Can creative sustainability benefit the environment?

Read any recent fashion show review, and you'll more than likely see the word "boring" at least once. It's not that the clothes are ugly or unflattering, but most stuff on the runway or in lookbooks nowadays is a recycled idea from the past. This is because the fashion industry is currently experiencing a creativity shortage. Few are willing to admit it openly, but observers can see that designers and creative directors are rapidly running out of new ideas.

Don't say that they are bad at their jobs, though. Fashion creatives have a tough time, especially if they work for a brand that is more focused on making a profit than making interesting clothes. Over the past decade, particularly, the fashion industry has made an obvious switch from being equally business-oriented and creative-oriented to mostly business-oriented with a sprinkle of creativity thrown in. Now designers and creative directors don't just have to worry about coming up with original designs; they also have to worry about sustainability and salability — jobs that should be handled by the corporate side of a brand. How can the balance shift, and how can designers get back the time to be creative? A slowdown in the pace of fashion production seems to be the solution.

Ever since the spring, brands have been forced to operate differently. As a result, a natural deceleration has occurred. In March, Vogue did a series with several designers worldwide, discussing the changes to their lives and businesses since lockdowns were put into place. A repeated point in all the interviews was the surprise satisfaction that came with the forced slowdown. Designers expressed gratitude that they finally had the time to be creative again, while brand owners had optimistically-leaning mixed feelings about being able to make changes to their business that they didn't have the time to implement before the pandemic.

Over the summer, fashion's pace gradually picked up again, and last month, many brands returned to Fashion Weeks to present new collections. Despite that, many brand owners and designers are determined to make at least some of the COVID-19 forced changes permanent. Giorgio Armani, Michael Kors, Gucci, and their respective designers and creative directors, made announcements this year that they will no longer be following the traditional fashion calendar to determine when they will release new clothes. Instead, they join a growing list of luxury labels that are challenging the pace and presentation of fashion. These brands and designers have the support of powerful fashion industry institutions as well. Dries van Noten, Business of Fashion, The Council of Fashion Designers of America, and The British Fashion Council have all facilitated platforms for designers and creative directors to express their concerns with the pace of fashion consumption.

Too bad just because influential designers, media companies, and trade groups call for a slowdown of production and refocus on creativity doesn't mean they will get what they want. Currently, luxury and specialty fashion brands are leading the conversation about the need for creativity. Fast fashion brands, the biggest culprits of rapid production and overproduction, are still turning out new clothes on a weekly basis. But, fast fashion retailers run by billionaires interested in profit only do not control the fashion industry. Designers and fashion lovers have the power to change brands and consumer's demands from the industry.

If fashion's big players keep prioritizing creativity and enjoyment of fashion over new trends, the rest of the industry will eventually follow, which would be great for the planet. When fashion brands refocus their purpose — creating wearable art and not just a profitable business — clothes will be less likely to be treated as disposable. Maybe prioritizing creativity and art seems shallow, considering everything happening right now. Still, when clothes are designed with passion and worn with love, many of fashion's issues can begin solving themselves.