Sustainable Fashion at MBFW Autumn 2015

Sustainable Fashion at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

Select looks from S/S Luis Valenzuela Debut at The Green Shows 2010 (the last season if this event was in 2012)

TORONTO, Canada — February marks the worst that winter has to offer, the joy (and bitterness) Valentine’s Day brings and the onslaught of cuts, materials and colours that Mercedes Benz Fashion Week (MBFW) unveils for the fashion world. With up to 100,000 attendees including media, models, designers, industry experts and fashionistas in New York for the semi-annual event, the designs that appear on the runways of MBFW are the fashion industry’s chance to set trends and make statements.

With up to 100,000 attendees including media, models, designers, industry experts and fashionistas in New York for the semi-annual event, the designs that appear on the runways of MBFW are the fashion industry’s chance to set trends and make statements.

As Miranda Priestly pointed out in her now infamous ‘cerulean blue’ monologue in the 2006 hit film, The Devil Wears Prada, the designers that present at MBFW have the ability to inspire collections and product lines for seasons to come and shape the way we view popular culture.

The Paradigm Shift

With the fashion industry, like many other industries, seeing a shift towards a stronger focus on addressing environmental and ethical problems, one would assume that one of the world’s largest fashion weeks would be an opportune time to demonstrate this progress.

The food and drink industry has seen a dramatic shift towards local and organic foods, while the auto industry has seen companies such as Tesla bring environmentally-friendly cars to the forefront. Likewise, the fashion industry has seen companies such as Kering, the luxury conglomerate that owns brands including Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, and Modavanti make tangible steps towards sustainable practices through committing to eliminate all hazardous chemicals used in the production of their brands, exploring more sustainable materials and supporting innovation in fashion education. With scandals and tragedies such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza Building in Bangladesh and the Primark incident encouraging these companies to make pledges and promises for changes in the industry, 2014 was a year when the promises were turned into actions.

Sustainable Fashion at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

In 2014, Kering was included in the CDP Climate Performance Leadership Index, receiving an award from the Carbon Disclosure Project
Image courtesy of fashionhedge.com

Fashion Weeks and Sustainable Fashion

So where was this drive for sustainability during MBFW? Unfortunately not on the runways. Unlike other fashion weeks in London, Copenhagan and other cities, where sustainable and ethical fashion took a front row seat at the shows, the counterpart in New York has shown little interest in the movement. Short of a few offshoot attempts from sustainable designers to come together in prior years, MBFW participants have shown little interest in making sustainability a core value of the event.

Sustainable Fashion at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

Past runway looks from Estethica, the British Fashion Council supported initiative to promote sustainable fashion at London Fashion Week
Image courtesy of Zimbo.com

In 2014, London Fashion Week’s fashion initiative Estethica, entered its 17th season. The initiative, which was integrated to the mainstream portion of the week, featured a selection of emerging and established designers who were chosen for their ethical credentials and design acumen. Similarly, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia 2014 featured an inaugural Clean Cut Designer Showcase, with local and international ethical fashion designers. Moreover, Copenhagen Fashion Week featured a number of sustainable brands on its runways, as part of the Danish fashion industry’s commitment to more conscious fashion. Likewise, many cities have opted for fashion weeks entirely dedicated to ethical and sustainable fashion, including Vancouver, San Francisco and Berlin.

So where was this drive for sustainability during MBFW? Unfortunately not on the runways.

In contrast, the last explicit mention of sustainability at the New York version of the fashion week was in 2012, when a group of sustainable designers came together to present The Green Shows. This year, a number of ethically-conscious designers did feature on the runway, but no explicit recognition of ethical motivations, green fashion practices or overall sustainability were made by the event.

Sustainable Fashion at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

House of Organic Spring 2010 Collection at the Green Shows during New York Fashion Week (the last time this event occurred was in 2012.
Image courtesy of Meaghan O’Neill

Moving Forward

As an increasing amount of high street and Main Street players start to make steps towards a more ethical and green fashion industry, it is disappointing that one of the world’s most prestigious fashion experiences failed to take into account the movements being made. As this movement continues to grow and thrive in 2015 with designers, brands and retailers supporting the paradigm shift in how we look at fashion, we hope that events such as Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2016 will follow suit.

Tarini Chandak About the author

Aspiring businesswoman and fashionista, bringing her youth perspective in the fashion space, ethical fashion movement and Canadian lifestyle trends. Working towards a degree in accounting and finance, she lets her creative side shine through her passion for writing, fashion and exploring the world.

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