their fast food is enough to lose weight. If the entire principle of “fast fashion”, of overproducing an increasing number of collections year after year, is not called into question, the environment and climate cannot be helped, warns Pierre Cannet from WWF France: “If it’s only about selling more and more clothes while using renewable energy, it won’t be enough”. Given that it’s already touching on its own sensitive issue, the fashion industry needs to be careful not to water down ambition and reality and ring hollow due to greenwashing. Incidentally, I’ve set myself my very own resource-saving resolution: not to buy any new clothes in 2020. Let’s see if I can succeed!
© Silke Bender