The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to the fashion industry. Major runways have been scrapped, clothing factories have had billions of orders canceled, and some brands have adopted unprecedented “buy now, pay later” schemes to boost sales.
But the pandemic also created an opportunity for clothing companies – especially the productive fast-fashion retailers – to step back and consider their impact on the planet. So says the designer of Beirut Rami Kadi, recently appointed as the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)’s Goodwill Ambassador for Sustainable Fashion in West Asia.
The fashion industry consumes 215 trillion liters of water annually, the second largest in any sector, and emits 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases. Kadi is part of a wave of designers encouraging the industry to apply greener practices and better rebuild after the pandemic. He spoke to the UNEP about how he incorporates sustainability into his collections.
UNEP: What are your clothes trying to express?
Rami Kadi: I consider myself a contemporary couturier, passionate about modern tailoring. Rami Kadi Maison de Couture stands out for its novel couture, as I include technology, such as recycling, and other innovations in my pieces, which provide a kaleidoscopic explosion of colors and sparkles (along with) high finish.
UNEP: Why did you feel the need to highlight sustainability in your latest collection?
RK: It’s time for brands to create fashion while taking humanity and the environment into account. We need to start saving our natural resources, because 97 percent of clothing making is new resources, leaving only 3 percent as recycled materials. We need to start thinking sustainably about waste management. Another reason was to save animals lives; we must stop killing for fashion. Why not use cruel alternatives? Sustainable fashion is healthier for people and the planet, and it teaches us how to love our textiles and clothes again.
UNEP: In your spring-summer collection, you made a piece of recycled plastic. Can you tell us about it?
RK: (Our collection) contains the first dress made entirely of recycled plastic – 100 percent PET. We used plastic from the sea, melted it and turned it into wire. The thread is then woven into the fabric for the dress. All in all, it took over 600 hours of craftsmanship to make one dress.
UNEP: How do you hope to see fashion evolve towards sustainability in the coming years?
RK: I believe COVID-19 has driven fashion in a better direction by ending overproduction and overconsumption. By reducing production, we help change the mindset into an attitude that focuses on clothing. I now incorporate recycled materials into my pieces, use old materials and also reduce production. I believe that the future of sustainable fashion is promising.
UNEP: How does it feel to be named the Goodwill Ambassador for Sustainable Fashion in West Asia?
RK: I am excited to be a part of such a change and I look forward to working with the UN’s Environment Program in the region. Sustainability was something I tried to incorporate into my collections and has become a topic that I love very much. Responsible production will become a recurring theme in my collections, and I can not wait to work with the UN Environment Program to achieve our goal. I truly believe that together we can help shape the future of the industry and promote better and more responsible behavior.