London Fashion Week was disrupted by protesters who want the industry to declare a climate emergency.
The streets of London were filled with protestors on Sunday as members of the climate action group Extinction Rebellion called on the British Fashion Council to declare a climate change emergency. Their goal was to disrupt London Fashion Week, "stopping traffic, creating gridlock and preventing vital personnel from moving between London Fashion Week venues."
The disruption remained peaceful, with no arrests occurring. Roads were shut down in seven-minute intervals by protesters wearing black to mourn those whose lives have been lost to climate change. They passed out leaflets explaining the crisis, marched with placards reading, "Rebel for life!" and chanted, "What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now!” Drivers were, for the most part, willing to listen and speak with the protesters.
Extinction Rebellion had written a letter to the British Fashion Council in advance of the protests, urging it to take more decisive action. It recognized that efforts have been made to become more sustainable, but that progress isn't being made fast enough and 'business as usual' must be stopped. From the letter:
"London Fashion Week is a key driver of global trends. If the BFC could use its influential position to tell the truth about climate change, there would be a surge in popular support for climate action. The industry has the potential to transform itself to be a cultural and creative force that stops the trend of excessive consumption."
The fashion industry is notoriously damaging to the climate, the second most polluting industry in the world after oil and gas extraction. This is due to the vast resources and chemicals required to grow textile crops, manufacture clothing and shoes, and transport them to global markets; the enormous problem of plastic microfibres being released when synthetic fabrics are laundered; and the methane emitted when fabrics decompose in landfill, which is happening at an ever-higher rate due to a disposable fashion culture that's showing no signs of slowing down.
Clare Farrell, a fashion designer and co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, said in a press release that, over the past 15 years, global clothing consumption has doubled while utilization – how often clothes are worn – has decreased by 36 percent. Meanwhile, total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production, at 1.2 billion tonnes annually, exceeds those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined (via the Guardian). She said,
"While the fashion industry is not responsible for the unsustainable system it exists within, it is a key driver of global trends and a significant source of ecological devastation... The fashion industry’s influence permeates deep within culture and radiates globally."
The protests were an effective way to capture people's attention and force them to think about the issue for at least a few minutes. You can expect to be hearing a lot more about Extinction Rebellion in the coming months. They're on to something.