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The End of London Fashion Week? A Conversation with Laura Krarup Frandsen

Boycott Fashion by Extinction Rebellion is a 52-week pledge to not buy new clothing or textiles.

Extinction Rebellion has planned to interrupt London Fashion Week in September with protests. The boycott is to put an end to ‘the fashion industry and its ecocidal, unethical system of pointless production.’ Unlike most industries, the fashion industry has always taken pride in its frivolousness and purpose of aesthetic. Quotes from legendary fashion figures include:

“Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.” —Vivienne Westwood

“How can you live the high life if you do not wear high heels?” —Sonia Rykiel

“Fashion is like eating, you shouldn’t stick to the same menu.” —Kenzo Takada

[ Harper’s Bazaar 2018]

Guess what, some people only have one menu Kenzo! *JOKE* Although these phrases emphasise the importance of fashion as a form of status and pleasure, the craft of fashion undeniably plays a large role in self and identity. Fashion’s position in culture is undisputed, it’s the ability to give a voice and unite communities is unique.

Fashion is an extremely popular industry and continues to produce exciting talent because of its form of expression. The purpose of fashion week as a trade show was to gallow buyers to discover new designers. Since London Fashion Week has developed into a platform for new and emerging designers with projects such as NEWGEN and catwalks from Fashion Scout and Fashion East taking place simultaneously.

What Extinction Rebellion urges is that it is time we face the reality that fashion is a material commodity that we have over-invested in; to the point that it is producing more waste than the earth can handle. The lifestyle and glamour attached to fashion mean that brands can easily take advantage of consumers by producing more, although Boycotting London Fashion Week is a necessary direct action against the industry, Fashion Week itself isn’t the problem and can be used to positively promote new designers who are pioneering sustainable methods and recycling waste.

Laura Krarup Frandsen, is a recent RCA MA Fashion Womenswear designer who is making a statement with Extinction Rebellion. For her degree show, she refused to produce the required collection and instead hosted a ‘die-in’ at the RCA Graduate Show to encourage people to disrupt the fashion industry for the launch of Extinction Rebellion’s #BoycottFashion drive which asks people to refuse to buy new clothing or materials for a year.

We asked Laura for her opinions regarding the boycott and what fashion can do to survive:

Laura Krarup Frandsen Interview:

TW: What attracted you to study fashion?

LKF: Fashion is an industry that desperately needs to change and I wanted to contribute to that. When the IPCC report came out, it was an eye-opener to how devastatingly close we are to a total environmental and ecological collapse and how we have passed the time for slow incremental change. Fashion has a lot of power as a communication tool to question and challenge our society and culture. But in times of mass extinction and societal collapse, it is time for fashion to question and challenge itself. Is there still a place for fashion?

TW: You decided not to produce a collection for your final degree show. What do you think the future should be for fashion degree programmes?

LKF: We’re in an emergency situation, with a very narrow window of opportunity to prevent unthinkable disaster. We now need to ask ourselves what is needed to mitigate this crisis. I think any educational institution has an obligation to do that. What do we need right now, on a planet crumbling under our weight? To produce more clothes or to educate creative people that could help prevent the damage? It takes for a fashion degree programme to dare to evaluate itself in the context of time and to put the facts on the table.

TW: Boycott Fashion by Extinction Rebellion is boycotting the purchasing of fashion and textiles and wants an end to London Fashion Week. Do you think London Fashion Week encourages fashion waste and what do you think should be the next steps after the boycott?

LKF: London Fashion Week is promoting a lifestyle of excess, newness and waste that the planet simply cannot sustain. The point of fashion is to make your pre-existing wardrobe seem undesirable. It is just not coherent with the serious crisis that we are in. The UN Secretary-General has warned that we need to change course by 2020, to avoid ‘direct existential threat’ to humanity, and yet LFW is about to showcase collections for 2020.

In a crisis, you need to do what is necessary – not what is comfortable. London Fashion Week has a massive power of influence that could be used for good if they choose to, but business, as usual, is not part of the solution.

TW: This image and lifestyle associated with fashion and fashion week is what attracts many to produce and consume. What can we do to change this narrative?

LKF: We simply need to stop promoting this lifestyle of excess. We need to turn our backs to dictated trends and to make it unacceptable to use, produce and buy stuff that we don’t need. We need to stop and take a break from pointless consumption to carefully consider what it means and requires to be human beings in this crucial time of human history. We need to promote humanity and compassion – not consumerism.

TW: What elements of the fashion industry can still exist? Is a sustainable fashion industry possible?

LKF: In 2019, Earth Overshoot day fell on July 29, marking the date when our demand for natural resources exceeds what the planet can regenerate in a year. Can anything be sustainable when produced on a planetary overdraft? The real problem is that we are consuming too much. The fashion industry has exceeded the needs for clothes and is now merely providing desires and cravings for things that we don’t need while destroying the basis of our lives.

It does not matter what we produce and consume if the pace and volume keep increasing. We need to use what is already in existence. We need to re-wear, repair and re-love our clothes. We need creativity to overcome this crisis, but that should be taught, used and shared, not sold! The world as we know it will change, and instead of focussing on what can or should remain of the old one, we should all collectively focus on how to solve this crisis.

TW: What is your advice to new designers who want to enter the industry?

LKF: Educate yourself about the climate and ecological emergency, even when facing the truth is unbearable. Ask yourself what legacy you want us to leave for the generations to come. Everything we do from now on will decide whether they will have a future worth living. It is not fair to kill anyone’s dreams, but this situation is not fair and it will be even less so. Use your brilliantly creative brain to fight the system because there will be no fashion on a dead planet.

Photographer Daniel Sims


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