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The innovation and sustainability of creating images during lockdown

by | Jun 22, 2020

Fashion is heavily reliant on visual communication. In both editorial media and brand marketing, clothes need to be seen. Among all that has been paused or changed by the pandemic, Covid-19 has affected fashion image production too. While plenty had to be placed on hold some work had to continue, like the fashion weeks that hadn’t been cancelled and regular editorial features by media brands with stringent daily traffic targets. That work has been a creative challenge, one with some interesting results that may hold opportunities for improving sustainability in image-making.

In an effort to minimise crews and maximise social distancing, both Vanity Fair and Teen Vogue [see promotional video below] have shot editorials using remotely-operated drone cameras. Self-portraiture, as illustrated by Robert Pattinson’s recent GQ feature, has some potential as well, though it is limited by the subject’s photography knowledge and location. Some experiments in remote portraiture have been successful, like The Cut’s cover profile of Chloë Sevigny shot over a Zoom call or Interview Magazine’s Facetime shoot with Tracee Ellis Ross. Motion capture and 3D design also have exciting potential, with companies like The Fabricant continuously developing capabilities and applications. Similar tech is already being masterfully applied, like in designer Anifa Mvuemba’s digital fashion show for her Pink Label Congo collection and Angel Chen’s show for her brand’s AW20 collection.


There’s little data to be found on the impact of physical or digital image production across fashion, as so much analysis is focused on the impact of manufacturing, but a look at the elements involved provides a starting point for consideration. Many of these creative solutions do not require physical locations, transport, or services and amenities, like food and heat for the duration of the shoot. These all use resources and generate waste in ways that often go unaccounted for.

Comparing the impact of these experimental methods to more traditional approaches is a worthwhile exercise. Fashion is always looking for new ways to present itself to the world, and these new experimental methods have proven efficient as tools for storytelling and sales. While I don’t believe anything we’ve seen so far will replace existing processes and creativity or the value they deliver, I do see these experiments adding variety to what’s available, and possibly introducing options with smaller environmental footprints.


Images: The 3D fashion triptych is by Hanifa, from their Pink Label Congo collection presentation, the Chloe Sevigny The Cut cover was shot by Elizaveta Porodina; and the drone video with Chloe & Halle is TeenVogue, shot by Canon Brownell (Photography by Elizabeth Weinberg)

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