Will sustainability become fashionable in 2024?

As London Fashion Week hits the catwalk, Jeevan Georgina Hammond asks if the age of greenwashing is over

Jeevan Georgina Hammond

Editorial Assistant Creativebrief


London Fashion Week has taken over the city and brought with it heaps of creative innovation. But amongst all this newness, there are pressures on the industry to foster more eco-friendly practices.

The United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion reports that the industry is responsible for roughly 9% of annual microplastic losses to the oceans, and consumes around 215 trillion litres of water each year.

But the push for sustainability is not always met authentically by higher-end fashion brands. Just this month,, a climate advocacy group, accused athleisure brand Lululemon of greenwashing in their 2020 campaign, ‘Be Planet’.

The complaint was lodged with Canada’s Competition Bureau. It criticises Lululemon for failure to follow through on a commitment to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions, which were promoted in the ‘Be Planet’ campaign.

Greenwashing is a prevalent issue in the advertising industry, and was addressed at this year’s LEAD conference. The ASA underlined its commitment to crackdown on false environmental claims in advertising. This year, it aims to run between 10 and 20 million ads through in-house software and use AI to flag any ads with potential greenwashing.

Against this backdrop, is the pressure mounting for fashion to embrace authentic and actualised sustainability in the luxury fashion sphere in the year ahead? 

Fashion’s environmental impact 

In recent years, the push for sustainable fashion has become stronger. 2018 saw the UN announce its Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, in which fashion stakeholders identified ways for the textile, clothing, and fashion industry to move towards improved practices.

Part of the Charter laid out a plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Given that the fashion industry is responsible for between 2-8% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, this goal is particularly important for our planet.

At the same time, the United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion is also working to reduce fashion’s carbon footprint. The initiative brings together UN agencies and organisations to create coordinated and focused action in the industry. They aim to reduce fashion’s negative environmental and social impacts while implementing Sustainable Development Goals

Championing a more circular economy 

It seems that the industry is listening. Late last year, the luxury second-hand selling platform, Vestiaire Collective, launched a campaign promoting sustainable consumption. In a bold move, the retail platform banned fast fashion brands from its website.

The move was then promoted via a digital campaign, ‘Think First, Buy Second’ that highlighted the real-life consequences of overconsumption. This global campaign, launched in Paris during November of 2023, used AI technology to cover recognisable landmarks in piles of clothes that mirrored landfills.

Both Times Square and The Eiffel Tower were covered in clothing waste, in the campaign’s hero video. Overconsumption does not always have a direct and immediate impact on buyers. In this campaign, Vestiaire brings a problem that might seem far away right to consumers’ doorstep. The campaign cleverly used AI and digital out-of-home to visualise the real effects of fast fashion.

Vestiaire’s ban on fast fashion brands being sold on its platform is a three-year plan. This activation marks the plan’s second year. Following the first year, the brand saw that 70% of its members who were impacted by the ban still returned to the platform.

Together, Vestiaire Collective and 9 fashion and sustainability experts identified traits of fast fashion brands. They used these to create a solid classification framework for the ban. The framework focused on five key criteria points. The first being the low price point of goods, the second the Intense renewal rate of collections or items dropped per year. The third was cited as being a wide product range. The fourth and fifth focused on the speed to market and the frequency of sales.

Underlying the need for the ban, Douina Wone, Chief Impact Officer for Vestiaire Collective, explained: “Fast fashion brands contribute to excessive production and consumption, resulting in devastating social and environmental consequences in the Global South. It is our duty to act and lead the way for other industry players to join us in this movement, and together we can have an impact”.

The campaign was launched in time for 2023’s Black Friday, aiming to encourage consumers to think carefully about their spending decisions at a time that values overconsumption of fast fashion. 

Creating new with sustainability in mind 

Kicking off 2024, luxury designer brand, Miu Miu echoed sustainable sentiments. Back in 2020, the brand devised its first Upcycled collection to promote vintage clothing and circular production practices. In January, the brand - sister to Prada - launched its latest instalment of the Upcycled collections, in the form of denim and patch bags. The activation occurred across social and brand platforms and focused on creating newness with care and history in mind.

The latest collection features garments made of reworked denim, including limited edition jeans, jackets, bra tops, shorts, caps and hair bands. Many items were made by hand - a direct contrast to the production methods of fast fashion. Uniquely, this collection is the first of its kind to include bags. The Upcycled Patch bags are constructed from leather remnants of other designs, paying homage to Miu Miu’s heritage in both design and material.

In a series of key visuals, the collection was promoted digitally. Using only two models and intimate portraits, the images convey personal relationships with clothes, which is afforded by durability and longevity. Accompanying the social media launch, Miu Miu termed the collection ‘a study of character [...] an intimate exploration of the relationship between garment and wearer’.

Denim is a stand-out fabric when it comes to conversations of textiles and sustainability, as it requires a great deal of water to produce. Therefore the fabric is a contributor to water pollution. By using pre-loved denim, the collection creates something new, while avoiding the collateral damage that comes with producing more of the popular textile. 

Looking at the future of sustainable fashion 

These two campaigns show positive changes for the fashion industry, but there is still a long way to go. To achieve net zero by 2050, there is much work to be done in both attitude and action.

Notably, a significant barrier to mainstreaming sustainable fashion, especially luxury fashion, is cost. During this ongoing cost of living crisis, sustainable shopping is not something all consumers can afford, let alone sustainable luxury consumption. While second-hand luxury is more affordable, it is still not as cheap as many high street or fast fashion brands.

Despite these challenges promoting sustainable clothing consumption must remain a business priority. Brands have a great deal of power to influence consumer choices. They can be the driving force in a top-down approach to behavioural change.

At 2024’s LEAD conference, Kate Waters, Director of Client Strategy and Planning at ITV, explained the importance of brands using their influence to promote more sustainable consumer behaviours. She said: “Emission saving behaviour change needs to rise from 13% to 59%, and so consumer behaviour is a critical part of the solution”. Campaigns like Vestiaire Collective’s can, at the very least, increase awareness around fashion’s pollution problem.

From influence to action, sustainable collections like Miu Miu’s offer alternatives to those with a good deal of spending power. Luxury fashion marketing has the potential to excite consumers, with 46% of what Global terms ‘A list’ shoppers saying that seeing luxury shopping ads puts them in a shopping mood. That shopping mood could be driven towards sustainable goods, if luxury brands have the commitment to produce them.

Brands have both the power and the responsibility to make these improvements. Consumer behaviour alone can have a good deal of influence, but a top-down approach could enact positive change much faster. By slowing product cycles, moving towards environmentally-conscious production methods and promoting awareness, brands have the ability to create a more sustainable world.