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Saying no to fashion week

Last updated on February 16, 2020

Sweden believes the answer to the detrimental effects of fast fashion on the planet is to abandon the gala events. But can it really make a lasting impact?

Fashion weeks continue to be one of the important events around the world that celebrate clothing and vanity. But the bi-annual event is facing some serious critics, keeping in mind environmental issues.

At the same time, news of Swedish Fashion Council cancelling Stockholm Fashion Week spread around international platforms like wildfire. It has proposed to create a new format for the industry instead of having a standard fashion week. Coming from a Nordic country, this bold step is not surprising.

In Jennie Rosén’s view, who is the CEO at Swedish Fashion Council, this decision of separating from the traditional fashion week model is not an easy one. Putting the past behind and encouraging a platform that brings in sustainability and innovation, is what is needed, in her belief for today’s fast fashion industry.

The council that is now focusing on creating tools and platforms that are more relevant to the industry’s current needs is looking forward to generating revenue streams that encourage cross-sector collaboration.

In a day and age when fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M flourish, mimicking clothes from top fashion shows every 15 days – dissolving a country’s only fashion week is a micro move in an industry booming on the environment’s expense.

In India, apart from the two main fashion weeks that happen in Delhi and Mumbai, there is a long list of sponsored shows organised. This includes fashion weeks in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Jaipur. There are fashion weeks organised by media giants, alcohol labels and others who knock off the main event in the same city.

Amancio Ortega, founder of Zara was the richest man in 2015 and Bernard Arnault, Chairman and Chief Executive of Louis Vuitton, recently took the position of the second richest man in the world. This tells us enough about the size in which certain fashion labels operate in terms of finances.

With the magnitude of fashion weeks that take place in Paris, Milan and New York, the idea of cutting down on fashion weeks only seems like a utopian yet fictitious future.

But what if there were no fashion weeks? We hear from various stakeholders on their take on how to navigate the traditions of the fashion business.

For Delhi based fashion designer, Shreya Khurana, the idea of not having fashion weeks is “only drab” and believes it won’t make the industry sustainable. “Brands that want to come up with new collections will still do so. Not having a fashion week won’t dissolve the concept of seasons,” she adds.

In her view, fashion weeks are bigger than just new collections. As a trade show, it’s a point of contact where people do business and meet people. “This is where new designers find new markets and old vendors find new designers. By cancelling fashion weeks, we’ll be going backwards in an age where exposure brings business,” Khurana says. She accepts that the concept of seasons is what needs to go, not necessarily fashion weeks if we look forward to a sustainable future.

For Annanya Bhowmick, a Bangalore based product designer who studied leather design at NIFT, the problem is not so much with fashion weeks but our intrinsic need to splurge on the “new collection”.

“This peer pressure of indulging in consumerism is what needs to be left behind. People need to understand that they can do without buying a lot of clothes”, Bhowmick says. She envisions a future, where people live a solitary life. A life that runs on a shared economy and no one really owns anything. She imagines bodysuits, like a second skin, that one can wear for years customising it every day, digitally and by adding extensions. “Although I don’t think we will survive for more than 50 years, the way the world is moving. Urgent action is required”, she adds.

Such scepticism towards our future is not new. We have seen Swedish teenager activist, Greta Thunberg uniting fellow school goers around the world on taking a stand for the environment.

For Asit Bhatt, an associate professor at NIFT, the Swedish Fashion Council’s steps are taken to move away from fast fashion, although he is not quite certain where it leads to.

Fashion weeks for years have created a sense of community within the fashion fraternity, a sense of belongingness apart from the economics involved in it. Eradicating the entire event does sound like a radical move for any society to go through.

However, there is great hope from what the Swedish Fashion Council will propose: a landmark project that will awaken the whole of the fashion community.