Fashion Week: Painting the Catwalk Green

In a previous post, I explored various techniques and strategies marketers are using to keep green initiatives a primary concern in our economy, as well as consumers' responses to these efforts. It is important to keep the environment in the minds of consumers, yet marketers need to make sure their efforts are clear and not misleading. I would like to take a deeper look at this idea with regard to the world of fashion. Fashion is a creative expression of one's view of the world and this differs from designer to designer. Many designers who envision a cleaner environment are trying to incorporate eco-friendly tactics with their fashion lines through the use of organic materials and sustainable production methods. With the fall season we all know this means one thing --the tents go up in New York and Los Angeles for Fashion Week. Fashion Week is not only the perfect way to broadcast a label's new developments; it notoriously sets the trends for upcoming seasons. And while up-and-coming designers may be more inclined to experiment with green initiatives, the prominent labels seem to be shying away from environmental efforts.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
is one of the world's most prestigious semi-annual fashion shows premiering designer collections from Vera Wang and Michael Kors, to Diane Von Furstenberg and Betsey Johnson. This year's spring/summer collections were debuted at Smashbox Studios in Culver City for the Los Angeles Fashion Week where the main tent finale; "The Green Initiative Humanitarian Fashion Show." This show displayed five segments of environmentally minded designers. Emily Factor started the event with her line of mermaid-like dresses and frocks with bright floral designs. The next line that was debuted, called M the movement, featured clothes made from bamboo and soy product, and charcoal. Lilikoi is an eco-friendly brand that focuses on clean production and sustainable fabric ingredients. Lilikoi fabrics are 100% naturally made from bamboo and organically grown cotton and linen. Furthermore, they consider the origin of their fabrics to ensure proper conditions of those who manufacture the fabrics.The final line that premired was by Smart Glass, which is a label that features products made from recycled glass and sterling silver. The designer, Kathleen Plate, has a strong passion for the earth and nature, which is reflective in her brand. Along with her designs composed from recycled glass, Plate donates some of her proceeds to her favorite charity foundations. These four out of the five lines use the earth to sell their products, yet they demonstrate passion for the environment and have the earth's best interest in mind.

There is a fine line between ethical commodification of the earth, however, and exploiting it. If a brand is truly devoted to the earth and offers sustainable options that give back to the environment, it can be seen as ethical. This idea was compromised by Ecoskin. EcoSkin is seemingly a legitimate and eco-friendly brand. Like the other labels, the fabric is organically grown and the manufacturing plant is monitored to ensure ethical working conditions. Yet, during the fashion show EcoSkin's segment included a monkey, wolf (below left), and a snake to walk down the catwalk, which has stirred much commentary across the blogosphere. In the L.A. Times blog author Melissa Magsaysay, an attendee and photographer quotes, "the poor beast was bewildered by the crowd, lights and loud music and the model was tugging him to stay on the runway" (in reference to the wolf). Even if the brand does not use animal fur or skin in their clothing, exploiting them on the runway is just as bad. Simply using organic products for fabrics does not make a brand eco-friendly. Being environmental should not be used as an easy way to market to consumers; it should instead be an all-encompassing passion and effort to help preserve the earth. EcoSkin is a prime example of manipulation and exploitation of the idea of "going green," and blurring the line between what is ethical and what is not. Another point that has been brought to my attention is how the animals were initially exploited. They came from, or were rented from, Animal Actors Worldwide (AAW), a full-service agency that loans out exotic animals. While their list of experience includes well known movies such as Borat, this does not legitimate the brand's environmentalism. Animals should not be exploited and used in a fashion show when the brand claims environmental conservatism; and Magsaysaysay further quotes, "Love them by leaving them in their home". The exploitation of animals is a whole other ethical topic to be discussed, but I would like to point out that this act by EcoSkin is inherently contradictory to the concept of being environmentally ethical. And due to the prestige of L.A. Fashion Week, these acts perpetuate a flawed logic that animal exploitation can be a part of an eco-friendly brand.

Despite unethical practices by some, there are more notable environmental fashion efforts that deserve to be acknowledged. Gen Art hosted "Fashionably Neutral," another fashion show that premiered during L.A's Fashion Week. Similarly, this show featured designs from Brigis Catiis, Popomomo, Velvet Leaf, and The Battalion with all brands promising a commitment to sustainability. Ian Gerard, Gen Art's Founder and CEO says, "Sustainable fashion has become more and more important every passing year with what's happening to the environment. So it's very exciting that this is our first green fashion show." It is comforting to know that some are able to capitalize on green marketing tactics, while keeping the environment, over profit, the main priority. Marketing is inherently persuasive and used accordingly to sell products and services. Knowing this, it is the designer's responsibility to maintain ethical practices when using green marketing.

1 comment:

Sean Calcagnie said...

First off I would like to comment you on such an interesting post and the fact it seems that our economy is slowly shifting to the idea of going “green”. I found it interesting when companies were using recycled thread or organic materials for their clothes. I feel one thing that needs to be noted is that the idea of going green has become a great marketing tool for fashion and the fact consumers are gravitating to companies that care for the environment it almost would seem like it’s a trend or a niche in the fashion market. The focus on green manufacturing and recycled materials is taking over the fashion trade it seems from your post and with regards that top shows are making it the highlight of the show, but I feel it will not last unless the industry sets specific standards or until consumers believe green materials will noticeably improve the lives of the economy.
One thing that will definitely help spark this new trend and create more awareness towards the issue is if high profile names begin to start wearing these new green fashions. I was wondering if you knew of any big names who have began to start changing their wardrobe to environmental friendly. I think that is very interesting topic because in today’s economy it has seemed that marketing is always best used when they have actors and sports stars seen wearing clothes because people want to be like them. Overall I feel this is a great post because it has to deal with a topic that is going to be an issue in the future and we are slowly transitioning into making our environment friendlier.

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