Fashion digitalization and its footprint.
While the fashion industry has shifted the traditional fashion week model to a digital format and new innovations are taking place to showcase the latest trends, there’s something yet to
While the fashion industry has shifted the traditional fashion week model to a digital format and new innovations are taking place to showcase the latest trends, there’s something yet to be discussed: the carbon footprint of fashion digitalization.
According to a report by Ordre, fashion buyers and designers alone contribute 241,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year by attending main fashion weeks and the biggest source of carbon emissions are international flights to get people to the shows.
The idea of moving fashion weeks to a digital ecosystem, it’s certainly appealing from a sustainability perspective, however it’s important not to forget the invisible infrastructure behind a digital fashion week and consequently, its environmental impact.
The production of video, use of 3D and virtual reality (VR) technology to showcase new collections as well as data centers and servers to host those video contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
Measuring the environmental impact of such infrastructures is extremely complex, however studies show that “data center consume over 2% of the world’s electricity and use enough fuel to make them on par with the aviation industry in terms of carbon emissions” – Eluxe Magazine
The number of people virtually streaming the shows, is also an important factor to take in consideration. Many computers connected at the same time, substantially increase the carbon footprint of the technical infrastructure.
On the other hand, the digitalization on fashion weeks has enabled brands to reach wider audiences: Balenciaga, for instance, reached 10 million viewers globally compared to the 600 physical guests.
After all, “The preparations are much heavier in carbon footprint during the digital event than the physical events, if you look at only the carbon footprint, then the digital has a larger footprint than the physical. But if you take into consideration how many [people] can attend a digital fashion week, then the carbon footprint is substantially lower.” – Normative
The Swedish Fashion Council in July 2020 announced the cancellation Stockholm Fashion Week indefinitely.
Often, the dilemma is framed as a simple financial equation: If the runway show drives significant sales or awareness for brands, then it isn’t going anywhere, instead new approaches to the traditional physical fashion week have started to flourish.
Copenhagen Fashion Week, introduced a sustainability requirement for any brands wanting to showcase on its schedule and committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% over the course of the next three years: avoiding goodie bags, merch and single-use plastic.
La Réserve des Arts, keeps 300 tons of material out of landfill each Paris Fashion Week.
The real turning point to tackle the environmental impact of fashion weeks, starts from understanding the issue. The lack of reliable data about this is so glaring that whole institutes have been created to combat it, but the problem — and the circulation of misinformation — persists.
words and visual by Giulia Mummolo
Vogue (Emily Chan)
Fashionista (Whitney Bauck)