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Extending the Fashion Packaging War – to Fashion Invites

By Guan Tan

Tung Pham

Gone were the days when Maison Martin Margiela could put up a show announcement in the newspaper, mandating fashion editors and buyers call a hotline, which led to an answering machine with the time and venue of the runway show. The free newspaper was then collected, repurposed and sent out to the media.  

Come every fashion season, brands compete to produce the most arresting invites – laser-cut plastic and extra heavy-weight 285 gsm, high-grade bleached wood pulp papers. No editor would go through the inconvenience to call in and seek out their RSVP – not when they have eight shows a day, multiplied by three weeks. 

What about email invites? Undignified.

Recycled paper or plastic? Odour. 

The deluge of fashion show invites spurred Imran Amed, editor-in-chief at The Business of Fashion to question, "Why do we still need paper invitations in the digital age?" Followers responded to his post, rapping in unison, "Yes! It's ridiculous and wasteful and costly!" 

The dialogue of wastage plagues every facet of the fashion industry – unreasonable fabric waste from fast fashion companies, excessive wastage incurred from product packaging, especially with the rise of e-commerce, unnecessary fashion packaging and now, fashion show invites. 

A runway spectacle houses at least 500 attendees, Stella McCartney's press office confirms. At McCartney, envelopes casing show invites were manufactured by a bio-plastics firm, TIPA. The compostable plastic sleeves heralded the brand's move in swapping their current packaging for this compostable TIPA plastics. 

By industry standards, every new piece of garment has to be presented in individual plastic carriers. And most of these plastic films are for single-use: once customers bring the item home, they unwrap it and throw the bags out. McCartney's introduction will not regulate the use of plastic carriers in the fashion industry, nor will it encourage consumers to reuse the bags. Yet, it offers a solution to the landfill conundrum. 

While conventional plastics have incredible longevity – 500 years, McCartney's choice of TIPA plastics decays "like the peel of an orange". The press announcement does not state when, but a slice of orange peel turns mouldy real quick, say a week. McCartney promises that her runway show envelope and future garment packaging, manufactured by TIPA, "can be disposed along with food waste". 

The challenge then is to brand these compostable plastics legibly to McCartney's consumers from 77 different countries.