Paris plans to be the Sustainable Fashion Capital of the world, but is it easier said than done?
As an advocate of sustainable fashion, I clap for joy when brands–or in this case, when whole cities–announce new sustainability efforts. On January 30, major fashion news outlets spread the news that Paris is planning to be the Sustainable Capital of Fashion in five years as part of an initiative called, “Paris Good Fashion.”
Paris’ sustainability roadmap is to planned to be revealed in June at which point the public can see the plans for “creating a circular economy; improving sourcing and traceability, and working on making certain processes more sustainable, such as distribution, energy and communication,” said WWD. Even the smallest initiatives towards sustainability are significant towards improving the environment. I have no doubt that the open community this initiative pans to unite will be successful in making Paris the Sustainable Capital of Fashion. However, I do believe the community will have its fair share of challenges.
Paris Good Fashion’s end is 2024, the same time as the Olympic Games
Paris is the host for the 2024 Olympic Games, which will bring thousands of consumers into the city. The production and distribution of Olympic merchandise, in addition to the fashion regularly consumed, will become a significant burden on the environment. How will Paris maintain their fashion sustainability efforts with an influx of tourists during the Olympic Games?
Aside from the Olympic Games, Paris is already a fashion capital. The city hosts multiple fashion weeks throughout the year and is home to some of the largest fashion houses in the world. The initiative will require an effort from these larger brands as well as consumers.
Are Paris’ brands and consumers willing to become more sustainable?
In order for a brand to change its operations to be more sustainable, many factors have to be reorganized. The manufacturing process must be changed to incorporate eco-friendly plants and materials. The supply chain must be reconfigured to cut energy and gas emissions. Most significant, the marketing of fashion must change to make sales more sustainable. These efforts can help to lengthen the life cycles of products, but overall they are costly changes for brands to make.
While many consumers are pushing for brands to be more sustainable, the fast fashion trend is still very much alive. You can read more in depth about the impact fast fashion has on the environment in a white paper of mine. The responsibility of changing overconsumption habits falls on both brands and consumers. Consumers have to focus on changing their buying habits away from overconsumption. There must be a conscious effort from consumers to be knowledgeable about their purchases. And on the other hand, companies have to change their marketing so consumers will no longer expect new products weekly, or even monthly. They must become more trustworthy marketers and not mislead consumers with greenwashing tactics.
A classic tale of two cities; is London a competitor for the Sustainable Capital for Fashion?
London has made substantial efforts to make London fashion more sustainable. I have always seen London as the city with greater sustainable fashion initiatives, so is London a competitor for the title of the Sustainable Capital for Fashion? Many rising designers, in both cities, are making their own effort to create more sustainable designs. Last year, many larger brands such as Burberry and Stella McCartney committed to eliminating plastic pollution.
As well, the UK is home to the rapidly growing Fashion Revolution advocate community, represented by the Fashion Revolution CIC and the Fashion Revolution Foundation. The Fashion Revolution recently published a statement House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Interim Report in which the government committee asked UK fashion brands what efforts they were making to be more sustainable.
All competition in this case is healthy competition that benefits the environment either way, but I believe if there was a Sustainable Capital for Fashion, London is currently it. Yet, I am fully supportive of Paris’ sustainability efforts because it will force more change from brands and consumers alike. Only decades ago nobody was discussing sustainable fashion and now cities are pushing for more conversation on the topic which is beyond upstanding.