Masters of the logo sweatshirts, Kenzo have set up a digital pop-up store front in Paris to promote their latest #NoFishNoNothing collection and campaign. The digital aquarium is connected to the Kenzo e-commerce platform, allowing lucky Parisians to purchase pieces from the collection, with some of the proceeds (unclear exactly how much) going to the Blue Marine Foundation. The digital store front is incredibly cool – at different intervals 30% of the fish on the screen disappear to represent the effects of over-fishing our oceans. But then, in a stroke of marketing genius, every time a purchase is made or an instagram is posted with the #nofishnonothing, a fish reappears in the aquarium – saving the oceans one insty at a time.
The collection itself is killer and just what you’d expect from Kenzo: graphic prints, sporty shapes and high-impact colours. The microsite they created for it is also really fun. This is a great example of an incredibly cool brand with a heap of cultural capital, using digital innovation to work with a not-for-profit and bring attention to their cause. It’s totally on-brand, will sell well and has created some really great PR. All positive, right?
Well, not exactly. I don’t want to trash a brand for doing something, anything, for the environment, but I have to ask – why did a fashion brand choose to support and invest in a environmental cause like over-fishing, when there are so many pressing environmental concerns in their own industry?
Whether it be the amount of pesticide used on cotton crops, landfill or carbon emissions – fashion manufacturing has problems with it all. And while Kenzo are so keen to protect our oceans, I can’t help but wonder why they are yet to commit to Greenpeace’s Detox Catwalk, a project aimed to phase out toxic chemicals used in the production of clothing that pollute our waterways and severely damage food chains of, you guessed it, fish.
Kenzo are, on the surface, really pushing to protect the fish – their blog has tips for choosing sustainable fish that include making sure “to always find out where it comes from” and asking “for more details on method of catch to appear on labels in shops or on menus. It is your consumer’s right to know!” Great green advice, but how about applying this principle to products other than fish, say that Kenzo tiger sweatshirt that’s been seen on every street style darling from New York to Milan? Try to buy this sweater at Net-a-Porter, and you’ll notice that there is zero mention of where it’s made, in what conditions and by whom. If Kenzo are so keen on promoting transparent labeling, why have they not insisted that one of their biggest stockists at least mention the country of manufacture?
Over-fishing is a convenient cause for Kenzo. It’s connected to the brand’s reboot – new designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, owners of cult boutique, Opening Ceremony, grew up in California and have called this collaboration “a really personal message.” Importantly, it is a environmental problem that Kenzo have some distance from – while they can financially contribute thanks to the sale of some sweet sweatshirts, there is nothing they can do to directly change or influence the fishing industry. Imagine if they had focused their marketing savvy, design skills and down-right coolness to environmental improvements in their own supply chain?
As far as marketing ploys go, I’m all for those with a socially or environmentally responsible message. It gives us, as consumers, a chance to make positive purchasing choices and to show big fashion retailers that we care about things other than low prices and the latest trends. I am also excited when any designer brand launches a range of cool, attractive products with this kind of angle – it helps break down the silo between fashion and eco-fashion and challenge the assumption that anything with a green agenda is frumpy and lame. But the danger comes when brands spend their time and money promoting big scale causes outside their sphere of influence, rather than buckling down and addressing their own impact on the environment. I’m not aware of whether Kenzo are doing this behind the scenes, but so far they have had a less-than stellar reputation when it comes to transparent manufacturing practices. Somehow brands like Kenzo need to find a way of marketing (and selling) a clean and ethical supply chains – only then can we see real, meaningful change.