As we face the effects of rampant consumerism and climate change, industries worldwide are introducing new initiatives in the name of sustainability. Sustainability is defined as avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. (New Oxford American Dictionary) The movement toward sustainability goes beyond simply switching out one fabric for another. The entire industry, from the first stitch to the last consumer, has been called on the carpet, compelling meaningful change across the board. Some have altered the materials used; others have revamped their production processes. Still others have pledged proceeds from sales or given donations to organizations dedicated to the environment as a whole.
The fashion industry is more than the clothes we wear. It is an intricate network comprised of multiple industries all working toward the goal of keeping us fashion forward. This includes fashion magazines, the most accessible element in the world of high fashion. Vogue is arguably the most recognizable and influential fashion magazine. Vogue (and editor Anna Wintour) have become synonymous with the word fashion. With more than 1.67 million digital readers, Vogue has embraced a model of sustainable consumption. But how about sustainable production?
How does Illustration fit in?
Enter Vogue.Italia. Editor and chief of Vogue Italia, Emanuele Farneti, has addressed this problem in a unique way. The January 2020 issue( available today!) of Vogue Italia was produced sans photo shoots, an extreme expense and contributor to a massive carbon footprint. The drawing issue, as it is called, is both a throwback and look to the future. Vogue magazine debuted well before the advent of photography, using illustrations to tell the story of early fashion. This is the first issue to be without glossy photos since the introduction of photography to it’s pages in the early 1900’s.
While illustrations evoke a sense of nostalgia, the true impetus for this project is, of course,sustainability. Farneti sums up the overarching costs, both financially and environmentally, saying “ 150 people involved. About 20 flights and a dozen or so train journeys. 40 cars on standby. 60 international deliveries. Lights switched on for at least 10 hours nonstop, partly powered by gasoline fuel generators. Food waste from the catering services. Plastic to wrap the garments. Electricity to recharge phones, cameras, etc.” () Using artists to produce the fashion imagery is both beautiful and practical, proving that a quality issue can be produced without costing our environment. Both known and emerging artists were tasked with creating the covers and featured illustrations. (Fun fact: Vogue has had a rich history of working with artists, most notably Salvador Dalí contributing numerous times to the publication.) This is an incredible undertaking that will have vast and lasting effects, leaving a footprint to follow for a bright future in fashion.