Earth Day 2019: What’s The Fashion Industry Doing Right Now?

22 April 2019
Style, Fashion, Sustainability
Stella McCartney
Today marks the 49th Earth Day, and with fashion still one of the biggest polluting industries in the world, we take a look at what some key players are doing to address the problem.

The fashion industry likes to talk about sustainability, but is it doing enough to tackle the irreversible and damaging effects it continues to have on our environment? The obvious answer is probably not.

Where the luxury market is concerned, very few designers have managed to perfectly merge the allure of high-quality fashion with planet-friendly manufacturing methods. Then there's Stella McCartney.

Since launching her namesake fashion house in 2001, the English designer has abstained from using any leather or fur in the making of her clothes. She remains a vocal supporter of animal rights and is an advocate of environmental issues. We're huge fans.

And slowly, some of her competitors are beginning to wake up and attempting to follow suit. Italian luxury house Gucci and American conglomerate Michael Kors both announced at the end of 2017 that the brands would be going fur-free. Versace, Burberry and Chanel eventually pledged the same commitment last year. DKNY has declared a fur-free 2019.

Speaking with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour earlier this month, the first lady of fashion Anna Wintour, admitted: “Everybody is concerned about the climate crisis and what should be done to help. And obviously we’re very aware, as other industries are, that we have been at fault and what can we do in the relatively short amount of time we have to course correct.”

But the issue of sustainable fashion isn’t black and white. Take one example: “fake fur is obviously more of a polluter than real fur”, as Wintour asserts. It's these sort of catch-22 situations that make switching to more ethical practices so difficult. And that's not even taking the financial costs into consideration.

In light of Earth Day, we take a look at more recent examples of the industry taking a stance on the matter, whether big or small.

Ralph Lauren

Even though the American enterprise went fur-free in 2006, just last week, its Polo Ralph Lauren brand unveiled a version of its iconic shirt manufactured entirely out of plastic bottles – and, even more impressively, it's dyed through a process that uses zero water. “Every day we’re learning about what’s happened with global warming and what’s happening all around the world, and our employees and our customers are really feeling that it’s time to step up and make a difference,” said David Lauren, son of the company’s founder and also its chief innovation officer. Lauren says the initiative is part of a broader sustainability plan for the business.

The North Face

Another clothing company making waves this week is The North Face, which launched a petition to raise awareness about Earth Day. The American lifestyle company’s campaign goal is to make Earth Day an officially recognised holiday. “When people take time to appreciate Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it. That’s why we are taking a stand and committing that on Earth Day we will explore and connect with our surroundings,” reads the petition.

Salvatore Ferragamo

The Italian luxury goods company unveiled a sustainable accessories capsule collection last week. Called “42 Degrees”, the range – developed by two of the creative studio’s designers – includes both men’s and women’s items made of eco-friendly materials. “This capsule collection is dedicated to fashion enthusiasts who care about the future of the planet,” said Luciano Dimotta, one of the designers.

The collection debuted shortly after the brand unveiled its “Sustainable Thinking” exhibition at The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum in Florence, which is set to run until March 2020.

In the meantime, New York state is working on legislature that would ban the sale of fur, a bold move for the city, one of the "Big Four" fashion capitals.