Chanel Criticized For Chopping Down Nearly Century-Old Trees To Decorate Catwalk For A Couple Of Hours

Chanel has said they will plant 100 trees to replace the oaks, though it's unclear if this was before or after the criticism. Neupokoev/Shutterstock

Moody-faced models and Hollywood luvvies recently made their annual migration to Paris Fashion Week where Chanel, famed maker of shiny, tweedy, and expensive things, displayed an “enchanted forest” themed set to show off their Fall/Winter 2018/19 collection.

Unfortunately, their attempts to project an Earthy and pro-environment image has fallen flat in a massive fashion faux pas.

The show featured hoards of models strutting their stuff around a number of real oak and poplar trees that had been chopped down just to act as decoration for a few hours. More of these trees had also been felled and made into benches to cater for the show’s star-studded crowd, including actress Keira Knightley, British singer Lily Allen, model Lara Stone, and former French first lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy.

It's just a few trees, you might say, but environmental groups have laid into the show claiming it highlights the fashion industry's lack of environmental responsibility.

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French Nature Environment has called Chanel's show a “disenchanted forest,” adding it’s “a heresy that illustrates the lack of consideration of the environment in the luxury industry.”

“Whatever the motives of Chanel, they missed,” the group said in a statement. “Nature is not chopping down trees in a forest, putting them up for a few hours for a show and then throwing them into a dumpster.”

Although hardly in short supply, oak trees can take centuries to grow to their full size. Some oak trees do not begin making seeds, in the form of acorns, until they are 50 years old. 

“A tree takes on average 150 years to reach a diameter of 60 centimeters," French Nature Environment noted. "In other words, the big trees of the scenery will have lived 1.3 million hours before being cut for a show whose duration will not exceed three hours.”

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Chanel has already replied to the criticism saying the trees were sourced from a forest in western France but none were a century old. According to AFP, the brand also said they “promised to replant 100 new oak trees in the heart of the same forest.”

On the whole, fashion is not a green industry, regularly involved with a whole bunch of environmental nasties including water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals, increasing levels of textile waste, and greenhouse gases emissions caused by their production and supply chain.

However, big-name fashions houses are coming under increasing pressure to sort out their environmental responsibility. The Fashion Transparency Index ranks the biggest global fashion brands according to how much information they disclose about their supply chain policies and practices, and environmental impact. Recent years have seen some considerable improvement, but there are acres of work left to do.

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