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Sustainable Denim Is Finding a Home on the Runway

It’s no secret that sustainable fashion is getting more attention on the runway. According to a new report from fashion search engine Tagwalk, fully sustainable and upcycled looks were featured about 100 percent more often in F/W 2020 collections than they were in F/W 2019 collections.

Of these eco-conscious looks, one of the most commonly featured materials was sustainable or upcycled denim, which made up 5 percent of the responsibly made items, the report said. Other materials included knit and lace.

One of the luxury brands highly regarded in the report was Stella McCartney, a label it called a “pioneer of the sustainable on the runway.” The brand’s use of Coreva—a plant-based stretch denim by Candiani Denim—organic cotton and recycled polyester, along with its refusal to use fur, leather or PVC, makes it one of the most ethical luxury brands today.

The report also highlighted designers using upcycled denim in their F/W ’20 collections. Matty Bovan sourced garments from Fiorucci to upcycle into fresh denim pieces. Similarly, Ottolinger sourced recycled and organic cotton for its F/W ’20 denim collection.

All of this indicates that luxury fashion may be on its way back to its sustainable roots.

A common misconception is that the price of a garment is directly related to its sustainability index—that luxury brands are sustainable, and high street brands are not. But while luxury may have started out with shorter supply chains and a longer lead time, Carmen Busquets—a fashion expert whose investments include Net-a-Porter, Moda Operandi , Farfetch and Lyst—says that’s no longer the case.

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“Luxury should never have reached the point of not being sustainable. Greed and years of malpractice took over our industry,” she said in the report. “However, the responsibility does not fall on brands alone. It is also shared by the media and the end customer. All lost sight of what true luxury meant.”

Consumer patterns seem to be shifting, according to the report. Of the 800 survey respondents, 54 percent check to see if a brand is sustainable before buying, and 62 percent no longer purchase clothes containing latex or plastic. When it comes to buying local, 71 percent said they were making more of an effort to do so. And, potentially the most powerful insight, when asked if they would pay more for the exact same item if they knew it was sustainable, 75 percent said yes.

For luxury fashion to be sustainable again, Busquets said both consumers and brands need to be on board.

“Many small brands and parts of collections from luxury giants are still sustainable,” she said. “Whether it is possible for the entire industry to follow course will depend on brands going back to being led by creativity and demand.”