Street Style at Paris Fashion Week Spring 2021

PARIS — How green can they go?

The pandemic has thrust the issue of catwalk shows to the fore, with environmental questions figuring highly among considerations as in-person events resume. The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode has been working for a few years on answering the question and Friday presented new digital tools to help brands at Paris Fashion Week to measure the environmental impact of their shows and collections with a view to improving their track records.

“We have a duty to provide global leadership,” said Pascal Morand, executive president of the federation, discussing the role of Paris Fashion Week on the social and ecological front at a press conference at the Palais de Tokyo, a key venue for industry events in the French capital.

The federation set out in the fall of 2019 to build the digital tools for brands that are members or on the official calendar for Paris Fashion Week and teamed with PwC for the task. Developed in 2020 and tested early this year, the new measurement systems will be fully launched in September, freely available to fashion labels.

Funding was provided by the Committee for the Development and Promotion of French Clothing, better known by its acronym DEFI, which promotes French fashion overseas and helps support emerging designers.

When it comes to calculating the impact of a show, the architects of the new calculation tools sought to make it possible to assess an event before it takes place in order to help brands make more ecologically friendly and socially responsible choices.

The idea was to make it “simple, playful — not like gaming, but maybe a little bit, we don’t want it to be boring — with real, immediate results and proposals for good practices,” explained Morand.

Brands can keep their results confidential, but they can also contribute their scores to measuring the impact of the entire fashion week, without revealing details of their performance.

The events tool calculates some 120 key performance indicators for brands, covering all stages of an event, from signing up with a production house to castings and fittings, and including digital communications.

A number of show production companies and public relations firms were involved in the project, as well as fashion houses, with Bureau Bétak, DLX and the Palais de Tokyo serving on the steering committee.

The tool will be shared with organizers of fashion shows in other parts of the world, noted Morand.

A second tool was developed for fashion collections, drawn up to measure their social and environmental impact. The Institut Français de la Mode took part in that project, along with a number of French federations linked to the industry, and plans are to roll it out in September. As with the events tool, it is intended for broad use by the industry.

The federation has taken measures to reduce the environmental footprint of fashion show weeks in Paris, aiming to reduce carbon emissions by using electric shuttles and cars to ferry participants to shows around the capital, recycling waste and working with the organization La Réserve des Arts to reuse sets.

The efforts come amid intensified scrutiny of the industry’s track record on the environmental front.

“We had noticed for the past five or six years, and even more since the COVID [pandemic], in all sectors of activity, that this subject is being taken into account — it’s incredible,” observed Sylvain Lambert, a partner at PwC France, who sat next to Morand during the press conference. The executive, who set up the consultant firm’s social and environmental activity three decades ago, noted there was “vague interest,” in the subject at the time, and couldn’t have predicted the importance it has gained recently.

He added that his colleagues at the consultancy firm were particularly enthusiastic about working with the fashion industry, citing the project — which he described as contributing positively to the firm’s image — as a potential draw for people interested in working at PwC.

“Having exciting projects mobilizes people to come work for us, “ he said.