Bringing the Global Goals to London Fashion Week
Sustainability leads the trends at London Fashion Week with the introduction of 17 Global Goals for a cleaner, fairer future
According to The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), approximately 11 million items of clothing go into landfill each year, while the 2019 Pulse report stated that, without radical action, the global textiles industry will be accountable for one quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.
The industry’s footprint is matched by its global influence: the fashion market is worth a reported £32 billion to the UK economy and is estimated to grow by 81% by 2030. This tension between cultural and environmental impact is at the heart of the protests by Extinction Rebellion this London Fashion Week.
The group’s non-violent action was designed to draw attention to what they view as the unconscionable levels of waste and environmental damage wrought by the global fashion industry. In a statement their spokesperson, Sara Arnold, emphasised the industry’s ability to lead the way towards a greener world. 'When a fire alarm goes off, someone needs to stand up and leave the room, otherwise no one thinks the alarm is real. We need fashion to be that person'.
Despite Extinction Rebellion’s criticism, the British Fashion Council and broader industry seem to agree with their sentiments. While sustainability has long been a lynchpin of London Fashion Week, this season saw a sharper focus on making impactful and lasting change. Just days before the start of London Fashion Week, the British Fashion Council announced the launch of a new initiative named the Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF). Acting as an extension of the previously launched Positive Fashion Committee, the IPF aims to set industry standards that encourage companies to champion greener business models and enable positive change.
Even more significantly, for the first time, the United Nations brought the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (otherwise known as the Global Goals) to London Fashion Week, ahead of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The Goals are a universal route map and call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that every global citizen enjoys peace and prosperity by 2030. The Goals are intended to act as a focus point for the industry, educating people about the challenges ahead and initiating concrete and measurable development.
Throughout the week, designers, influencers, policy makers, activists and other industry insiders gathered at The Conduit – a home for people passionate about positive social change - to show their support for the Goals, as well as to share their concerns and calls to action.
One attendee at a reception hosted by the British Fashion Council and #TOGETHERBAND flagged the importance of new legislation and technology to support small brands and emerging designers in making the necessary changes, as well as the need to recognise the complexity of supply changes. 'Try convincing a small garment factory in Bangladesh or Myanmar to source ethical dyes or increase their prices by 20% to factor in more sustainable practices,' she pointed out.
At a private dinner co-hosted by The Conduit and Project Everyone, Baroness Lola Young highlighted the importance of holding brands to account: 'too many brands are not taking the big issues seriously enough, whether its environmental sustainability or exploitative labour practices.'
The Conduit wrapped up London Fashion Week with a panel on industry innovation and policy change, featuring speakers including John Atcheson, Co-founder & CEO, Stuffstr; Mike Barry, Sustainable Changemaker; Tamara Cincik, Founder and CEO of Fashion Roundtable; and Roberta Lee, Stylist and Founder, Ethical Brand Directory. It was widely acknowledged by all that genuine change won’t be easy, requiring government support, a stronger recycling infrastructure, and increased clarity around how we define and measure sustainability.
Yet, as more and more people embrace secondhand and vintage, designers explore innovative new materials, brands invest in recycling technology and pressure increases on establishing fair labour practices across supply chains, it seems that the fashion industry is in the midst of a significant, vital and exciting shift away from culture of ceaseless production, consumption and disposal, to a new world rich with creative potential.
This article was created with The Conduit, a home for a diverse community of people passionate about social change. Bringing together social entrepreneurs, investors, creatives, business leaders, policymakers and civil society, The Conduit acts as a catalytic platform for individuals tackling some of the most pressing challenges facing us today. For more information, visit www.theconduit.com.