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Dana Evann Sorge

Vogue Italia January 2020: Green, or Green-Washing?

A selection of illustrated covers from Vogue Italia January 2020. Image: Vogue Italia


For this month’s issue of Vogue Italia, the iconic magazine returned to a 20th-Century practice. A long, long time ago, before there was fashion photography and the proliferation of information and materials in minutes, the latest fashion collections were illustrated. Now, in an effort to become more sustainable, the magazine ditched photoshoots and replaced them with drawings of Gucci F/W 2020 by emerging and established artists for their January issue. But is this an example of green-washing at its finest, or a true commitment to preserving our natural resources? As someone who has worked on the set of countless fashion shoots, many for Conde Nast directly, I can say with certainty that this new marketing mode will not move the proverbial needle.

What’s so resource-intensive about a fashion shoot? “One hundred and fifty people involved. About twenty flights and a dozen or so train journeys. Forty cars on standby. Sixty international deliveries. Lights switched on for at least ten hours non-stop, partly powered by gasoline-fueled generators. Food waste from the catering services. Plastic to wrap the garments. Electricity to recharge phones, cameras…” Emanuele Farneti, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia said in a statement recently.

I saw these resources wasted first hand for years on set for shoots for Conde Nast, Bergdorf Goodman, and some of the biggest fashion brands in the world. In fact, it was part of what lead me to start Shop Tomorrows. I was so disturbed by the waste on set. There must have been hundreds of pounds of food thrown away at the end of the shoot day, and hundreds more tiny plastic water bottles. Massive wood set pieces and fabric backdrops, never to be used again. And on commercials, where clothing was purchased and rarely “borrowed” from the designer, as it is on editorial shoots, there was nothing to do with the thousands of dollars of fast fashion garments worn for a few hours once they were shot.

The issue is certainly a creative way to grab attention and shed light on these fashion shoot costs, but it offers no long term solutions and fails to address the crux of the problem: The industry perpetuates an endless cycle of buy-wear-toss that is running our natural resources dry and polluting our planet. There is no denying the statistics: The fashion industry is responsible for a whopping 8% of all climate impact. That’s more than the impact of maritime shipping and international costs combined. Industry practices consume 98 million tons of nonrenewable resources every year. And last year, the industry pushed our north of 100 billion new garments from virgin fibers on to the market.

Instead of reselling, reusing or upcycling what isn’t purchased, it is industry standard to burn unsold stock. The #burberryburn scandal of 2018 revealed that the company incinerated $38 million of clothing and accessories. H&M, of the “Conscious Collection” label that purports to be committed to a circular economy, not-so- infamously fuels an entire town with the 19 tons of obsolete clothing it burns, despite its commitment to a circular economy. What’s so circular about that?

The industry’s objective is closet churn: In with the old and out with the new. Longevity is not valued. Secondhand is thankfully becoming more mainstream with more companies like Shop Tomorrows emerging in the resale space. But retail mammoths want the consumer to do just that: consume. Overproduction has lead to a planet overburdened by clothing and textile waste. The average consumer has 150 items in her closet, and wears only seven of them on a regular basis.

The depth of the environmental crisis is far too deep for one publicity stunt to repair. And while I applaud the magazine for raising awareness or resource-intensive shoots, it’s time for the industry to replace conspicuous consumption with conscious consumption.

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