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On the Runway, Innovation Trails Upcycling Deadstock Fabrics

Fashion’s sustainable journey continued to play out on the Fall/Winter 22-23 runway as designers peppered eco alternatives into their collections.

A new report by retail analytics firm Edited examined the steps designers took to lessen their environmental footprint, from using botanical dyes (Gabriela Hearst) and biodegradable materials (Stine Goya) to repurposing sets like Prada, which plans to resell the carpeting it used.

As mass brands fine-tuned their environmental messages for April 22’s Earth Day, high-end labels are still navigating sustainability and sometimes missing the mark.

The prevalence of leather looks on the F/W 22-23 underscores how fashion cannot break its cycle of leather for fall. The Julia Fox-approved dominatrix trend, or “fetishcore,” is adding fuel to the fire.

Edited described it as the “defining textile” for the season with brands like Fendi, Alexander McQueen and Alaïa using it front and center in their collections. Genuine leather “still holds court” in the luxury market, which showed a 1 percent year-over-year increase, it added.

That’s not to say that all brands are designing blind to the leather industry’s contribution to climate change. Edited point out that Chloé minimized waste by using leather as a by-product from the meat industry, presenting head-to-toe looks comprised of traceable leather compliant with European tanning process standards.

Though it takes a backseat to the real thing, the use of vegan leather is growing. Edited observed double-digit growth, thanks in part to plant-based designers like Stella McCartney using animal-free grape leather for shoulder bags and Balenciaga debuting a mycelium-based jacket.

Others opted to make use of materials already in existence. In general, upcycling, recycling and revamping deadstock were common sustainable strategies for F/W 22-23 collections.

Edited noted that Coach created shearling outerwear repurposed from vintage leather coats, and Gabriela Hearst and Edeline Lee both used recycled cashmere as activists turn their attention to wool production. Diesel modernized Y2K-inspired jeans with recycled denim.

Deadstock fabrics were the leading favorite with fashion week stalwarts like Vivienne Westwood launching a capsule collection made entirely from previous season fabrics and rising stars like Collina Strada repurposing organza to create feather effects. Rejina Pyo and Conner Ives opted for deadstock denim.

“Creating new pieces from deadstock fabrics outshone repurposing unconventional materials,” Edited stated.