What Was Fashion Doing at COP26?
Trading buzzwords, talking circularity and grappling with the role of clothes in the climate crisis.
The first time fashion got anywhere near an official United Nations climate conference like the one just held in Glasgow was in 2009. That was COP15 (COP stands for “conference of the parties”), and it was held in Copenhagen. I write “near” a COP because back then fashion was not considered central to the climate conversation. It wasn’t, somehow, serious enough.
Fashion was so marginalized, in fact, that in order to talk about its role in creating, and fighting, climate change, it had to hold its own conference. And so the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, which focuses on sustainability, was born.
It took more than a decade, but things have changed. There has been a lot of talk this year about financial bigwigs finally coming to the COP table, but this is the first year that fashion had a meaningful, extended presence. As Stella McCartney, who created a special “Future of Fashion” materials exhibition at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery said, after almost two decades of pushing fashion to acknowledge its effect on the environment, she was a “COP virgin” no longer.
Here’s what else stuck with me from COP26.
1. There was plenty of official action.
Smack in the middle of the Blue Zone (the official delegate area — that is, the one where world leaders spoke), there was an installation by a fashion collective called Generation of Waste made to mimic a bar chart of the various stages of textile waste, from design through raw materials, garment production and so on.
The United Nations Environment Program released a new version of the fashion charter initially created in 2018, now with 130 signatory companies, including, for the first time, LVMH, and with stronger commitments to halve carbon emissions by 2030 (and reach net zero by 2050).
On the fringe, Federico Marchetti, the former Yoox Net a Porter chairman, unveiled a digital ID created by the fashion task force of Prince Charles’s Sustainable Markets Initiative: a scannable garment tag that acts like a DNA trace for a product’s manufacturing history, using blockchain technology.
And Textile Exchange, an NGO that sounds like a fabric trading post but actually focuses on creating global standards in fashion, presented a trade policy request to national governments supported by 50 brands. That is an unsexy term for a plea to create tariff and import-export structures that incentivize companies to use “environmentally preferred materials” rather than, say, polyester. Which is, by the way, the most used material in the entire fashion industry.
Read full article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/17/style/cop26-fashion-sustainability.html