It’s no secret that the endless cycle of fashion week shows taking place pre-COVID, often in far-flung locations around the world, was bad for the environment. According to a report by Ordre, fashion buyers and designers alone contribute 241,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year by attending fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris and Milan—more than the total emissions of a small country such as Saint Kitts and Nevis. And that’s not even counting all the models, press and other members of staff working behind the scenes to make fashion weeks happen.
Now, though, we have entered a new age of digital-only shows as a result of the pandemic, which began with London Fashion Week in June and Couture Week this month. Milan Fashion Week Men’s and Paris Fashion Week Men’s have also gone virtual, while Stockholm Fashion Week will be returning with a digital event at the end of August. The move to digital has been championed by sustainability advocates at a time when key industry figures, led by the likes of Dries van Noten, have written open letters calling for less travel in fashion and for the industry to “review and adapt fashion shows”.
But just because shows have been taking place digitally doesn’t mean there won’t be a carbon footprint created by these fashion weeks. “There’s a very big misconception that when you go digital, it’s automatically sustainable,” Evelyn Mora, founder of Helsinki Fashion Week tells Vogue. “But that’s really not the case. It’s really important to understand that.”