Sustainability in Retrospect: 2020
2020 has certainly been a year of self-reflection. COVID-19 has forced many of us to really look at what we value and how we live; that is if we're privileged enough to not be preoccupied with surviving the pandemic. And it seems that the pandemic has also asked the fashion industry to look back at itself, whether or not the industry effectively did so.
Even though the global pandemic took the headlines this year, some major moves within fashion sustainability happened, which are worth discussing. And because BADLANDS entered the scene fairly late in 2020, we'd like to review some of the sustainable fashion moments that we didn't get to cover this year.
While we often look to much smaller-scale designers, real, big changes are unfortunately pretty reliant on large, well known brands in the industry. And because we want to look to some of the most impactful sustainability stories, nearly all of them focus on the big design houses. So with that, here is a 2020 retrospective on big sustainability moments.
It feels kind of impossible to think all the way back to January as that was TRULY a lifetime ago, but 2020 did start off with a win for Prada, and the fight for increased sustainable fashion at large. Prada was pleased to announce this year, that in line with their active efforts towards responsible fashion, their menswear FW20 show featured over 90% sustainable textiles. Additionally, Miuccia Prada remarked that the collection itself was their lowest impact yet, making an example to other designer houses that change really is possible.
Prada has now been touting sustainability for some time, and this set another milestone for the brand in creating more responsible showings, even before the meteor-like impact of COVID on fashion week. Miuccia Prada noted in a statement that sustainability "is no longer an intention, fabric producers are ready and prepared, it’s now customary.", implying that this success early on this year is only the beginning of the brand's journey towards change.
In June, Farfetch announced it's leveraging of research and fact to better educate consumers on the impact of their purchases. The luxury platform incorporated a tool which shares the facts on your purchase's impact while checking out, and compares products, allowing clients to discover which is the lowest impact.
While this tool puts the choice in the hands of the consumer, it's an excellent way to keep us all thinking of our own footprint, especially while shopping, which is typically when environmental concerns are thrown to the wind in exchange for that sweet, sweet serotonin after hitting the "buy" button. Farfetch's initiative is a step in the right direction to ensure sustainability is considered every step of the way through the fashion cycle.
Selfridge's made headlines in August, launching their first collection of rentable designer pieces in collaboration with Hurr. Although renting fashion is not a bandaid solution for sustainability, it is certainly a quick fix when it comes to wasteful, single-wear garments.
The rental collection, available through to the end of February 2021, works on an airbnb style model, allowing owners to rent out their own designer garments, but also prevents unnecessary purchases for one-time events. This new collection also undercuts the prestige value of designer goods in a democratic way, giving those of us with a smaller budget the opportunity to up our style for certain occasions.
Fashion can feel far from academia (trust me, I did a fashion masters), but it's the process of thinking about fashion through a critical lens that can truly make lasting change. That's also what we try to do here at BADLANDS, after all. But this year, Glasgow Caledonian New York College announced a change in its current fashion programming, shifting the existing M.S. in International Fashion Marketing to an M.S. in Sustainable Fashion.
This new program opens up an opportunity for future fashion thinkers and leaders to enter the industry with change in mind. The College said in a statement concerning the upgrade in programming that they felt their course required a "fresh vision needed to steer the fashion industry toward a stable, prosperous future in line with the needs of the planet", motioning towards a change in priorities within the industry.
The new program promises to teach "the benefits of operating a business under a new paradigm", in partnership with collaborative businesses and organizations which both provides students with tangible experience to apply the sustainable practices they will learn, but also marks the desire for a shift within the industry.
Despite challenges to incorporate the surge in vintage shopping into the fashion industry at large, Miu Miu released their first ever upcycled collection in December. Upcycled by Miu Miu features 80 one-of-a-kind pieces hand-picked from second hand stores across the globe, ranging from the 1930s to the 1980s. The brand then embellished this collection with typical Miu Miu touches, while still maintaining the original "memory" of the garment, adding their own couture twist to each piece.
This collection is a very unique take on bringing circularity into the larger fashion industry, and tries its hand at working with what fashion already has at its disposal instead of creating net new. If this collection tickles your fancy, select dresses are available across nine of the brand's boutiques, including their London flagship.
It doesn't take a masters degree in fashion sustainability to know that one of the greatest sources of resistance against change in the industry is the thirst for profit. Even Miuccia Prada stated, following her F/W20 Menswear show that producing sustainably was notably more expensive (but followed up with a promise that this would not prevent her brand from following through with its initiatives), however, according to recent analysis, brands are willing to see past this obstacle to appease their clientele.
According to The Circular Fashion Report, which was released this December, the circular fashion economy is now estimated to be valued at $5 Trillion. Circular fashion is marked by creating garments which stand the test of time, and using recycled textiles in order to cut back on waste. This valuation marks the force for change from a consumer perspective, as the industry faces mounting pressure to abandon fast fashion and disposable garments in favour of lasting pieces that are meant to be reused and recycled. Basically, this announcement proves that demanding change is working y'all!
Big fashion houses have been heavily criticized for wasteful practices that maintains the elitism of the industry, like destroying excess merchandise. While Burberry played a part in this 2018 scandal, they are putting a new sustainable and accessible foot forward in 2020.
In December, the British luxury brand vowed to donate leftover fabric to students within the UK to both mitigate their waste output and support creative communities in the country. The initiative, titled "ReBurberry" is in partnership with the British Fashion Council and aims to inspire new designers while upholding the brand's sustainability promises.
Longtime dedicated to sustainability through her own designs, Gabriela Hearst has been appointed as the new creative director for Chloé this December to finish off the year. The Uruguayan designer has been devoted to responsible fashion through her consistent use of upcycled, eco-friendly textiles long before sustainability became an industry "trend", and showed her first carbon-neutral collection in 2019. Hearst stands behind garments built to last, and emphasizes a new, fashionable image of sustainable clothes through her embrace of craft inspired pieces.
The designer has stood by her responsible methods, stating "My design effort is to build something beautiful that is well-crafted using the right materials that you’re excited about from a design point of view, but that you’ll also have your whole life". Her appointment to Chloé signifies a growing group of fashion leaders with an ethical concern set to shape the industry from the top down.
Overall, 2020 has brought us increased tangible change from the highest levels of the industry. While small-scale brands are certainly best at doing sustainability, larger houses are finally listening to concerned consumers and taking steps towards accountability. There's also a rise in designers focused on responsible production taking the helm of important labels, encouraging continuous change.
As for 2021, it seems brands can no longer shut their ears and avoid the sustainability conversation. While some outlets assert that responsible fashion will take a back seat to COVID-19 economic recovery, sustainable practices have seen a spike in popularity during the pandemic. Upcycling and DIY has grown in popularity, thanks to people looking to create while staying home and consumers have been driven to shop more locally to support business in their own community, cutting product transportation emissions.
Most of all, with extra time on their hands to online shop, consumers have notably been researching what they're buying and it's impact more heavily. In 2021 we predict that we'll see continued consumer knowledge towards sustainability, with more shoppers increasingly aware of which brands are actually committed to sustainable production. At least, we hope.