Sustainable Fashion Runways: An Interview with Louise Boughton

WRITTEN BY Aoife Rooney

July 1, 2024

Share this Article

Sustainable Fashion Runways: An Interview with Louise Boughton

by | Jul 1, 2024 | Fashion & Lifestyle

Aoife Rooney

1 Jul, 2024

The fashion industry has undergone a remarkable transformation, embracing sustainability as a central focus. The Copenhagen and London fashion shows have been at the forefront of this movement. London, in particular, is acclaimed for seamlessly integrating diverse elements of society, art, and fashion, resulting in unified and culturally rich collections.

This year’s shows were vibrant, with engaging discussions and workshops highlighting specific sustainable practices such as zero-waste craftsmanship, innovative repurposing of leftover fabrics into new garments, intricate hand-crafting techniques that reduce reliance on machinery, heritage preservation through the use of traditional textiles and designs, creative up-cycling of old garments into new ones, and the integration of eco-friendly strategies such as using organic or recycled materials while reducing water and energy consumption in production.

Luxury Brands

Luxury brands are captivating consumers with their products and offering an aspirational identity. Miu Miu’s recent fashion runways have been an ode to sustainability, showcasing circular production processes and highlighting its up-cycled vintage collection. For instance, Miu Miu has been using recycled materials in its production and has been actively promoting the reuse and recycling of its products. Similarly, Prada has debuted its own up-cycled denim collection, a line of denim products made from recycled denim. Both brands have invested heavily in social media campaigns, focusing on the allure of novelty, nostalgia, heritage, and meticulously crafted items.

Luxury brands, despite their exclusive image, are also influenced by fast fashion trends. Offering recycled denim in one part of the store while showcasing virgin nylon in another seems contradictory. While integrating slow fashion business models may seem forward-thinking, it gains no honest impact if the commitment to transparency encompasses only some of the fashion line. These challenges underscore the intricate nature of sustainability in the fashion industry, where conflicting priorities and consumer demands often necessitate assistance in implementing comprehensive and uniform sustainability measures.

The Figures Don’t Tally After the Shows

Despite efforts to promote sustainability through fashion shows, the numbers still need to significantly reflect the impact, as the fast fashion industry is projected to grow at a substantial rate of 8.08% from 2024 to 2026. This rapid growth comes at a significant environmental cost, with the fashion industry being one of the largest contributors to global pollution and waste. It is therefore crucial that we continue to push for more sustainable practices in this industry.

The rapid growth of fast fashion can be attributed to several factors:

  1. The affordability of the products makes them accessible to a wide range of consumers.
  2. Constantly introducing new collections and items throughout the year ensures customers can easily keep up with current trends.
  3. The extensive range of products offered caters to diverse consumer preferences.
  4. The efficiency in bringing these products to market ensures they are readily available to customers.

Behind The Scenes

I was eager to delve into the world of sustainability within the fashion runways and gain an insider’s perspective on the happenings behind the scenes at fashion shows. In my interview with Louise Boughton @louiseboughton_, an accomplished Irish fashion illustrator and live event artist, she offered compelling insights into the intersection of sustainability and fashion. Louise’s hands-on approach involves creating freehand sketches and mixed media pieces during live fashion runways, skilfully capturing the ambience, and reflecting the broader political, cultural, and environmental context.

How did you get started sketching fashion?

Drawing clothes has always fascinated me. I revel in illustrating garments and accessories, and with a background in fashion and textiles, I enjoy strong silhouettes and details. I carry a sketchbook everywhere and draw street style, which aligns with my love of live event illustration.

Tell us about what you do…

As a live event artist, I draw at fashion shows, brand events, and launches, documenting by drawing or illustrating guests. I attend London Fashion Week each season, sketching backstage and in the front row. I also draw fashion for editorials and private commissions and sell it as art prints.

Did you meet any exciting people along the way in the world of fashion?

I have been very fortunate to meet wonderful people along the way, from fellow artists to amazing designers to people behind the scenes. Creativity is heavy at live events, with so much happening, and I love capturing it so quickly. Two of my favourite people to meet are Isabella Blow and Zandra Rhodes, who are such forces in the fashion world.

Have you noticed a shift in fashion trends- sustainability, slow fashion, etc., on your journey on the catwalk?

There is still a way to go, but there is undoubtedly a shift. Awareness of consciously creating has heightened and underpinned more collections. Stella McCartney has always led the way. However, it is excellent to see up-cycling and slow textiles staying prominent on the catwalk with Vivienne Westwood and Chloé, who reach out to artisans and reuse materials.

Which sustainable brands stand out to you and why?

Again, Stella McCartney has consistently produced ethical fashion with minimal impact on the planet. I love that the brand created the Mylo leather bag from mushrooms. I love the circular brand Fanfare, which up-cycles preloved fabrics and modernises them with slow embellishment. I also love Victim Fashion St., London.

Are sustainability and creativity linked in some way?

Definitely, ‘slow fashion ‘(a term used to describe a more sustainable and ethical approach to fashion that emphasises quality over quantity and encourages consumers to buy less but better) has brought a return to slow craft, skilled hand embellishments, and textile techniques that are more environmentally friendly and less resource intensive.

Which Irish sustainable brands have inspired?

I love Chapel Lane @31chapellane and its ethos of supporting local makers, using high-quality materials, and making pieces to last. Edge Only @edgeonly is a favourite, creating bold jewellery from 100% recycled gold and silver. I have worked a lot with Lainey Keogh @laineycashmere, who has always used and championed local artisans, and Aoife Lifestyle @aoifelifestyle is lovely.

Is highlighting sustainable brands vital to you?

It is essential, and I feel that young designers are starting their brands more consciously and ethically from the outset. I am always here to support up-and-coming talent.

What are your plans?

More live event illustration and fashion drawing. I love working with varied brands at events and collaborating to meet their vision through drawing. I have some exciting upcoming projects and look forward to creating new work. I am launching a new collection of art prints this Summer and, as always, look forward to Fashion Week.

The Fashion Community

As fashion industry members, including fashion illustrators, we have a crucial role to play in actively championing sustainability, diversity, and equality. It’s our responsibility to ensure that these principles are authentically represented on fashion runways. Notably, Irish stylist Cathy O’Connor @cathyocstylist has made a significant impact with her initiative #womenunbranded, advocating for the inclusion of older women in the Irish fashion scene. This shows that each of us can make a difference in promoting sustainability in fashion.

Fashion councils should establish clear and actionable sustainability guidelines for designers. Stylists, designers, fashion editors, creatives, and promoters all have significant roles in amplifying the importance of sustainability and sociopolitical issues within the fashion industry. Runway shows serve as a compelling platform for reflecting global events and concerns. For instance, noteworthy instances such as Princess Diana’s “Revenge Dress” and more recent displays like the red pins worn by Billie Eilish, Mark Ruffalo, Finneas O’Connell and Nicola Coughlan serve as tangible symbols of solidarity and provide a powerful call to action for peace during the Israel-Hamas conflict, while also advocating for peace in Gaza.

Sustainability Kills Creativity

Some think sustainability kills creativity, but caring about our community and future should be celebrated; human innovation and ingenuity can ignite sustainable creativity. With the exception of Stella Mc Carthy, Ed Sheeran, Cara Delevingne, Demi Moore, Zendaya, Charli XCX, Kendall Jenner and Amanda Seyfried wearing either vintage, deadstock, upcycled or, in Stella’s case, 100% sustainable materials, It seems this is what happened at the Met Gala this year with the theme “Garden of Time“, the theme was about reawakening fashion, a call to sustainable action and not merely a tokenism. The evening had considerable opportunities to highlight and celebrate sustainable practices, vintage, archival, and quality garments but fell short of the mark by a long shot!

In the spring of 1999, Alexandra McQueen’s show featured robots spray-painting an all-white tube gown worn by Shalom Harlow. This symbolised the intersection of nature and the digital world, offering hope for eco-arcadian creativity or another way!

A stunning moment occurred at the 2023 Coperni show in Paris when Bella Hadid strutted down the runway in a dress spray-painted directly onto her. This fusion of science, technology, and high fashion sparked extensive conversations on social media and presented a vision of an alternative future. Soon, we will be able to produce our clothing using advanced 3D printers to materialise designs from digital blueprints.

Big Fashion Brands Are Making Their Runway Shows More Sustainable

Several major fashion brands are trying to operate their runway shows more sustainably. Stella McCartney serves vegetarian food backstage and uses digital invites; in fairness, her lines are also primarily sustainable. Balenciaga supported a reforestation project to offset the carbon from its show. Gucci certifies its shows as carbon neutral. Cecilie Bahnsen uses venues such as art galleries that eliminate the need for set design. Christopher Raeburn is leading the way with digital fashion runways.

Are fashion shows inherently sustainable? We, as fashion enthusiasts and professionals, need to ponder this question. Do fashion runways contribute to promoting overconsumption and unsustainable trends?

It’s time to critically examine the role of fashion shows in the industry’s sustainability.

These events, meticulously planned for months and taking place in minutes, often operate within an unsustainable system driven by constant trends and overproduction. Are event organisers actively incorporating sustainable practices to reduce their carbon footprint? Do these practices include implementing strong governance, effectively managing stakeholder relations, adopting energy-efficient practices, improving waste management, eliminating single-use plastics, and considering sustainable food and transportation options?

Utilising events like Met Galas, campaigns, and fashion runway shows raise awareness about critical global issues and could be the perfect platform to educate the world on sustainability. However, after decades of voluntary sustainability efforts, it’s clear that these initiatives are not effective, and it’s time for a shift. It seems that asking consumers to align their intentions with action by purchasing sustainable, albeit more expensive, fashion is not working. Legalisation must be established to discourage unsustainable practices, as we have a limited opportunity to get this right, it’s not too late.

Thank you to Artist Louise Boughton @louiseboughton_ for contributing this week and her wonderful fashion illustrations.

3 Comments

  1. Louise Boughton

    Thank you so much for interviewing me for this amazing magazine. It is wonderful to discuss such important issues in the fashion industry.
    Delighted also to have my work featured in Utopia The Edit. Thanks to Aoife and the team.
    Louise

    Reply
  2. Louise Boughton

    Thank you so much for interviewing me for this amazing magazine. It is wonderful to discuss such important issues in the fashion industry.
    Delighted also to have my work featured in Utopia The Edit. Thanks to Aoife and the team.
    Louise

    Reply
  3. Louise Boughton

    Thanks so much to Aoife Rooney and the Utopia team for the feature in this amazing magazine. It was wonderful to be invited to discuss this important topic of conscious fashion and sustainability.
    Thank you.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*By completing this form you are signing up to receive Utopia the edit’s emails and can unsubscribe at any time you wish to do so.

Pin It on Pinterest