Eco-consciousness is the new black
If this period in our lives has taught us anything, it’s that the tired out phrase “Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate” repeated in the mouths of multiple celebrities simply isn’t true. As A-listers lock themselves in their multi-million dollar mansions, Ellen Degeneres’ comment that “quarantine is like prison” reveals a disturbing ignorance to the shield that wealth affords. Against all odds, the cult of the celebrity is on tenuous ground as stars are being called out: for example, Idris Elba paying £295 to get tested despite having no symptoms, whilst health workers on the frontline are hardly receiving enough PPE, let alone testing. This crisis of the celebrity seems unprecedented considering just two months’ ago awards season was in full swing with the craze of who wore what at its centre, geared toward baiting millions of clicks from consumers seeking retail authority. With the increasing dissolution of the who, it beckons the question of what the fashion world we re-enter might look like. Already our so-called “quarantine on consumption” is having seismic waves in the industry as brands such as Louis Vuitton have directed their energy towards producing masks and other protective equipment. This shift towards the collective rather than the individual offers hope in the broader climate crisis that weighs upon us. The cult of celebrity implicit in the who, the consumer impact of wore and trend-driven click-and-buy habits beneath the what all demand dramatic overhauls as the minimum appropriate response.
The injustices of the fashion industry are well-documented, with statistics fit to drop jaws. Data reveals the textile industry emits more CO2 per year than international aviation and shipping combined. Meanwhile, lifeless rivers run pink and blue with dye from the chemicals dumped by the industry across regions of Indonesia, Pakistan and much more of Southern Asia. Local communities continue to foot the bill of our consumer habits while the wealth in one room at the Oscars’ could resolve these issues. The time has long past for the fashion industry to surpass shallow displays of solidarity from the elite with action to mitigate the collective harm it reaps.
It is the who of this genre that is indicative of our celebrity obsession. The fetish for the individual has made the £2 boohoo dress possible at a time when such demands for wardrobe novelty most urgently require disentangling from identity. The uniform movement, is led by characters like the tuxedoed Joaquin Phoenix, or before him Steve Jobs, who fashioned icons out of his Issey Miyake turtlenecks, Levi’s Jeans and New Balance. Indeed, fashion’s trend forecaster Li Edelkoort predicts “in the next decade…people will tire of consumption”. Edelkoort has a reputation for accuracy in her predictions, which has led her to great success in the fashion industry as a consultant to top brands like Prada and a dean at the Parsons School of Design. Therefore, she is unlikely to be wrong in asserting that to stay relevant, designers will have to “make much less, make it better and make it more expensive”. Her words instil hope that what often resembles a self-gratifying lifestyle trend could mutate into deeper collective regard for the future of our planet.
Addressing the wearers of this fashion requires just as urgent attention when celebrities and influencers now operate as not-so-covert billboards and product endorsements, all the while from their ivory tower. It’s hard to deny the effect these stars have on our habits when a glance at Vogue comes replete with biopsies of their wardrobes. Features of these glossy magazines include items like Kate Moss’ $150 panther-claw tunic she designed and wore for Topshop broke the internet, selling out in under 15 minutes. The need for positive role models to lead in undoing the belief that wearing a look twice is somehow a social faux pas is pressing. Endorsement of sustainable brands is the next step some have intrepidly begun. who wore what might better be asked as how they wore if what we want to emphasise is craftsmanship and styling, rather than the creation of more and more vapid trends.
But what is really at the heart of it all. The global footprint of garments is so increasingly horrifying that celebrities ought to be called out as often, if not more than they are praised, for what they wear. It is now common knowledge that designer brands are amongst the worst culprits of poor ethics regarding their environmental standards, with Burberry notorious for burning millions of pounds’ worth of stock each year to keep their brand image and supply chain intact. Still, the fashion industry seems to be waking up with the birth of companies like Bottletop (whose products are upcycled entirely from bottle tops) to the transformation of established luxury brands such as Prada who are moving towards sourcing all their nylon accessories from recycled material by 2021. In the face of real alternatives, celebrity endorsement and production strategies ought to both be brought up to speed. Most of all, we need to continue holding celebrities and fashion houses accountable for their actions, with a real possibility of who wore what being its forefront.