Haute (Sustainable) Couture: A meaningful Fashion Statement

| March 4, 2024

By Peter Aronson

With the arts and fashion gala season now upon us, we are hoping that the powers that be in these industries will take notice of the impact they could have in our fight against global warming.

On March 10, perhaps as many as 20 million people will watch live on TV the Academy Awards and the preceding red carpet parade of stars wearing the fanciest gowns and jewels imaginable.

Two months from now, the world’s biggest annual fashion show will take place when the Met Gala spreads its fashion wings in New York City with its own red carpet parade around its 2024 event.

These events combined, with the Grammys, the Tonys, the Emmys and other award shows, draw tens of millions of viewers live and millions and millions more in the endless social media posts, drawing attention to the fashion world through their glitz and glamour and famous red carpet photo shoots.

With all this attention on fashion brought on by these events, we would love to see the leaders of these events shift focus in future events, perhaps as early as 2025.

We see this as a golden opportunity for industry leaders to take an important environmental stand, by turning against fast fashion and promoting used, gently worn, vintage, repurposed and upcycled clothing, all with the goal of reducing waste sent to landfills. They could do this by asking all their famous attendees, and all presenters and nominees to wear clothing that was not new. Everything worn to the events would match a theme designed to fight climate change: Reawakening Fashion to Our Environmental Reality: Buying and Wearing Used, Gently Worn, Recycled, Repurposed, Upcycled and Vintage Clothing is The Way To Go! 

The goal is to send a message to consumers that buying and wearing used, gently worn, recycled, repurposed, upcycled and vintage clothing is, in fact, the way to go. 

That’s because the amount of used clothing going to landfills in the United States and throughout the world is staggering, almost 100 million tons a year. In the United States alone, the amount of textile waste being discarded and sent to landfills, most of which is discarded clothing, accounts for about six percent of all waste sent to landfills. And landfill waste is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, the gasses we need to cut drastically to curtail the amount of warming our planet is experiencing. (More facts and figures can be found at epa.gov, ny.gov, earth.org, and theroundup.org: textile waste statistics.) 

What if the red carpets preceding the 2025 Academy Awards and the 2025 Met Gala were filled with the Kardashians, the Clooneys, and dozens of the most famous, most photographed people in the world wearing gowns and tuxes (and whatever) that were Used, Gently Worn, Recycled, Repurposed, Upcycled and Vintage Clothing?

That would be quite a statement to the world. Can you imagine Beyoncé or Taylor Swift standing on the steps of the MET, wearing an elegant (and properly dry cleaned) vintage or repurposed gown and announcing: “I support a circular economy in the clothing business. Buy more used clothing, buy less new clothing. For our planet’s future, it is the way to go.” 

It would be great if the Grammys, Tonys, Emmys, Country Music Awards and Golden Globes also joined in this movement.

This runs counter to the traditions of the fashion business, the idea of new creations seasonably hitting stores so that consumers flock en masse. Well, as environmental advocates, we are urging a drastic realignment, a rejiggering of the fashion and clothing world, so that consumers (and manufacturers) understand that excess shopping followed by discard is helping to ruin our planet. And this is an undeniable fact – undeniable – as outlined in this 2022 article from the UN’s Environmental Programme titled The Environmental Costs of Fast Fashion.

“New season, new styles, buy more, buy cheap, move on, throw away: the pollution, waste and emissions of fast fashion are fueling the triple planetary crisis,” the report says. That’s what happens when the average person in the United States throws out more than 100 pounds of textile waste per year. (See this article by a Boston University professor.)

And the ones who are most impacted by all this waste going to landfills are the underserved individuals disproportionately affected by global warming.

We think reshaping the messaging from the famed red carpets of the world could have a significant impact in our fight against global warming. 

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