A few days ago, Vogue Runway’s sustainability expert Emily Farra asked a pressing New York fashion week question—maybe the most pressing question: What’s the carbon footprint of a fashion show? Emily did loads of research only to come up with the disheartening fact that even as the Amazon burns and Greenland’s ice is melting “nobody really knows” the total carbon emissions a typical runway show produces.
Enter Gabriela Hearst. The Uruguay-born, New York-based designer has approached the sustainability issue with sincerity in the past. She regularly uses deadstock in her collections and her just-opened store in London’s Mayfair neighborhood was built without using any new materials whatsoever. Now, for Spring 2020, Hearst is working with her production company Bureau Betak and EcoAct, an international advisory council that works with businesses to address sustainability challenges, to reduce her show’s carbon footprint. She and her team are only booking models they don’t have to fly in, using a catering service that cooks with local and seasonal foodstuffs, and reducing appliance use backstage. In addition, they’ll be offsetting emissions—in effect producing a carbon neutral show—by donating the energy costs associated with production to the Hifadhi-Livelihoods Project in Kenya, a country where Hearst has traveled in the past with Save the Children. The offset funds will be used to provide modern, efficient cookstoves to families in Kenya’s Embu and Tharaka Nithi counties, cutting down on wood usage and the noxious fumes that accompany it, which primarily impact women and children.
“I love what I do,” says Hearst, “but I have to find ways that I’m not adding to the problem. I thought that this was the best thing that really engages me toward the show.” She continues: “If we don’t know our impact we can’t reduce it. The goal is to set an industry standard.”
Hearst hasn’t figured out a way to cut down on the emissions produced by the private cars, Ubers, and taxis that guests will take to attend her show on September 10, and, let’s be honest, they’ll constitute a significant portion of the show’s footprint. But she’s compensating for that, too, in a way. Guests will receive a scarf featuring a print of animals that’ve recently gone extinct (the print will also be featured on the runway) and Hearst will make donations in their names to Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit organization based in Oregon that has filed lawsuits on behalf of youth plaintiffs against governments, arguing that they are infringing on the children’s rights to a stable climate system. In February, she invited plaintiffs from the Trust’s case, Juliana v. United States & Donald Trump, et al, to her show. “The younger generation are going to be pissed off [about climate change]. My 11-year-old daughters are,” says Hearst. “In the next five year sustainability is just going to matter more and more. We have to keep checking what this company stands for.”
The Gabriela Hearst show will be held in New York on September 10.