Extinction Rebellion calls for British Fashion Council to declare climate emergency
Protesters from the environmental action group Extinction Rebellion have disrupted London fashion week in an attempt to urge the British Fashion Council to declare a climate emergency.
A group with a banner saying “rebel for life” blocked the road outside Victoria Beckham’s show at Tate Britain for about half an hour on Sunday, holding up Mercedes cars provided for the event.
Demonstrators, wearing black to mourn the lives of those devastated by environmental destruction, then formed human roadblocks outside venues at West Aldwych and Temple to challenge “business as usual” and highlight the spiralling throwaway culture in the UK’s clothing market.
Extinction Rebellion said members of the public expressed support for their aims. One man told the group: “Even if I disagree with your methods, I do agree with the core principle.”
Both lanes of traffic were blocked nearby the main catwalk venue at 180 Strand in central London, and there were plans to create gridlock and prevent staff from moving between show venues throughout Sunday, the third day of London fashion week; during which designers such as Vivienne Westwood will showcase their latest collections.
Extinction Rebellion met the BFC on Tuesday to discuss the action it planned to take. The group also discussed how the industry body could use its influence to transform fashion into a force for cultural change that stopped the trend of excessive consumption and led action in response to the “urgent and existential threat of climate change”.
Clare Farrell, a fashion designer and co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, said: “We need to hold thought leaders and creators of culture to account. The fashion industry’s influence permeates deep within culture and radiates globally.
“While the fashion industry is not responsible for the unsustainable system it exists within, it is a key driver of global trends and a significant source of ecological devastation.”
She said global clothing consumption had doubled over the past 15 years, while utilisation – how often clothes are worn – had decreased by 36%, with total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production, at 1.2bn tonnes annually, exceeding those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
“There are no signs that this is slowing and events such as London fashion week contribute to and encourage this continued unsustainable growth,” Farrell added, saying that the fashion industry was the most influential on earth.
The BFC said it showcased British businesses engaging in sustainable business practices and was pleased people had the right to protest peacefully.
“We are committed to support businesses to do more to develop through green growth and our hope is that London fashion week becomes synonymous with responsible business in the years to come,” a spokesperson said.
“We believe that more than any other capital, London has an opportunity to be a part of a cultural change around sustainable business practices that put creative product at their core.”
Extinction Rebellion apologised to members of the public affected by the disruption.
The protest came two days after thousands of school pupils walked out of classrooms to protest against government inaction over the climate crisis