Bemused Iraqi shepherds watched as models paraded second-hand garments down an improvised catwalk north of Baghdad. Attempting to raise the consciousness of the fashion industry’s effect on environment.
Haute couture has given way to upcycled outfits made entirely of secondhand clothing as models strut, stop. And pivot on the runway, indicating the increasing popularity of chic, environmentally friendly vintage wear among young Iraqis.
“We don’t want overproduction of clothes; we have to reuse them,” said Mohamed Qassem, 25, a hairdresser and organiser of the fashion display near Al-Hussainiya village.
According to the World Resources Institute, the global fashion sector accounted for 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.
Increasingly, environment friendly social media influencers and campaigners have led the charge towards sustainable fashion.
Many young people in climate-stressed Iraq, such as Qassem, have developed an interest in vintage apparel.
Fluorescent green puffer jackets, long black leather coats, ample double-breasted blazers, and contemporary takes on traditional costumes were on display at the palm grove event.
Peaceful rhythms are gradually returning to everyday life in many parts of Iraq. Scarred by decades of conflict, and second-hand clothing gives aspiring fashionistas an affordable opportunity to express themselves.
As “fast fashion” and imported brands proliferate on Baghdad’s streets. The outfits at the Al-Hussainiya event are mainly green, a nod to the show’s environmental message.
Iraq, which is synonymous with date production, has seen the effects of climate change and years of war put a strain on its iconic date palms.
“The goal is not only to focus on clothes but also on abandoned orchards and palm trees that are disappearing every day,” Qassem explained.
According to the United Nations, oil-rich Iraq is one of the five nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Already experiencing extreme summer heat, frequent droughts, desertification, and frequent dust storms. All of which will worsen as the planet warms.
The runway show designs will not be available for purchase. The parade’s organisers primarily expect that it will raise awareness.
“Second-hand pieces are clothes of excellent quality,” said Ahmed Taher, a 22-year-old stylist who put together the sets for the show.
“When you wear them, you have the idea that you are wearing luxury clothing. It’s not like what you’d discover in a store.”