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Care What You Wear

The Troubling Ethics of Fashion in the Age of Climate Change

Is it possible to create beautiful clothing that doesn’t imperil the environment?

The companies at the top of the fashion pyramid spent much of the fall previewing their luxury wares for spring 2020 and making their semiannual argument for the value of beauty, craftsmanship, and lots and lots of stuff. In their pursuit of the next new thing to entice consumers, editors and retailers left a giant carbon footprint as they jetted from New York to London, Milan to Paris. Sustainability was not always front of mind for many of them, but it was nonetheless there in the offhand comments about the inherent waste of runway show sets, the luxury market’s growing exasperation with fast fashion and the existential angst that fashion was little more than white noise in a cacophonous news cycle.

Amid the anxiety, a lot of the clothes presented on the runways and in showrooms were emblematic of ready-to-wear at its most creative and daring, as well as classics of the highest caliber.