S & S In Brief: Sustainability Highlights at Paris Fashion Week

Introducing Koba: Stella McCartney’s sustainable solution to faux fur 

Over the past few years we’ve seen a wave of high-profile fashion houses in the luxury sector make the departure from real fur.

With the glaringly obvious violation of animal rights that are synonymous with what was once considered the most luxurious material, blood on the hands of designers and wearers has long been out of fashion and has gained one or two celebrities a firm scolding/lashings of red paint, i.e. Kim Kardashian. 

With that being said, it’s ‘cruelty free’ sister faux fur, has its negative environmental externalities attached.

The impact of faux fur on the ecosystems and emission levels has been somewhat overlooked as it is often selected as a viable alternative. However, its use of petroleum in production, modacrylic for higher quality or polyester, albeit recyclable, but of a much lower quality has a large carbon footprint and dismal impact on the planet when assessed through its life cycle.

Cue Stella…. ever the head of pioneering sustainable materials in the industry, it was announced at Paris Fashion Week that the designer is soon to launch Koba. This biodegradable textured faux fur substitute has been created with the objective of creating industry wide collaboration and adoption of a material designed to save the planet yet simultaneously not scrimping on the traits of luxury fabrics expected by an LVMH Maison. 

Stella McCartney collaborated with Ecopel, a faux fur developer and Dupont, a chemical conglomerate to construct the textile. So how sustainable is Koba? Made from corn by-product and blended with recycled polyester, this bio-based material uses up to 30% less energy and produces 63% less greenhouse gas emissions than polyester. Post garment life, Koba embraces circularity as its modular components allow it to be recycled with other polyester products. 

Why did we need this? As aforementioned, the omission of real for faux fur has seen an increase of 24% year on year since A/W19 products according to Edited analyst Kayla Marci. Whilst at a more incremental pace, alternative faux fur items at luxury price points have increased by 13%. 

In a statement following the showcase of Koba, Claire Bergkamp, Stella McCartney’s worldwide Director of Sustainability and Innovation, said “We want to give people the option to look the way they want to look and do it in a sustainable way. Polyester isn’t the same quality that we want, and the modacrylic doesn’t give us the sustainability that we want. This is a way of bridging that gap. This has to be a collaborative effort. It is a moment of climate crisis — and it is a genuine crisis. We want to show what’s possible, and show that these sustainable improvements can be beautiful [and] luxurious.”

As one of her first moves since joining LVMH, Stella’s introduction of Koba signals she won’t be slowing down in the war on climate action. Adorned by supermodel Natalia Vodianova in the guise of a gorgeous new season coat on the front row, I will look forward to seeing how this biodegradable breakthrough in faux fur develops and is embraced across the luxury and mass fashion markets. 

Pluralistic Gardens presented at Paris Fashion Week by Dior & Maria Grazia Chiuri 

Majestic greenery with the intention of planting for the future made a beautiful set for the runway of Dior’s Paris S/S 20 show. 

The backdrop for Maria Grazia Chiuri’s stunning designs consisted of 164 trees ready for planting, sourced from nurseries in France, Germany and Paris. 

In a collaboration with Atelier Coloco, a collective which employs botanists, gardeners, landscape designers and urban planners, their philosophy to facilitate “active exchange between citizens and nature” through communal gardens is aligned to the heritage of Christian Dior. Symbolism of the brand has long been intrinsic with nature and gardens with the archives of the designer featuring on many of their iconic floral dresses. His affinity to the outside world was also driven by his sister Catherine’s, love of gardening. The garments at this show embraced botanical prints inspired by 17th-century German botanist Maria Sybilla Merian. 

Post-Paris runway, the flora and fauna will continue travelling across the city to be repurposed at sustainable projects across the city. Each individual tree has been tagged with its origin and future destination printed. With the intention of reinforcing wooded areas, this includes garden greenery in the city centre, the Good Planet Foundation in Longchamp, the Murs à Pêches site in Montreuil as well as Base 217, the former Air Force base in Brétigny-Sur-Orge. 

Planting project aside, the remaining construction of the set was recyclable and plastic free. The Dior team confirmed the show was in line with its zero-waste policy and sustainability commitment. Championed by Chiuri, a realist within the industry, she noted the message of the show is not a true reflection of the current state of the fashion industry, which continues to damage the environment. Backstage she poignantly said “Fashion has a voice and the power to speak to people, but right now I have many more questions than I have answers.”

This article was originally published in collaboration with Fashion Roundtable.

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