Extinction Rebellion Plan to Shut Down Fashion Week

Image Credit: Sarah Sun @ SpiderGirl

Image Credit: Sarah Sun @ SpiderGirl

“we’re asking consumers to boycott and rebel against a system which is killing us and the natural world. We don’t think this is the end of fashion, though – more an opportunity to creatively transform it into something regenerative for society and nature.”  

Sara Arnold, Extinction Rebellion   

It is no secret that the fashion industry is one of the most environmentally harmful in the world. In fact it comes in second only to gas and oil, and if we continue to consume in the manner we do today the industry will be accountable for a quarter of all carbon emissions by 2050. It is a destructive and unsustainable industry - yet also a prosperous and inspiring one - leaving many of the fashion community in a seemingly unanswerable conundrum.  

The industry has regularly been targeted by protest group Extinction Rebellion. The group have been staging protests since October 2018 and recently made headlines in April due to their “nonviolent civil disobedience” that caused mass disruptions across London and other major cities. Their methods proved effective as they led to former Prime Minister Theresa May declaring a state of climate emergency. This planned protest would not be the first time they have targeted the fashion community. At the last fashion week in February the group formed human blockades around venues to disrupt the events inside. However, with September fast approaching the group have decided to take more decisive action and plan to cancel the event all together.  

Many have argued that this could be a harmful move, removing the livelihoods of many and ruining the careers of young designers. It would also have a severe impact on the British economy which gains a staggering £32 billion from the industry each year. Cancelling the event all together may seem an extremist move, but Sara Arnold from Extinction Rebellion assures that the group are not looking to put an end to fashion, simply “asking citizens to reframe how they treat, cherish and value their existing clothes”, with the cancellation acting as an immediate wake up call to inspire further change. This may seem a farfetched idea, but the Swedish Fashion Council have already cancelled the upcoming Stockholm Fashion Week in the hopes of creating a more sustainable event, making their requests a possibility.  

It is relatively easy to introduce environmentally friendly practices into one's shopping habits - like buying more secondhand clothing, looking after our items and then donating them instead of throwing them out. However, this is an issue that goes above everyday habits - it is a mass market with numerous contributors and mitigating factors. It is improbable a set of sustainable rules can be created that could encompass the needs of both high and fast fashion brands.  

This may seem overtly pessimistic but academic research has proven that the only way to make significant impact is to curtail production and ultimately consumption, something that the actions of high fashion brands and fashion week as an event do not actively support. This is not to say that the industry is doomed, more that it needs to be changed. We need to be celebrating sustainable brands and clothing revival, not season after season of trend and textile wastage. As a lover of fashion, the best thing to do to allow our industry to continue to flourish is to accept that it may need to adapt to survive.