The Environmental Impact of Fashion Shows

At first, we demanded more on the traceability of ethics and sustainability from fashion designers and the brands they created for us. Now, amidst the big four SS22 Fashion Weeks and the second IRL runways since the outbreak of Coronavirus, we’re wondering how a year of digitized shows performed environmentally. How can Fashion Week organizers reduce carbon emissions for SS22 and beyond?

In the 2018 ‘Zero to Market’ Report compiled by and the Carbon Trust, which measured CO2 emissions from those traveling approximately 6 months of the year to Fashion Weeks (Milan, Paris, New York, London) and major tradeshows such as Copenhagen, Seoul and Tokyo, “the travel undertaken resulted in about 241,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year. That figure, said the report, is equivalent to the annual emissions of a small country.” The NY Times goes onto write, “or enough energy to light up Times Square for 58 years”.

Leading by example and is it any surprise, are the Danish. Festival organizers at the Copenhagen Fashion Week released their 2020-22 sustainability goals, which indicated they wished to cut their emissions by 50% and achieve zero waste by 2022. Furthermore, designers who wish to show at Copenhagen must qualify by meeting selection criteria that includes committing to the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDG). Their report was reviewed by a panel of internationally acclaimed environmentalists including Orsola de Castro of Fashion Revolution, Professor Dilys Williams from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Professor of Biological Oceanography Katherine Richardson.

How are program partners and investors responding to industry transformation and limited shows? In July of this year, digital fashion wholesale marketplace, received $9million is Series B funding, its third raise since launching in 2015, reinstating the demand to further develop online opportunities for buyers.

Of the 2021 digital FW’s, what was not to miss in Chanel’s live stream, where their outing models arrived at legendary Left Bank nightclub Chez Castel on rue Princesse, checking tweed coats at the door? Or Gabriella Hearst’s Chloé performance, as models strode out of Brasserie Lipp - the same Saint Germain setting where Gaby Aghion had showed in the 60s?

If indeed 2021 Fashion Week reduced its carbon footprint and could power an entire country such as Malawi, whose future economic growth crucially depends on the long-term availability of energy from sources that are affordable, accessible, and sustainable, then what holds us back? Might it be status, pride or flamboyance? If our hazardous and polluting industry is to “green-up”, global marketing platforms like Fashion Week must continue developing digital offerings that are audience-inclusive.

Their actions and overarching qualifying processes, like those demonstrated by the Copenhagen Fashion Week Committee, will encourage brands to follow ethical guidelines and together, reach economic and environmental goals. 


-P2 Zero to Waste Report by –

-P3 Copenhagen Fashion Week sustainability goals 2020-2022

-P5 Malawi’s energy issue –