Another Paris fashion week, another climate activist on the runway.
Once more, it was an Extinction Rebellion protester who gatecrashed the show, this time at Louis Vuitton. Branding a fabric sign that read “OVERCONSUMPTION = EXTINCTION,” the interloper was swiftly carted away by security, much to awkward gasps and giggles from the crowd. Talk about a scene!
Across the channel in the UK, environmental protests are a hot-button topic right now. It comes after angry drivers clashed with Insulate Britain (a much smaller, separate offshoot of XR) protesters that have been blocking major roads in and around London, raising awareness for the need to insulate and retrofit homes across the country.
One video that went viral shows a lady in tears, pleading with the protesters to let them pass because her 81-year-old mother is in a held-up ambulance headed for the hospital. "How can you be so selfish?" she asks. Soon after, the protesters literally dragged from the roads by folks looking to get about their day.
Even if you think Insulate Britain has good intentions, the optics of the video are undeniably terrible.
"Irresponsible crusties" is what the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson referred to the protesters, while in much of the media, they've been positioned as some middle-class jokers. The drivers, meanwhile, are framed as the heroes — the working-class salt of the earth types who just want to get about their day. This is culture war 101 stuff, the vexing part being that it will undoubtedly have a negative knock-on effect in terms of how a lot of the public views the environmentalism cause.
When watching the Louis Vuitton video above, there are also class politics at play, albeit more subtly. It's the kind of textbook fashion week flashpoint that will go down as DrAmA rather than an act of subversion. "The great unwashed turning up at Louis Vuitton?! How outrageous!"
My thinking is skewed by comments Antoine Arnault, head of communications and image at LVMH, made last year. When XR gatecrashed the Dior runway, he laughed it off — clearly unphased — as a frivolous stunt, saying, “I think it was part of the show — it’s hard to tell these days."
If you read into Arnault's words, it's as if XR has become an inconvenient byproduct of fashion week rather than anything worth paying serious heed to. The optics of the act aren't exactly bad, so much as it's all just a bit predictable.
Both acts have got the internet talking (and raising awareness is no bad thing), but they either miss or feel hollow to the actual people who they're supposed to convince. The people who can affect real change. Protest, eh? It truly is a complicated art.
The Highsnobiety Better Earth Manual is a guide for style enthusiasts in the age of ecological crisis — a crisis caused in part by the fashion itself. Here, you’ll find a growing set of resources about conscious consumption and the pioneers who are making change in our industry.