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25th November 2021

Protests during Fashion Week: a new normal?

We have recently seen an increase in protests during fashion week but is the fashion industry ready to hear their message?
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Protests during Fashion Week: a new normal?
Photo Credit: Vladimir Morozov @ Google Creative Commons

After a tumultuous year, Paris Fashion Week was a long-awaited event – with Louis Vuitton’s show amongst the most renowned. The LV show provided a dramatic end to the week, with an Extinction Rebellion protester storming the runway whilst the models were exhibiting the brand’s upcoming collections.

The protestor, Marie Cohuet, held a banner that read “overconsumption = extinction”. Cohuet managed to walk the entire runway strip, allowing photographers to capture the moment before she was aggressively dragged from the stage. She was manhandled and kept in police custody overnight. The show swiftly continued after the incident, wanting to make as little fuss as possible and pretend as if nothing happened. LV notably refused to even comment on the incident, their refusal to take responsibility for their role in global warming evident. Even though LV was the house under the spotlight this time, they are representative of a broader problem within the fashion industry. The reality is that most brands rely on mass consumption to survive and the industry has made it clear that it is not interested in addressing this prevailing issue.

The fashion industry hypocritically welcomes other political messages with open arms. As we have seen at the Met Gala, messages including demands for tax equality and gender rights were encouraged by the industry – it aids them and improves their reputation with the facade of being ‘woke’. In reality, the fashion industry in its entirety disregards the issues that it directly contributes to – fast fashion and the environment.

Although Louis Vuitton themselves are not the worst culprits for having a negative environmental impact, they do not minimise textile waste, nor do they use eco-friendly materials; aspects that could be easily monitored considering their enormous budget. The protestors in charge of this demonstration said that overconsumption in France is a massive issue, with 42 items of clothing being sold per person each year. Cohuet also defended her choice saying “We chose LVMH symbolically because it is one of the most influential groups […] LVMH makes frantic declarations about being the most advanced in the sector in terms of limiting their impacts, but we see that in reality, it is not true.”

Despite the ethical advantages, one of the most elite fashion houses in the world will do everything in its capability to point the fingers elsewhere and avoid making changes to their production. This leads to the inevitable question: Is the industry is too far gone to make a positive change for the environment?

There were other dedicated activists protesting their concerns at fashion week, with many demonstrations taking place outside in front of museums and most famously: the Louvre. Extinction Rebellion protestors staged their own show – wearing gas masks as an ominous reminder of the destruction of our planet that the fashion industry contributes to. These efforts made by individual members of society inevitably highlights the lack of care from those in power in comparison. It is vital for people to voice their opinions, especially regarding issues of our planet’s survival, as this will hopefully spark a domino effect encouraging others to fight for action.

However, at this stage, there is a limit on how much difference can be made without the aid of big corporations and brands like Louis Vuitton who have a wide scope of influence. Nonetheless, the protestors at fashion week should be commended for their consciousness and diligence. We can hope that in the future their messages will expand and be more readily received; as with anything, it is a gradual process of action.


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