Fashion Month: Gender, Inclusion and Sustainability

As seen on Fashion Roundtable.

After eighteen months of predominantly virtual fashion shows, this month both New York and London fashion weeks made their partial return to real-life shows. I’ve worked at fashion week in the past, and there is nothing quite like being part of the frenetic energy backstage. Catching a first glimpse of an emerging designer and standing vigil to the raw talent — witnessing the art of it all, before the dilution and mass-consumerism by the fast fashion industry. Their return feels inherently nostalgic, with street style re-emerging in an almost post-war decadence. It feels like a step towards some form of normality. However, with the prominent environmental and social issues within the fashion industry now under increased scrutiny, the tone this year felt markedly more authentic, as some brands looked to showcase gender-fluidity, inclusion and sustainability.

No-one did this better at NYFW than Prabal Gurung who kicked off the SS22 shows with a colourful mix of formalwear and athleisure. Inspired by last year’s social movements, the collection broke down any archaic notions of gender and nationality, with the most provocative corsetry worn by male-presenting models.

Who Decides War’s fourth collection was an authentic range of what the duo do best — denim and embroidery. The focus was a redefinition of Americana through their shared experiences as people of colour, with references to Black Civil Rights leaders, heritage and resourcefulness. You could see this commentary through embroidered panels and a focus on thrifted deadstock fabrics, with all the distressing done by hand.

Mimi Prober’s collection looked to her own roots, channelling her dad’s time in the music industry as inspiration for this showcase. All of the fabrics used in her collection were made by hand, as well as the bobbin laces which were made by a women’s guild in India. The screen-printed poster art on t-shirts was composed of botanical natural dyes. While 1970’s Levis were re-worked to make one-off denim pieces.

While Collina Strada produced a purposeful and thoughtful collection from deadstock fabric, reworking pieces that were unable to be sold due to lockdown.

Vivienne Westwood revisited the archive with an ode to some of her most iconic 90’s pieces as part of a contemporary pirate-buccaneer themed collection “Save Our Souls, SOS!” As is customary, sustainability was the lifeblood of the show, with no virgin synthetic fabrics used — a first for Westwood. All the wool used, for example, originated from regenerative farms with welfare a big focus.

Although it’s refreshing to have fashion week back on our calendars, the frivolity of previous years has felt somewhat absent this season, with more of a focus than ever before on sustainability and inclusion. While these prominent issues have featured as a bloodline to a number of brands, it is clear that others are still toying with the idea. The fashion industry is one of the most thriving industries, yet also one of the most polluting. Raising awareness of climate change at this stage, isn't enough and the fashion industry has a major role to play in making drastic systemic changes to sustain our planet, as consumers move well away from style without substance. The question is, can fashion deliver long-term?