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Frankfurt Fashion Week promotes “form follows planet” for sustainability in the European fashion industry

By Simone Preuss

8 Jul 2021

Fashion

Frankfurt Fashion Week / German Fashion Council

A recent conference organised by Fashion Council Germany titled “The New European Bauhaus – Werkstatt der Zukunft” brought together international experts in the context of Frankfurt Fashion Week to redefine the future of the European fashion and textile industry.

The conference was inspired by EC president Ursula von der Leyen‘s initiative “The New European Bauhaus”, which she first presented in her “State of the Union” address in September 2020. “Fast fashion is poison for our planet. It should be replaced by show fashion that is circular,” said Leyen in Tuesday’s opening speech. 

Frankfurt Fashion Week / German Fashion Council

The interdisciplinary movement wants to bring the “Green Deal” to the people, “convening a space of encounter to recuperate and revisit sustainable practices, empower the most inspiring practices of today and design future ways of living, at the crossroads between art, culture, social inclusion, science, digitalisation and technology”. 

Lucie and Luke Meier talk about sustainable fashion design

One of the sessions was about sustainable fashion, in which Christiane Arp, chairwoman and founding member of the Fashion Council Germany, talked with Lucie and Luke Meier,  creative directors at Jil Sander, about the sustainable future of the industry.

Luke Meier started by saying that one can never ignore the person when designing something, “object, person and design work together; it has to serve the person and become effective design.”

Frankfurt Fashion Week / German Fashion Council

The husband-and-wife duo live in Vancouver, Canada, which is very nature-focused, and they spend as much time outdoors as they can. “Nature has always been a source of inspiration, we have tremendous respect for nature and try to spend a lot of time in nature. Ideas happen there too, and we always try to push for sustainability, which reflects in our design and our appreciation of functionality,” states Lucie Meier.  

Asked what their ideal fashion industry would look like in the future, the creative duo is clear that things have to be made better so that they last longer and people do not throw them out. “In terms of sustainability, first steps would start with the materials and rethinking everything from fibre to fabric, dyeing, spinning, transportation, packaging, all parts of the supply chain.” said Luke Meier. “This can be design-driven but it has to be industry-driven too. There has to be transparency throughout the supply chain but it is difficult. Often we just don’t know where a certain material is coming from.”

Panel discusses if fashion and sustainability can go hand in hand

A subsequent panel discussion tackled the question if fashion and sustainability can go hand in hand. Jonas Eder-Hansen, in charge of public affairs at the Global Fashion Agenda, pointed to the fact that 100 percent sustainability is not possible and that there is much to do, particularly in some areas. “Transparency is key as Lucie and Luke Meyer said,” he agreed with the designers. “Working together as an industry is extremely important.” 

Katrin Ley, managing director of global sustainability initiative Fashion for Good agreed that sustainability is a (long) journey with different complex areas. “Companies are still struggling to implement it because it is more expensive, and they have to gauge their ability to take risks, among other things”, she said. Fashion for Good is one step ahead and works with innovators, which is about spreading the risk and sharing of learning and innovations. She mentioned recycled polybags to wrap garments by a Spanish innovator as one such innovation that is now getting scaled. 

Frankfurt Fashion Week / German Fashion Council

Tina Lutz Morris, founder of the accessoires brand Lutz Morris, pointed to the fact that new products inevitably leave a footprint. That is why she likes to talk about responsibility and responsible products and production rather than sustainability. With her own handbag label, she is currently exploring the question, if a real responsible product can live outside the niche. “You need to know who makes your product, how and where,” she says.   

For Markus Löning, CEO of management consultancy Löning Human Rights, Rana Plaza was the turning point when workers became more visible. Asked if they are indeed coming back to safer workplaces, Löning pointed to factories in Srik Lanka that see compliance with social and environmental guidelines as a competitive advantage. “EU buyers are changing their relationship with suppliers. There is so much positive change,” he says. “The pressure [to do the responsible thing] is so much higher now.”

Last but not least, the panelists were asked what they were wearing that day and it was refreshing to see their words in action: Ley loves her Victoria Beckham second hand dress while Eder-Hansen swears by his ten-year-old shirt that is tailor made for his height. Lutz Morris wore an original Helmut Lang shirt and jacket, both 20 years old, while Löning makes sure to look at the label before buying anything.