Fashion goes slow | How sustainability and recycling is changing the way we dress

Swedish upcycling label Rave Review recently sent models down the Copenhagen Fashion Week AW20 catwalk dressed in your nana’s floral duvet and broken crockery earrings. It earnt rave reviews (sorry, we’re better with hazardous waste than high waists).

The show underscored Copenhagen Fashion Week (CPHFW) new Sustainability Action Plan 2020-2022: Reinventing Copenhagen Fashion Week – Reducing negative impacts, innovating our business model and accelerating industry change. But you don’t need to have a front-row seat to Europe’s most innovative fashion labels to make a difference.

According to the World Economic Forum, in the last 15 years the industry has doubled production, while the time clothing is worn before it is thrown away has fallen by around 40%. When it is thrown away, 73% will be burned or buried in landfill. What does get collected for recycling – around 12% – will likely end up being shredded and used to stuff mattresses, or made into insulation or cleaning cloths. Less than 1% of what is collected will be used to make new clothing.

Recycling has changed not just how designers are sourcing and using fabric, but also society’s attitude to fashion. Op shops were once the musty-smelling answer to a minimal clothing budget – not anymore. They now stand alone as a portal for style-driven shoppers to nab a bargain and a look all of their own. Knitting is big. Sewing your own clothes even bigger.

“The timeframe for averting the devastating effects of climate change on the planet and people is less than a decade, and we’re already witnessing its catastrophic impacts today,” says Cecilie Thorsmark, CEO of Copenhagen Fashion Week. “All industry players – including fashion weeks – have to be accountable for their actions and be willing to change the way business is done.”