Extinction Rebellion at LFW SS20 Photo: Photo Henry Nicholls/Reuters, reblogged.
On the last day of London Fashion Week SS20, Extinction Rebellion staged its funeral, the culmination of a march which began in Trafalgar Square and ended at 180 The Strand, where fashion week shows had been taking place.
Theirs was a protest against fast fashion, in the wake of its ominous effects on the planet's climate. I read about it in the news and I also read a very thoughtful article in The Guardian penned by Jess Carter-Morley on the role of fashion week in the age of late capitalism.
I was tempted to join the march but:
1. I agree with Extinction Rebellion that fast fashion is among the culprits; however, I am not totally sold on ER's methods and
2. I took part in London Fashion Week, although the show I was in was not among the mainstream ones staged by the British Fashion Council, but a complementary one staged by Fashion Scout ( I was also in two other ones which simply took place during fashion week, but had no connection with it). Joining the march would have been, for me, a case of cognitive dissonance.
As a model, I am caught up in the mystique of fashion week: I want to be on the runway, modelling for fashion week is regarded as a plum job, not because of the money, but because of the status it confers. Fashion Week, the Musical of Late Stage Capitalism, as Carter-Morley calls it, holds such an allure that even casting directors have been known to work for free on behalf of designers, to cast their models.
Modelling for IA London, Fashion Scout, LFW SS20. Photo: Olivia Ferrara-Forbes
The gowns were pretty awful and I was glad I was spared, but the pitiful look she gave me, wondering why someone like me would even dare come near her clothes, made me realise that despite all the noise, the policy of positive representation is still, by and large, pretty meaningless.
When I stop regarding the issue from my narrow model's perspective (I often wonder why I am still doing it, but that's another story), I know there is a real problem with the system and that the fashion week, with or without diverse representation in model casting, should go. This season LFW was about #Positive Fashion, but as Maeve Campbell writes, only six events were part of PF. It was by and large just a buzzword...
But the point is that we do not need new clothes, we need a new way of wearing clothes, avoiding waste, avoiding exploitation at all levels. We need fashion for real bodies. Thus we do not need expensive fashion week shows. Surely, there are other ways for designers to engage with their prospective buyers and show their work. As a consumer (I cannot help being one, it is part and parcel of our capitalist society) I want to know that what I am wearing is durable and it has not been made by a woman or child paid a pittance somewhere in Asia, North Africa or even Eastern Europe. I want greater agency in the way I style myself, I do not need fashion trends. I want real diversity of representation in fashion as well as in life.
If we do away with the Fashion Week as such, it will not spell the end of fashion, only the demise of exploitative fashion. Extinction Rebellion has buried it. Let's join in a celebration. There is a 'hereafter' for fashion, now that the Fashion Week has been buried.