Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Is this the beginning of the end for the fashion show?

Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood casts doubt on the future of runway

Designers Andreas Kronthaler and Vivienne Westwood, at the Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood spring / summer 2020 show in Paris. AFP 
Designers Andreas Kronthaler and Vivienne Westwood, at the Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood spring / summer 2020 show in Paris. AFP 

There is always something provocative about a Vivienne Westwood show.

Be it a protest against climate change or casting a spotlight on social injustice, this punk-turned designer has rebellion in her blood. The same is true of her husband designer Andreas Kronthaler, who now heads up Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, an arm of her label.

Bella Hadid models at the Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2020 show in Paris. AFP 
Bella Hadid models at the Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood spring / summer 2020 show in Paris. AFP

Showing as part of Paris Fashion Week this weekend, Kronthaler delivered a collection that was the best of both of them, blending his deconstructed style with Westwood’s unmistakable corsets. True to form, he then caused minor controversy by stating that “I am not sure how much longer fashion weeks will be feasible for, in the future.”

Citing concerns over the huge carbon footprint that surrounds fashion week he went on to explain that, as a label that stood against climate crisis, it now had to make the issue a priority.

Bella Hadid models at the Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2020 show in Paris. AFP 
A model walks at the Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood spring / summer 2020 show in Paris. AFP

Although attending fashion shows is tremendous fun, Kronthaler has a very valid point. In terms of the impact it has on the planet, time may well be running out on this glorious – if gloriously wasteful – spectacle.

The UN has declared the fashion industry to be “an environmental and social emergency”, that is responsible for a whopping 20 per cent of the worlds waste water. That's without mentioning the hundreds of tons of discarded clothes that go straight to landfill each year.

Vivienne Westwood wearing a "Buy Less" top at the  Archive Exhibition in Berlin 2017. Getty  
Vivienne Westwood wearing a 'Buy Less' top at the Archive Exhibition in Berlin 2017. Getty Images

The biggest and most influential ready to wear fashion weeks are held twice a year in four countries. On top of this are the men’s ready to wear shows (also twice a year) plus the collections for haute couture (ditto). In between come the resort and pre-fall collections that are shown pretty much wherever the designer fancies, and have popped up in libraries in Brazil, New York airports, graveyards and even lavender fields in France.

Each show will have a custom-made runway, or set, that will exist for a few days before it is torn down, while hundreds of models, editors, influencers, hair stylists, make-up artists, company PRs, and favoured clients fly in, clutching beautifully printed invitations that may well have been courier to their door.

Fleets of cars, taxis and motorbikes ferry the crowd from one show to the next, and on to store openings and private soirees, that may well pump millions of dollars into each local economy, but also dump countless kilograms of pollution and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The global reach of fashion means the front row is no longer the preserve of editors who interpret and dissect the looks for the wider public, but is instead populated with influencers and music stars, already dressed in looks not yet seen, and who tweet, post and hashtag the event in real time.

Shows are also increasingly streamed live, lighting up social media with every famous face and look before it is even finished, transmitting every element instantly to an audience of millions.

Vivienne Westwood wearing her Climate Knot-Wrap. Lush
Vivienne Westwood wearing her Climate Knot-Wrap. Courtesy Lush

As connection speeds increase, having an assigned slot within a schedule in front of a seated audience is seeming increasingly outdated. Yes, it is fun (even in rain soaked Paris) and yes, every show creates lifelong memories for the audience, but is it really the best way to proceed, moving forward?

In short, unthinkable though it seems, has the fashion show had its day?

Countless jobs rely on the fashion circuit and all its foibles, yet as the world wakes up to the enormous damage we are doing to the planet, perhaps now is the time to follow Westwood and Kronthaler, and start to think about a different, less damaging way to show off new designs.

As a visual feast, the fashion show with its lighting, music and spine tingling atmosphere takes some beating, but it seems the dynamic, anarchic duo of Westwood and her husband are broaching a topic that no one else has the courage to face. That amid the crowds and the noise, and the pinch-me feeling of watching models sweep past, now is the time to find an alternative to the indulgent magic that is the fashion show.

Updated: September 29, 2019 05:15 PM

SHARE

SHARE