His space-age aesthetic and razor-sharp tailoring was something out of Star Trek, but there's no denying his influence on mainstream fashion. Your prized Gucci socks wouldn't be so cool without Cardin, who pioneered designers slapping their names and logos on everything. Now, after his passing in December 2020, I wonder what the sci-fi inspired, optimistic designer would make of the changing landscape of fashion. Arguably, the contemporary 'fashion-scape' is a literal wasteland in comparison to his green pastures of old.
When I think of the future of fashion, I am pessimistic. The fashion industry contributes about 10% of global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of wastewater. Despite fashion's new buzzword of ‘sustainability’, fast fashion brands have slyly brushed real change under the carpet and simply plastered green-washed slogans on everything. H&M especially takes (and rightly so) a lot of the greenwashing rap. The most laughable being their sustainable sequin dresses, as though the micro-plastics won’t harm our precious sea-life.
Yet, I must admit to myself, as I sit in a badly lit room being grumpy over climate change, is that it isn't enough for me to spout environmental figures in a University newspaper. Cardin would've gone nowhere with my attitude of existential doom. Instead, I’m going to take a good shot at imagining what the future of fashion could be, and I promise I'll be positive.
The Coronavirus pandemic has been monumental in the fight to give the fashion industry a makeover. COVID-19 has forced brands to make the switch from analogue to digital, thereby reducing physical waste and streamlining production post-lockdown. The ban of large gatherings forced fashion week online. Though it's too soon to calculate the carbon footprint of a digital fashion week, it has to be better than the 241,000 tons of CO2 (reported by Ordre) which fashion buyers and designers alone create by attending fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris and Milian.
What's more, with shows streaming live on social media, previously elite events have become inclusive to all. I hope this will mark the beginning of a demise in toxic front-row culture, and a rise in young designers and enthusiasts feeling worthy enough to join the industry and make a difference.
The future of fashion could be carbon neutral. Stella McCartney used 70% eco-friendly materials in her S/S 20 collection, her most sustainable catwalk to date. Meanwhile, a new generation of designers are hell-bent on conscious fashion. Gabriela Hearst’s latest show was certified completely carbon neutral, and upcoming designers such as Archie Hammond and Olivia Fletchers' "Otherness Studios" are creating collections from 100% recycled materials before they've even left fashion school.
When all is said and done, the future of fashion can be beautiful if we all contribute to the change. As consumers, we must take our lead from businesses and creatives plugging real sustainable design, and challenge ourselves to boycott fast fashion, buy consciously and shop small. I would love to see, in the near future, more buyers undertaking resolutions to spend a year ‘clothes shop free’, living out of their current wardrobe and learning how to consume less.
I’d like to conclude with Vivienne Westwood’s mantra – "buy less, choose well, make it last". If we all take note of this and stay optimistic, Cardin would be proud to leave his legacy on fashions future, which will be carbon neutral.
Featured image: Financial Times Image credit: Highxtar; TimeOut