- Dounia Said Bakar
"Overconsumption = Extinction"- Climate Activists Crash the Louis Vuitton Catwalk
On October 5th, 2021, activists from “Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth and Youth For Climate” crashed the Louis Vuitton catwalk, strutting large signs condemning the brand’s sustainability practices. “Overconsumption = Extinction,” the sign reads. Marie Cohuet walked the entire catwalk with the sign before security took her away. The purpose of this protest was to call on the French government to enforce a decrease in clothing production, given that 42 items of clothing were sold per person in France in 2019.
Amis de la Terre France, or Friend of the Earth France, which is an international network of environmental organizations, claims that this protest targeted LVMH(Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), the international leader of luxury because they influence overproduction trends in a major way amongst the fashion world.
Some argue that the Louis Vuitton catwalk was the perfect platform to use to spread the message, seeing as rich people are more likely to overconsume, even with luxury goods. Protesting at a Louis Vuitton catwalk puts responsibility in the hands of large designers and wealthy people, rather than pushing the blame onto working-class people who may want to enjoy certain luxuries, like new clothing.
In 2018, the brand was accused of destroying its unsold product as a way to maintain exclusivity through scarcity. There are even claims that Louis Vuitton incinerated perfectly good products. These practices are unsustainable and only serve to devalue clothing in perfect conditions.
On the other hand, many believe that these activists should’ve targeted cheaper fast fashion brands like H&M and Shein because people are more likely to over-consume cheap clothing. Online shopping became increasingly popular during the pandemic and online retailers like Shein have surged in popularity, beating H&M and Zara as top online fashion sellers.
Shein releases hundreds of trendy new styles daily. They are able to do so by using cheap materials, sourcing cheap unethical labour and some even suggest that the brand steals designs from smaller creators (NPR).
The online discourse surrounding Shein is generally negative. People critique their labour conditions, the quality of their garments, and the consumerist culture that is highly associated with the brand. Content on all platforms showcases people getting large amounts of clothing for a low price on Shein. CBC Marketplace also found out that some cheap materials used by Shein contain toxic chemicals. Dangerous amounts of lead found in some of their items are hazardous and go way beyond Health Canada’s regulation for children's items. A jacket for toddlers, purchased from Shein, contained almost 20 times the amount of lead that is safe for children, and a red purse, also bought from there, had more than five times the threshold.
With the increased desire for trendy and cheap clothing from stores, fast fashion companies use unethical practices that exploit workers and pollute the atmosphere in order to reach that demand and collect a large profit. Overconsumption of clothing largely contributes to our landfills, which in return harms our planet.
Discussions around climate have been increasing, as Gen Zers will be the ones tackling climate change firsthand. Protests, boycotts, and advocacy on the Internet are generally used by teens to incite change surrounding our climate issue. It allows young voices to reach large audiences, but many dislike such grand actions. Is it possible to reach change without large public displays?