'Marie Claire' Launches First-Ever Sustainability Issue

"In order to stay relevant, we need to be on top of sustainability practices," says editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider.
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Photo: Marie Claire

Photo: Marie Claire

Fashion magazines have historically served as something like cheerleaders for the industry, celebrating designers and shooting glamorous editorials that present new trends in the most desirable light possible. And while that celebratory attitude makes for fun reading and drool-worthy imagery, it has sometimes meant that un-glamorous aspects of the industry just don't get covered as much as they should.

Fashion's disastrous environmental impact has long fallen into this latter category. Films like "The True Cost" and news-centric media outlets have increasingly uncovered evidence that fashion is one of the biggest polluters on a planet that really can't handle much more, while publications dedicated to eco-friendly fashion alternatives have cropped up for conscious consumers. But most mainstream glossies haven't prioritized consistently getting that kind of information, which can be seen as a bit of a downer, in front of their readers. 

It's this backdrop that makes Marie Claire's decision to launch its first sustainability-focused issue noteworthy. 

"In order to stay relevant, we need to stay on top of sustainability practices," editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider explains to Fashionista via phone. "A third of millennials say they're more likely to buy from socially responsible companies, and we feel that groundswell of millennials caring deeply about the backstory of every single thing that they buy."

The new issue features stories on eco-friendly fashion faves like Reformation and profiles eco-fashion activists like Emma Watson and Livia Firth. It was put together with the help of an advisory board consisting of a combination of fashion and sustainability experts, from socially and environmentally conscious Brother Vellies designer Aurora James and Amazon's worldwide sustainability director Kara Hurst to reps from the CFDA and the Fair Fashion Center

"The convening power that this topic has is powerful," Fulenwider notes of the board. "I'm really energized by that."

Fulenwider says that the idea for the issue was crowdsourced from her editors, who expressed their interest in covering global climate change at a staff dinner a little over a year ago. Conversations Fulenwider was having with friends like Abigail Dillen, vice president of litigation at environmental nonprofit EarthJustice, were also key in highlighting the human-induced deterioration of the environment to Fulenwider.

"[Dillen] essentially looked me in the eye and was like, 'We have 10 years to fix this,'" says Fulenwider. And while she says the issue wasn't even really on her radar two years ago, the conversation has shifted significantly since then. 

"Everyone is talking about this," she says. "I just don't think that was the case when I got to Marie Claire five years ago."

Though work on the issue has been underway since last year, it seems especially timely in light of this summer's news about Donald Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Accord, a U.N.-backed agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions. While that news, like much news related to the environment, is decidedly depressing, Marie Claire's coverage of sustainability-related issues will remain upbeat.

To those who would call that relentless positivity a cop-out — sure, a big glossy is willing to talk about sustainability, but only so long as it doesn't make anyone feel bad — Fulenwider would say that making sustainability seem fun and cool is the best way for it to succeed in the long run.

"I think one of the best things we can do is apply peer pressure," she says. "It's like the high school rule. If enough cool people are taking this on, those who may not be moved by their own moral compass may change, too."

So will Marie Claire continue to champion the conversation beyond this one specialized issue? According to Fulenwider, it won't be difficult to do so while remaining positive — so the answer is yes. She intends to make the focus on sustainability even larger with next year's dedicated issue, and she claims that the more she learns, the more encouraged she is about all the potential the fashion industry has to do good.

"What I've learned most from this process is how effective and powerful the fashion industry can be in this effort to reverse or at least halt global warming," she says. "I feel like we can actually make a difference."

Marie Claire's sustainability issue is on newsstands now.

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