February 24, 2020 – By Alexandra Mae
As show season rolls around once again, the more conscious consumers among us anxiously wait for the presentation of each collection, hoping that based on the current state of the ecological climate, designers will have made drastic changes to their design and manufacturing processes, in the aim of slowing down the industry for the better of the planet.
Drastic – perhaps not. Positive progress and responsibility – hell yes! Show by show, I find myself seeing sustainable credentials within almost every other collection. It comes as a hugely welcome surprise.
Some brands are already there when it comes to ethical practices. Pioneers of ethical and eco-textiles and processes since 2004, London based duo Vin + Omi have weaved care and compassion in to their products since day one. The fabrics they use include recycled polyester turned in to chiffon, silk and knit, along with fleece sourced from llama and alpaca in the UK that are kept as pets on organic smallholdings. The duo is not only incredibly innovative, but very well connected.
Another delight is the influx of talented new designers emerging from prestigious London colleges and universities, with sustainable methods already at the heart of their brands. Bethany Williams won the Queen Elizabeth II award last year, which has kept her ethically-produced artistry a part of the fashion conversation, and for Phoebe English’s Fall/Winter collection the designer used 100% deadstock materials that were sourced from fellow London designers. These included none other than Simone Rocha, Katherine Hamnett and Preen. The show was simply titled ‘Nothing New.’
Influencer favourites Shrimps and Preen by Thornton Bregazzi were also promoting positive change. Shrimps championed their staple ‘would-never-have-known’ faux fur pieces, that are produced by working with an Italian Mill that is committed to creating recycled and environmentally conscious fabrications.
Preen on the other hand were aiming to use as little virgin material as possible and reduce waste by using a medley of deadstock pre-consumer materials produced by English Mills. Thornton expressed that,
“fabric that would have gone in to landfill; actually, they’re amazing classics. We are not a sustainable company, but we are trying to do what we can.”
There are also those brands that we can always rely on to come through for the planet, such as Woolmark Prize finalist Richard Malone and eco-icon Vivienne Westwood. British Vogue reported after the Malone show that, “where some designers pay lip service to sustainable and ethical fashion, Malone is fully committed. Alongside the show notes for his new collection was a mission statement outlining the details of his practices with full transparency, right down to the hourly rates (25 pounds an hour minimum) for the local cutters and tailors he employs.”
Westwood this season decided to channel her usual activism away from the environment as her main cause for concern. Westwood’s collection was half-presentation and half demonstration on behalf of Julian Assange.
Assange is currently imprisoned awaiting a trial for his role as the mastermind behind Wikileaks. A renowned figure in the field of activism, she has stated that Assange is “an innocent man” who has been “persecuted for nine years for telling the truth.” If there is one thing that we can be sure Westwood will always teach us, it is how to be a voice for the voiceless.
Sustainability newcomers re-thinking their business models and putting responsible practices in place are Burberry, Roland Mouret and Tommy Hilfiger.
Burberry stepped up to the plate with a pledge to reduce their overall carbon footprint via off-setting and used a ‘certifiably sustainable’ venue for their fashion week presentation. They are also investing in carbon off-setting initiatives with regenerative agriculture and agroforestry in Australia.
Tommy Hilfiger and Lewis Hamilton’s fourth collection TommyNow was declared as ‘the most sustainable Hilfiger collection yet,’ with seventy-five percent of the garments produced using more sustainable methods, including organic cotton, recycled fabric and low-impact denim washes.
Roland Mouret on the other hand took on another of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in addition to his planet-friendly commitment, by increasing the ability for diverse dressing with the brands new collection. Looks for Mouret’s ‘menswear’ were all taken from the women’s collection. The sizing was altered, and they wore ‘soft-shouldered jackets, loose pants and gathered blouses.’ Very Harry Styles meets 80’s Richard Gere. It was also pointed out that his collection was ‘70% sustainable and 100% carbon neutral’, thanks to offsetting.
Will these acknowledgements of the climate devastation and fashion’s role within it, along with the solutions presented be enough to keep activists such as Extinction Rebellion at bay? Unlikely. But what we can say is that the big brands and respected artisans are making a dramatic effort in light of the current state of affairs. However, the industry’s largest culprit, fast fashion, needs to be next on our to-do list.