As we consider Earth Day today, certain events in the fashion world come to mind as brands across the globe face growing challenges related to the climate crisis. The New York Times put the concept of Fashion Week under a microscope recently, in an effort to draw attention to the areas that need to establish more sustainable production not only for apparel, but also, the shows themselves. This is a complex and layered issue, but change cannot happen if conversations do not.

We recognize our responsibility in joining such efforts against climate change through partnerships with sustainable brands. For 30 years, we have worked with clients in the active lifestyle industry with various solutions for sustainable production.

Our client Houdini Sportswear is a Swedish outdoor brand leading the industry in sustainable performance design. The brand is committed to pushing the boundaries of how outdoor clothing is made by using 100% sustainable fabrics, all 100% PFA free. Houdini’s circular system for long-lasting products sets a new industry standard, encouraging other brands to join the movement as well.

This year, we guided the launch of the Italian sportswear brand, Trerè Innovation/UYN, in the United States. The manufacturer operates a water filtration plant in Italy that catches 425,000 microplastic fibers every day. This next generation treatment for their products will reduce the production of harmful microplastics by 20%. Additionally, 100% of the HQ’s energy consumption comes from renewable sources. Their headquarters present the gold standard for sustainability.

As we grapple with the climate crisis ourselves, our clients remind us that there is hope for decreasing the lasting effects of climate change. Yet, there is always room for improvement, especially under the broad umbrella of the fashion industry. More brands are beginning to understand the need for shifts as the environmental good, bad, and ugly of fashion weeks are revealed.

In the last few years, research has revealed the startling reality that fashion weeks are wasteful and harmful for the environment. A study conducted by the Carbon Trust, a UK consultancy group, inquired about “the impact of buyers and designers traveling to attend international shows during four major fashion seasons and found the amount of carbon emitted in one year was about 241,000 tons — or equivalent to the energy used to light up the Eiffel Tower for 3,060 years.” Despite this jarring statistic, the industry’s biggest impact stems from the emissions created by the production of garments. Further research from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, suggests that the fashion industry is responsible for about 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If that figure continues to grow at current rates, fashion could use more than a quarter of the world’s annual carbon budgetby 2050.

The good news is, we are seeing more progress. On March 9, 2023, Eco-Age sponsored the Green Carpet Fashion Awards for its debut in Los Angeles, celebrating “positive forces in fashion and entertainment and their collective ability to move culture forward.” For this event, attendees were encouraged to re-wear outfits or choose sustainable options. Celebrities describe the zero-waste production, ethically sourced jewelry, or vintage looks they chose for this year’s event.

Copenhagen is another stellar example, recently recognized by the New York Times as the World’s Most Sustainable Fashion Week. The sustainability requirements include guidelines for the shows, consumer engagement, and smart material choices, to name a few. Cecilie Thorsmark, CEO of Copenhagen Fashion Week, hopes that their framework will inspire other shows to move in the same direction.

The issue at hand is undoubtedly complex. On the one hand, the fashion merchandise should be produced ethically with sustainable materials. On the other, the events themselves should implement planet-friendly practices to maintain the commitment to sustainable development.

It seems as though many shows have seen three options: first, some may choose to turn their back and stick to the old ways, ignoring their responsibility to act. Others will showcase their sustainably produced merchandise but fail to match their event planning with the same principles. The third option is becoming more visible, as advocates for a sustainable future step forward to create fashion events that demonstrate commitments to reducing waste in the apparel production and behind the scenes details.

It’s encouraging to see how brands are adapting to the requirements of planet-friendly fashion shows: we hope the industry will soon begin to grow more unified in the required efforts to pivot towards truly sustainable practices. We’ll celebrate these victories so far, and hope that there will be more in years to come. We all have a lot of work to fill do, in reality we don’t have a choice.