Is the fashion industry inherently unsustainable? It can be, says Orsola de Castro, co-founder and creative director of Fashion Revolution, an advocacy organization critical of current fashion practices. “A 20-minute event that takes six months to create?” de Castro told Vogue Business. “It’s unsustainable.”
But while a 2021 Fashion Accountability Report showed a discrepancy between the intentions of the fashion industry and the environmentally-friendly actions it’s taking, there was one bright spot: smaller companies. Smaller companies were more transparent about their efforts and typically scored higher on sustainability practices.
How are they doing it? Below, we explore some key strategies companies of any size can use to make fashion more sustainable:
Reusing props and decorations between events
A lot goes into making a fashion show appear magical—but all of that magic can also be wasteful. Thankfully, brands today are finding ways to reuse props and other decorations at events. At Louis Vuitton, one show required 700 square meters of travertine to line the floor. Louis Vuitton later took this travertine and used it in its fashion workshops, ensuring the materials didn’t go to waste.
Sharing Transparency Around Materials Used, Sourcing, and Production
Fashion labels don’t have to be completely sustainable before achieving full transparency. In fact, transparency can help highlight problem areas or identify potential improvement.
“You can be fully transparent before you have to be perfect,” Patrick Woodyard, CEO of Nisolo, told Vogue Business. “I also don't think the average consumer is actually expecting that.”
Transparency also helps brands highlight their wins, as was the case for Louis Vuitton and the 700 square meters of travertine flooring. Smaller companies might not have the recycling capacity of larger brands, but their commitment to transparency can put pressure on these more popular brands to do the same.
Shifting to Digital Showrooms
The first fashion brand to declare a fashion show completely carbon neutral, Gabriela Hearst, announced its carbon offsets with a digital press release. Other brands are looking into alternative ways to utilize digital publishing for fashion shows, including Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia, who regularly hosts over half a million online viewers.
Similarly, virtual showrooms for fashion brands can eliminate the need for the physical supplies required for physical showrooms. For instance, NuORDER’s virtual showrooms include stock images or the ability to add custom “showroom” backgrounds as elements in your fashion show.
The same is true for hybrid trade shows, which combine digital trade shows with in-person events to reduce their overall carbon footprint. A digital event hosted by Informa Markets Fashion created tens of thousands of connections between brands and buyers, displaying how easy it can be for customers to connect to fashion shows without attending in person.
In fashion, sustainability is still a long-term goal, especially for expensive productions from larger brands. But fashion brands of any size can use platforms like NuORDER to shift to digital showrooms and trade shows, reduce the environmental effects of each event, and better manage their physical resources.
More importantly, platforms like NuORDER are showing that customers, buyers, and retailers don’t need an in-person fashion show to learn your fashion brand’s story. They can experience it just as well through digital and hybrid shows that help make the fashion world a more sustainable place.