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Can cyberspace save fashion?

by | Oct 2, 2020

Fashion is approaching the future.  With a sold-out virtual reality Circular Fashion Summit taking place this weekend and a well-received 3D Helsinki Fashion Week that took place a few weeks ago, it’s no surprise that many think fashion’s future lies in cyberspace.  

But what do these two events intend to do to change the fundamentals of a flawed system? How will they effect change in supply chains, farming methods and sloppy consumer habits?

There is no doubt that Lorenzo Albrighi of the Circular Fashion Summit is right when he says, “Now more than ever we have felt the readiness of the market and the opportunity to truly accelerate the digitisation and transition of the fashion industry towards a global circular economy powered by collective action and technology.”

Expectations of whether the summit can achieve this acceleration are uncertain. In any case it is too soon to say. In the other example, feedback from an impact report of the HFW looks good: results indicate that for the 2018 physical event, the total footprint per visitor (8000 visitors) was 137 kg CO2-eq whilst for the 2020 digital HFW event, the total footprint per visitor ( 719,000 visitors) in 2020 was 0,66 kg CO2-eq. This is an incredible 99.5% reduction. 

Director of HFW Evelyn Mora says taking the fashion week into cyberspace meant leaving behind In Real Life values. She says, “We choose not to allow digital fashion to inherit the flaws of the IRL fashion industry”. She has set out to redefine the meaning of value and base it on the planet’s raw material resources, and not on economic growth. Evelyn hopes that “users can then export the digital world’s vision and tools back into the real world, thereby shaping the IRL industry on becoming more transparent, collaborative, traceable, efficient and sustainable, in all variations of its meaning”.

To be held in a virtual version of the iconic Grand Palais, the Circular Fashion Summit by lablaco  is pegged to be a pioneering event. Using VR headset attendees will be transported to the conference.

“Fashion, technology, ecology, circular economy… By hosting the Circular Fashion Summit we are at the heart of the Grand Palais’ mission since its inception: to be the place where we think of a new world… we are once again faithful to the roots of the Grand Palais, a place that has always been the place of innovation,” says Chris Dercon, the president of the Réunion des Musées Nationaux.

Alongside the panel talks at the summit, the Impact Design Hub in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, brings together a curated global selection of BIPOC-owned designer brands showcasing collections that respect the four impact design principles: Innovation in Materials, Process, People and Planet. South African designers, Sindiso Khumalo and Lukhanyo Mdingi will be participating in this.

“Our decision to curate a BIPOC hub is helping us dig deeper and amplify the voices of under-represented designers. Through exciting design, the selection reflects a future of fashion that is more supportive of local communities, more protective of traditional crafts and more mindful of the planet’s resources,” says Alexia Planas Lee of Circular Fashion Summit.

The intentions are impressive, and HFW’s report is positive, but the real test will be whether these events inspire, as Evelyn hopes, the IRL industry to “become more transparent, collaborative, traceable, efficient and sustainable, in all variations of its meaning”.

We’ll be watching and supporting with interest. 

  • To find out more, visit the Circular Fashion Summit’s website here and Helsinki Fashion Week here. 
  • Main image is a the digital venue for the Circular summit, the video is the 3mbassy film for HFW’s and the last two images are of content assets for Lukhanyo and Sindiso’s inclusion in the Impact Design Hub
  • Additional reporting by Catherine del Monte


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