Warning: Constant WP_DEBUG already defined in /usr/home/huckleberry/domains/messmag.com/public_html/wp-config.php on line 84 Ganni – The Question Of Sustainability In High Fashion Brands – Mess Magazine

Picture courtesy of Hypebae.

Is Copenhagen Fashion Week’s Ganni As Economically ’Responsible’ As It Claims To Be?

The topic of sustainability is more relevant now in 2023 than it has ever been, and will only increase and continue to spark more debate in the coming years because of the controversial discourse that it naturally gives rise to. This article questions whether the big brands promoting sustainability as one of their core values, are really as sustainable and ecocentric as they claim to be? Looking closely at some of the current media posts being published around sustainability within fashion, we also dismantle sustainability as a concept, and shed light on the problematic matters around ’sustainable responsibility’ and in how it is really measured and determined. CPHFW’s Ganni is the main point of discussion for top fashion week designers and the imperative focus of recent controversy and backlash.

What does sustainability in fashion mean?

On 8 February, ‘Business of Fashion’ published a thought-provoking post on their Instagram page that drew attention to the paradoxical nature of sustainability in the fashion industry. The post comprises a series of statements made by Beth Esponnette; co-founder of the fashion-tech startup company unspun, aimed at solving ethical issues within the industry.

Beth makes the point that if you ’replace ”sustainable” with ”less bad” in today’s fashion headlines, you get a more accurate picture of reality.’ This seems an appropriate place to start in the process of dismantling what exactly sustainability means. The word ’sustainable’ as we know it within the context of fashion refers to garments that have been produced in a way that is mindful of the many environmental issues that are prevalent within our culture today.

One of the three statements that Beth makes is shown in the image below, taken from the BOF Instagram page. The quote scrutinises the reality of sustainability, claiming that it actually involves “the demand for materials that shouldn’t exist in the first place”. This implies that the grounds for sustainability are only really built on a moral failure within the fashion industry. Wasted and unused fabrics utilised in the sustainability process are only present because of a human failure to apply them to production and manufacture in the first place. If stricter regulations were in place to reduce waste, perhaps the need to recover discarded fabrics wouldn’t be so imperative. This idea is emphasised by Beth as “actually moving down the lifecycle chain.” Is this the sad reality for ostensibly ’progressive’ movements within the fashion industry?

Sustainability Pledges in High Fashion – Ganni’s Responsibility Report

It seems logical then, from this standpoint; to assess what action fashion brands are taking in regards to being more ethical and whether they are taking a more waste-free approach. Copenhagen-based brand Ganni has one of the widest-scale sustainability pledges in contemporary ready-to-wear fashion. Labelled on their website as the ’Ganni Responsibility Report 2021’, Ganni state that they achieved 30 of their 44 Gameplan goals in 2021, and that the rest was to be tackled in 2022. This has yet to be updated, sparking the question of whether they are really sticking to their oath or not.

Ganni claims that ‘In 2021, we used even more responsible materials with 92% of our Spring Summer 2022 collection styles being certified organic, lower-impact or recycled. We also saw some major advances with our Fabrics of the Future initiative, our in-house lab where we trial new and exciting fabric innovations: We made shoes out of grapes, we confirmed that we will be using INFINNA™, a breakthrough regenerated fibre from textile waste plus we are aiming to launch five Fabrics of the Future per year from 2022 onwards.’ There is arguably not a lot here to indicate a waste-free approach, and the innovative yet bizarre concept of making shoes out of grapes has connotations of the earlier point made by Beth Esponnette, of “moving down the lifecycle chain.”

This move toward a ’circular economy’ within the fashion industry was part of Ganni’s plan to eliminate all animal leather use by 2023, phasing out the material entirely from the brand’s S/S 2022 ready-to-wear. The process apparently involves using left-over grape skins from winemaking, vegetable oils and natural fibres from agriculture. However, the occlusion of detail surrounding the production, manufacture and exportation of the shoe-making process is perhaps intentional, and leaves much to the imagination regarding the true sustainable impact. Is making shoes out of grapes really as ehtical as Ganni professes it to be, or is it merely an act of ’moral licensing’?

Controversy and Backlash – CPHFW

There is much to be said of sustainability in Ganni’s Responsibility Report, yet it is curious that there is no real evidence to support such propositions. Despite having so much to say on the subject, Ganni’s AW23 show at Copenhagen Fashion Week comprised an ostentatious show of yellow confetti which we can only hope was made out of biodegradable and environmentally-friendly materials. There appears to be no statement made on this subject however.

This isn’t the first time that Ganni has received criticism over the execution of their Fashion Week shows. Its Fall 2019 fashion show for CPHFW was accused of being “tone-deaf” for displaying photos of women in underdeveloped countries taken by award-winning National Geographic photojournalist Ami Vitale as models walked the runway. The collection, titled “Life On Earth,” centres around sustainability and the global #GanniGirl. The models wore bright knits, animal print midi skirts with leather gloves, glittering gowns, and dresses that resembled watercolour paintings. During the show, they cat-walked past photos of women from developing countries, such as India and Sri Lanka — the main point of contention being the question of how exactly showing Brown women from underdeveloped countries aligns with sustainability and how they are benefitting from this.

This seems contradictory when looking at Ganni’s website which is rife with political statements about gender equality and female-driven movements – “as with all our responsibility work, it’s ever-evolving. We will continue to champion equality through our partnership with UN Women and as a signatory of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles.” Having signed the UN Women Empowerment Principles in August 2020, it is all-the-more disappointing that Ganni did not avoid backlash surrounding female representation prior to that point.

Ultimately, this leads us to believe that premium brands are not doing as much as they can to give aid to a waste-free trajectory. More evidence needs to be provided to substantiate such claims around sustainability before we can fully trust what brands are telling us.

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