Another Fashion Week is upon us, and with it a packed schedule and an absolute frenzy of dresses, jackets, heels and hairdos. But one thing will be absent.
Amongst the glittering array of designer outfits and the crowds of tall, willowy models, little effort goes into messages surrounding the makers. While glamour is critical to the multi-billion-dollar industry, let’s not forget the humans who make the beautiful clothes.
Past Fashion Weeks have fared about the same. Hit singer Pink posed nude in defense of fur in 2015, encouraging viewers to, “be comfortable in your own skin, and let animals keep theirs.”
In 2014, activists reminded Fashion Week partygoers about the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster by projecting photos of victims on the wall of Lincoln Center. The tragedy, in which over a thousand Bangladeshi garment workers lost their lives in a building collapse and a few thousand more were rescued with injuries, is now considered murder. The act was a powerful reminder that clothes come from people whose lives matter too.
These relatively minor protests, however, have been staged from the outskirts of the fashion world rather than stemming from its heart. When it comes to actual events and shows, the stress on ethics is lukewarm.
Of course, that doesn’t mean no one’s doing anything. Celebrity leaders such as Emma Watson have joined up with the Green Carpet Challenge, a global cause to unite fashion with ethical practices. Like everything Watson does, the move was widely noted and well received. Since then, other major celebrities have begun to join in to use their fashion as their voice for a more conscious fashion world.
Red Carpet Green Dress, founded by James Cameron’s wife Suzy Amis Cameron and now in its seventh year, also turns up at a wide range of celebrity events, voting for greener red carpet trends. And in general, other celebrities are raising their voices.
Mila Kunis has long been a spokesperson for Gemfields, a company that mines precious stones with consideration to people and the environment. “I think it’s important to pay attention to what you’re wearing and where it came from,” she explains.
Yet these voices seem distant in a sea of designers who don’t pay ethics much heed. What’s interesting is that New York Fashion Week would seem to be set up for revolution already. After all, many of the pieces displayed are couture… which means they’re made by hand in small batches.
Contrasted with mass-market products churned out by garment factories in the developing world, Fashion Week is full of pieces that lend themselves well to eco-friendly materials, handmade artistry and fairly paid makers.
But revolution escapes us still, leading some ethical fashion devotees to wonder what to do about it. We love beautiful design, finely honed wardrobes and a range of choices, so we sure don’t want to see Fashion Week go anywhere.