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Was sustainability the biggest trend to come out of Fashion Week?

It’s an exciting time of year in the fashion world! Just last week, Paris capped off the series of major Fashion Weeks around the world. All have their own unique characters, yet this year a common buzzword echoed throughout them all: sustainability.

At the end of August, 32 fashion groups kicked off the theme by signing the Fashion Pact, a framework to reduce the industry’s impact on the climate, oceans, and biodiversity, at the G7. During the Big Four shows that followed in September, thousands of designers and brands demonstrated their commitment to more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.

The Kering Group announced that all its brands have made operations and supply chains carbon neutral. Prada debuted its first line of ECONYL bags. Stella McCartney penned an open letter to the fashion industry encouraging all brands to minimize their environmental impact. Major players in the industry emphasized the risks posed by fast fashion, especially the idea of creating clothing to quickly be thrown away, and encouraged use of the secondhand market.

Milan Fashion Week even ended with the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, an event meant to celebrate the achievements in sustainability within the industry. All over, sustainability was celebrated as fashion week’s biggest winner.

Is Fashion Week itself sustainable?

Yet despite the lip service paid to sustainability, some questioned the sincerity of brands’ commitment to the environment while putting on elaborate runway events. Extinction Rebellion held an elaborate protest against Fashion Week, calling on the British Fashion Council to cancel its September Fashion Week altogether. Maxine Bédat founder of The New Standard Institute, a non-profit that studies sustainability in fashion, pointed out that the data on the true impact of Fashion Week simply doesn’t exist. Even Vogue debated whether brands should focus more on the sustainability of their shows.

Some brands were ahead of the curve in recognizing the environmental implications of the shows themselves. Both Gabriela Hearst and Gucci held fully carbon neutral runway shows in New York and Milan respectively. In fact, Gucci even earned the ISO 20121 certification for its runway show, showing it adhered to the standards of sustainable event management of the International Organization for Standardization.

As the fashion industry becomes more committed to sustainability, it’s likely that more brands will host carbon neutral shows. Industry insiders already are watching for similar carbon neutral commitments and other sustainable choices in the Fall 2020 shows. 

Making sustainability a focus in the industry beyond Fashion Week

Of course, now that Fashion Week is over, the importance of sustainability doesn’t simply diminish until the Big Four Fashion Weeks in February. For sustainability to be more than a popular buzzword, the industry must always make it a focus. Brands are already doing this through commitments to carbon neutrality and using recycled materials. Other players in the fashion industry are choosing sustainable partner factories to produce their clothing and accessories.

Other, less straightforward changes can also help fashion brands be more sustainable as they rush to bring Fashion Week designs to shelves. More effective supply chain management is an incredibly important example of this. Shipping releases carbon into the atmosphere, and this impact is exponentially worse if brands must move inventory additional times due to inefficient allocation. Inventory waste is even worse for the environment. Unsold products mean that all the energy used to create them is often simply thrown away. Even unsold goods that are ultimately recycled or repurposed represents some production waste.

Luckily, AI replenishment and allocation models have made it possible for brands to dramatically reduce their supply chain waste. Evo’s model helped Miroglio brand Elena Mirò reduce their waste significantly, not only saving them money but also making their brand more sustainable. As Giuseppe Craparotta described it, “It was exciting to see just how much waste reduction was accomplished using the Evo Replenishment model. Sustainability has become increasingly important in the fashion industry, so we’re really pleased we can deliver these results to our clients.” Other companies have seen Evo’s models reduce waste in their supply chains by 20-40%. More accurate allocation of resources may not be the most talked about way to make fashion more sustainable, but it’s still incredibly important.

Today’s consumers increasingly value sustainability, so it’s no surprise that this was emphasized during Fashion Week. Now that we’ve left Fashion Week behind, however, the focus on sustainability in the industry has only become more important. If companies can make sustainability a priority in every step of the supply chain, the environmental impact of this September’s Fashion Week will be a net positive— and change the way people look at sustainability in fashion for years to come.

The editorial team

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