Climate activist group Extinction Rebellion has this week released an open letter challenging Fashion to “transform our culture of consumption and destruction”.
Extinction Rebellion activists, as part of Fashion Act Now, have composed an open letter in video form to the fashion industry, which replays the industry’s own words of radical change back to them. The letter, voiced by intersectional climate activist, educator and mental health advocate Tori Tsui, features quotes spoken by leading industry figures during Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, and speaks to Fashion at a crossroad: do we carry on the way we are, or reimagine fashion as a regenerative system that puts the planet first?
The release of this video marks the launch of a new campaign by Extinction Rebellion called Fashion Act Now, which calls upon the industry to work fast enough in its role to mitigate climate and ecological breakdown. Released during Paris Fashion Week, this is part of an ongoing call from Extinction Rebellion for a cancellation of the Fashion Week format and its culture of newness and excess, which the group says has no place in this environmental emergency.
The film, directed by Tessa Edwards and Kailash Bharti, is shot on woodland that is recovering from a forest fire with new green shoots pushing through charred wood. The images laid over reference the strain fashion is putting on nature and the fragility of the entire system.
“This is not about the environmental record of those quoted in our letter but their massive cultural influence,” says Clare Farrell, one of the activists behind the Fashion Act Now campaign. “The fashion and luxury sectors promote resource and carbon heavy lifestyles, elitism and exclusion. Creative directors of luxury brands have influence over the wealthiest people in the world. The 10% wealthiest, those earning $35,000 a year, are responsible for more than 52% of our global carbon footprint; and the wealthiest 1%, those earning $100,000 a year, contribute double the footprint of the 50% least wealthiest.
“We are in a crisis of the environment but also of culture, politics and economics. It’s beyond time for change and our industry knows it.”
The letter quotes Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council; Virgil Abloh, artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s Menswear; Olivier Rousteing, creative director of Balmain; Stella McCartney; Marc Jacobs; Paul Dillinger, vice president, head of global product innovation at Levi Strauss & Co; Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci; and Anthony Vaccarello, creative director of Saint Laurent.
Extinction Rebellion says that while Stella McCartney has been a pioneer in sustainable fashion, actively driving change across the industry, the quotes in this letter demonstrate that lockdown has been a turning point for many other brands to get on board or review pledges.
But still the fashion industry remains one of the most polluting and wasteful industries. With fashion consumption predicted to grow by 63% over the next decade, the efforts to make the industry sustainable could be far outweighed. The Global Fashion Agenda recently reported that on its current path, the fashion industry will miss its 2030 emissions targets by 50%. Despite talks of circularity, the fashion industry is almost totally reliant on virgin resources, with less than 1% of clothing recycled into new and 60% of clothing made from plastic.
“We want people to remember what was said during this time of reflection,” says Sara Arnold, from the Fashion Act Now team, which also includes Lucy Siegle, Clare Press, Remake, Global Fashion Exchange amongst others. This is a call for the industry, one meant to be so in touch with zeitgeist, to use their creativity to galvanise fashion’s full potential to save life on Earth,” says Sara Arnold, from the Fashion Act Now team, which also includes Lucy Siegle, Clare Press, Remake, Global Fashion Exchange amongst others .
“We need a global awareness of the impact that fashion has, not only on our physical environments, but also people. It is no surprise that the same systems that lead to over consumption and environmental degradation are the same ones that further subjugate and exploit marginalised people.”