In Paris, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM) has provided guests with zero emission transportation and electric shuttle buses since 2020. In 2019, it established a shared venue at the Palais de Tokyo to split production costs between brands and minimise the impact of mounting, dismantling and transport. It’s also signed a partnership with La Réserve des Arts to reuse materials and props when fashion weeks are over.

Then, in September, FHCM released a tool for measuring the environmental, social and economic impacts of fashion events. Contributors and partners include LVMH, Kering, Chanel, Hermès and financial advisory company PwC. A total of 120 key performance indicators cover everything from mounting and dismantling sets, the number of guests, the transport of models, the energy and water usage and the catering, through to related communication and digital activations. Ultimately, the brief set by creative directors dictates how big a show’s environmental footprint is, says FHCM’s sustainability project manager Léonore Garnier: every smaller decision stems from that initial brief.

Damage control

Spurred by FHCM’s new tool, all LVMH fashion and leather goods houses will measure the impact of their fashion shows and have pledged to recycle all runway props. At Louis Vuitton, 700 square metres of travertine lined the floor of the men’s Autumn/Winter 2021 show and was later reused in the brand’s Beaulieu and Vendôme Villiers workshops. Stella McCartney says it always considers the impact of fashion shows and events, serving vegetarian food backstage and using digital invites instead of physical ones.

Kering is one of the companies partnering with La Réserve des Arts to offer leftover materials from shows to artists at preferential prices. All Kering houses subscribe to its internal Green Fashion Shows guidelines, which include governance, stakeholder relations, energy management, waste management, elimination of single-use plastics, food and transportation. Balenciaga offset the carbon from its Winter 2020 show by supporting a reforestation project; while the floor of Bottega Veneta’s Spring 2020 show was recycled to produce tables, displayed and sold for charity at Milan Design Week.

Gucci has been certifying its fashion shows as carbon neutral since Spring/Summer 2020. Its initiatives include favouring materials that can be reused, recycled or rented; prioritising local catering; avoiding single-use plastic; donating leftover food; using green electricity and LED lighting; and choosing more sustainable transport. Non-profit ReteClima is measuring greenhouse gas emissions for the Exquisite Gucci show in Milan this week, including transportation and accommodation for all guests, crew and models, as well as energy consumption and communication elements such as invitations and gifts. These emissions will then be translated into protecting and restoring forests, mangroves and biodiversity under Gucci’s Natural Climate Solutions Portfolio.


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The Ganni Spring/Summer 2022 show at CopenHill, a combined heat and power waste-to-energy plant and recreational facility in Copenhagen.Simon Birk

At New York brand Gabriela Hearst — the first to claim a carbon neutral fashion show, in 2019 — emissions were offset through direct air capture organisations Climeworks. The press release, distributed digitally, included the amount of fabrics in the collection that were upcycled (13 per cent), deadstock or recycled (49 per cent), and eco (four per cent).

For Hearst’s first show as creative director of Richemont-owned Chloé (Autumn/Winter 2021), the brand offset its emissions by supporting a mangrove reforestation project in Myanmar. Chloé has since introduced an events charter, with guidelines for internal and external teams to follow when producing fashion shows, explains chief sustainability officer Aude Vergne. The charter suggests that teams favour rental over new production, consider the afterlife of décor, use seasonal, plant-based food to cater and donate leftovers to charity, and incorporate charity collaborations and give-back initiatives.

Cult sustainability label Collina Strada, based in New York, works with a florist who recycles waste from other clients’ shows. One season, this meant decorating with 1,800 oranges another designer had discarded, feeding them to guests afterwards. This season, the backdrop for guest’s arrival photos will be reused as wallpaper in the brand’s studio. “You have to consider how things will be used in future,” explains founder Hillary Taymour.


Others, including Cecilie Bahnsen, choose venues that allow them to forgo set design altogether, including art galleries and open-air venues with panoramic views. In Copenhagen, Saks Potts staged its most recent show in the grand foyer of the Royal Danish Opera House; Søren le Schmidt in amusement park Tivoli Gardens; and (Di)vision at Tycho Brahe Planetarium.

Exploring different formats

Incremental changes can only go so far. “We know there is room for improvement,” says Avery Baker, president and chief brand officer at Tommy Hilfiger Global. “We will continue to test and learn from different spaces and diverse formats, that build towards creating a better fashion industry.”

London designer Christopher Raeburn stopped holding catwalk shows on the tenth anniversary of his namesake brand, in 2019, switching to digital video formats. “It’s difficult to measure which reaches more people and has a bigger impact on brand awareness,” says Raeburn. Now, his fashion week focus is on supporting other responsible brands. This season, that mission manifested as an exhibition, art directed by emerging designer Matthew Needham, at The Lab E20, a community creative hub co-created by Raeburn in east London.

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Emerging designer Matthew Williams in the exhibition he art directed – titled Showcase With A Difference – at The Lab E20, a creative space co-created by Raeburn to foster responsible design and knowledge-sharing.Courtesy of Fashion Revolution

Former LVMH Prize finalist Bethany Williams also recently went digital, due to the pandemic. This season, she presented her collection at London’s Design Museum as part of a broader body of work proposing new fashion systems. The brand will reuse the wooden rails from the exhibition to hold sample garments in its studio, and handcrafted props will reappear in campaigns and a project with the Victoria & Albert museum later this year. “We aim to create with purpose and ensure things we create have a circular life,” explains managing director Natalie Hodgson.

Momentum in London is supported by Fashion Revolution, which runs a week of global events each year, including Fashion Open Studios, a programme where designers invite guests into their work spaces to learn more about their collections and processes. Fashion Revolution’s Castro believes this offers a genuine alternative to the traditional fashion show: “Instead of fashion shows, fashion weeks could focus on peer-to-peer mentoring and be a period of exchange.” All eyes will be on Milan and Paris.