New York Fashion Week needs a sustainable makeover



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Venus Manansala 

In 1993, former Executive Director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America Fern Mallis launched an initiative called “7th on Sixth” to organize a centralized platform for American designers to debut their collections.

Decades later, the event, now referred to as New York Fashion Week, is still held semi-annually. Its significance to stylists and consumers alike has allowed New York City to establish itself as a fashion capital of the world.

In recent years, however, the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the nature of NYFW. Many fashion showcases were exhibited virtually while others were postponed indefinitely.

As designers once again see their visions play out on in-person catwalks, NYFW producers must ensure the event is being facilitated in a sustainable manner. This might mean keeping some elements virtual.

NYFW generates 40,000 tons to 48,000 tons of carbon dioxide, a small fraction of the 1.2 billion tons generated by the global fashion industry, according to a report by the Council of Fashion Designers.

Transportation makes up a large portion of NYFW’s environmental footprint. Air travel of out-of-town attendees can produce between 37,830 metric tons and 44,520 metric tons of carbon dioxide each season.

From manufacturing and creating garments to assembling and advertising, putting on a fashion show requires an abundance of money, time and resources.

With the growing global awareness of the importance of sustainability, consumers are starting to wonder if there is a more sustainable system fashion brands can implement for producing and showcasing their collections.

“We recognize that making NYFW more sustainable is but a mere drop in the bucket compared to the fashion industry as a whole; but it can serve as a bellwether for changes, not only for the many other fashion weeks held worldwide, but also for the entire fashion industry,” Boston Consulting Group’s Global Head of Luxury Sarah Willersdorf said.

The United States is a leader in consumer spending. Thus, it is nearly impossible for the fashion industry to be entirely sustainable.

Nonetheless, there are more environmentally-friendly approaches that can be implemented to produce these shows.

The coronavirus pandemic, which forced many shows to be held virtually, was incidentally conducive to making the event more sustainable.

Online fashion shows do not require physical attendance, therefore mitigating the environmental impact of excessive air travel.

Some worry that a virtual NYFW might reduce consumer spending, thereby harming the designers’ ability to successfully market their brands.

Other brands have spent the past several years perfecting their online marketing strategies in order to hold a more effective virtual presentation.

But smaller brands that have not yet established a large online following rely on fashion week for publicity and a chance to garner a wider audience.

An effort, however, should still be made to educate these companies’ marketing departments on how to effectively showcase their apparel online, as opposed to pushing them to return to in-person shows.

The way NYFW is facilitated should be evaluated with sustainability as a priority, and designers should be more aware of unnecessary environmental expenses.

Thus, to mitigate the environmental impacts of NYFW, it would be beneficial to reduce the number of in-person events.