“It is fascinating to see how the Coperni spray-on dress crossed the borders of the fashion press and managed to become a global, albeit brief, phenomenon. Catwalks seldom achieve this,” says sustainability-focused influencer Doina Ciobanu. “What it does is remind those working on [sustainability] that the products that have a groundbreaking but attractive story to tell will perform the best. From a communication perspective, this presents an interesting opportunity to learn how to engage with the mainstream audience.”
Calls are growing, from the UN and some advocates and influencers, for fashion to use its influence to promote sustainability as a priority and not just a practice in their supply chain. The Paris Fashion Week dress served as a reminder that for the most part, the industry isn’t really embracing that potential — one consequence of which, according to analysts, is to perpetuate the disconnect between customers saying sustainability is a priority and not necessarily demonstrating that in their purchases because, in part, brands are not helping to make it the desirable choice in the moment.
“Fashion, and luxury fashion even more so, is associated from a consumer standpoint with dreams, creativity, innovation and beauty. Until these concepts are part of the sustainable proposition, it will be challenging for consumers to feel engaged and show honest interest in sustainability,” says Maximiliano Nicolelli, managing partner and founder of Milan-based Hydra Consultancy. “It is important for brands to ensure that all consumer touchpoints — store, products, campaigns, digital, etc. — deliver enough relevance and excitement [relating to their sustainability practices] in order to connect to consumers in a meaningful way.”
For all the progress the industry has made, what’s still missing is an understanding that true sustainability has to be part and parcel of fashion’s overall existence. Samata Pattinson, CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress, says it boils down to one question for brands: “Why are you doing this thing called sustainability?” she says. “Are you doing it because you recognise that fashion craves innovation and excitement, or because you realise sustainability is crucial for the survival of our industry [and] our planet? Because both are right.”
The most important work — reducing emissions, for example — is not going to generate the same headlines as a dress being sprayed on an almost-naked Bella Hadid, so it’s fashion’s responsibility to find a way to make it appealing and exciting.
“It is frustrating that environmental achievement doesn’t attract the same level of engagement and attention. But the fault for that, if there is any, doesn’t lie with Coperni. Rather, it would lay with brands who have failed to message their ecological and sustainability credentials in a way that resonates — and, even more so, with those who have blunted the impact of sustainable achievements by abusing the term,” says Ciobanu. “Sustainability-related content should still have, at its core, what a fashion lover is there for in the first place — fashion.”
This article first appeared in voguebusiness.com