Last season, Extinction Rebellion called for the cancellation of fashion weeks around the world. While that didn’t happen, and the Big Four weeks carry on for the current season, there was a substantial amount of awareness raised. Sweden cancelled their fashion week, and Copenhagen’s fashion week put strict standards in place for all brands showing in the city. An ongoing challenge, however, has been actually measuring the carbon emissions of a fashion week. Until now, fashion tech company Ordre.com partnered with climate change consultancy the Carbon Trust to capture carbon emissions from the busiest four weeks on the fashion calendar.
The report, called Zero to Market, measures emissions from a part of the fashion industry’s flock to New York, London, Milan and Paris. Over the course of 12 months, the emissions from buyers at almost three thousand retailers and five thousand designers all participating in fashion month were measured. The results are staggering.
The report concluded that the industry emits 241,000 tons of CO2 per year from the travel taken for wholesale buying, which is the equivalent to the annual emissions of a small country. “For decades the industry has been addicted to the travel associated with participating in the international fashion week circuit,” said Simon P. Lock, Founder and CEO or Ordre.com. “We are an industry that thrives on innovation and now is the time to start thinking about the business of fashion differently.”
The report also broke the numbers down by each city. Travel to New York was the highest emitter, accounting for 37% of all emissions. Paris was second with 28%, then London with 18% and Milan with 17%.
“While the emissions measured in this study are likely to be a small percentage of the fashion industry’s total emissions, it is a highly visible part of the industry where positive change has the ability to be influential across the supply chain and other industries,” said Pauline Op de Beeck, the Sustainable Fashion Lead and Client Manager at the Carbon Trust.
With this report, Ordre.com wants to kick off an industry-wide conversation about the sustainability of international fashion weeks, and how more sustainable practices can be implemented. Ordre.com itself has made changes, developing virtual showrooms for collections and mitigating the need to travel. Recommendations include collapsing and curating schedules, merging the menswear and womenswear events, encouraging the use of shared venues and embracing more digital technology. In terms of travel, avoiding business class is key because it results in a much higher carbon emission per passenger. Train travel is an ideal option, along with opting for electric vehicles.
The report also cautions that the figures are likely an underestimation, due to the fact that only a sample of the total number of participants in fashion weeks were consulted, and did not consider media and influencers in those estimates. Emissions involved in running a showroom were also not included. It is clear that more measurements need to be taken, because they will undoubtedly reveal even more shocking numbers that will hopefully continue to change the industry’s stance on the importance of fashion weeks.
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Written by - Tara MacInnis