This piece originally appeared on REMAKE
This season was my first time serving as a Remake Humans of Fashion correspondent during Paris Fashion Week. As a conscious fashion advocate, I am passionate about my advocacy, but truthfully, I was nervous about discussing it with the fashion community at PFW because I knew that it could potentially be an uncomfortable topic. I braced myself for the possibility of encountering resistance or lack of interest, and prepared by making sure that I asked the right questions that would break the ice gracefully.
When I arrived on the scene, I saw everything I would expect to see each season: a myriad of outfits ranging from head-to-toe luxury designer wear to those who had daring personal style. Because PFW is regarded as the most prestigious among all the fashion weeks, it attracts a fascinating international crowd ranging from industry icons to newly minted students, and everyone has their own distinctive look. During that week, the global fashion community collides, and the photographers are all waiting to capture the best looks. The already stylish (but usually monochrome) Paris gets a jolt of electricity from its colorful and fabulous guests, and they are just as fun to watch (if not more) than the actual shows on the runways!
As I scope the scene, I pick out someone whose look catches my eye. After complimenting my chosen subject on their outfit (almost everyone at PFW was dressed to the nines after all), I proceeded by asking the basic questions: their name, and whether they worked in the industry. I then asked what they liked about fashion, and what they didn’t like. I found that these questions helped to warm up the conversation, and helped to serve as a launch pad towards more meatier conversations around ethics, sustainability, and overall thoughts about what the fashion world was doing right, as well as what they can and should improve.
To my surprise, more than half of the attendees that I spoke to had some familiarity with conscious fashion, and a good number of them were already deeply involved in our movement as designers.
As they say, social good is ‘hot’ on the runways right now, and even though this can be superficial, I personally find it positive that an “a-wear-ness” has sparked, hopefully leading to active participation and real change.
Meanwhile, 40% of the people I talked to were completely unaware about the myriad of social justice and environmental issues surrounding fashion. What was interesting was this group was also not at all interested in delving more. For those I interviewed who didn’t have any knowledge in ethical fashion, what we had in common was a love for the fashion universe. Many of them commented at how much they appreciate the creativity within fashion, and it’s ability to give us a language of personal expression through the clothes we wear. However, they didn’t seem very interested to learn how they might be able to wear their values.
Still, I was encouraged that about 60% of the interviewees I engaged with were somewhat aware of conscious fashion.
I was heartened that these conversations were meaningful. We bonded over a shared advocacy and joy that we found each other at PFW–it was like finding a special tribe among the fashion crowd!
One such conversation was with designer Sadeem Alshehail from Saudi Arabia, who I met at the “Fashion Forward Dubai” showroom, which aimed to launch Middle Eastern designers in the international market. Sadeem shared her journey towards creating an ethical luxury brand, which was inspired by her schooling at Pratt Institute. She explained that she was once a buyer, and originally wanted to pursue a new degree to ‘grow her empire’, but because her curriculum at Pratt revolved around the UN Development goals, she unexpectedly shifted her priorities to ensure that she wasn’t only going to design beautiful clothes, but impactful solutions too. I was happy to see that her collection of tailored, elegant, nautical inspired dresses was displayed among other decadently designed dresses. It wasn’t categorized as the lone ‘ethical brand’, but rather, just another brand that belongs with the luxury line-up. She added, “Most people think about luxury and then ethical as tie-dye or hemp dresses. But I really want to make luxury ethical.”
I had not expected to find so many like-minded slow fashion movement makers at PFW, from designers to stylists who were already working towards a more equitable, sustainable industry. It made me feel hopeful for fashion’s future, and even though there is a long, long way to go, I know that the changemakers are out there, putting in the work to make sure that social good becomes a timeless classic, on and off the runway.
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