My very dear friend Yasmin Sewell has been curating the Estethica press day for a couple of years now. Last season I got there just as they were packing up. Cue guilt trip. So with my sense of journalistic duty front of mind, I skipped along to Estethica after we, (me and Yasmin, who is advising me and the g/f on our wedding looks), left the showroom of the designer who is charged with making us look amazing on the day. And no, I still have not decided on a wedding dress, though Mary has, and she looks so amazing in it. Grrr.
Loved Yaz's look yesterday. Hat from Amsterdam, jacket, coat and jeans by Margiela, shirt by ACNE, TopShop shoes, Roger Vivier Bag. Paper bag from Whole Foods contained nachos and guacamole, yum!
ANYWAY. Turned up at Somerset House to check out the group of ethical designers selected by the British Fashion Council, with their collections edited for the press by Yasmin, and finally to observe a panel discussion on the future of ethical fashion. I was interested to hear what progress was being made in creating awareness of ethical labels, and how the companies are doing on a business level. But before I knew what was happening, I was inserted into the panel representing Grazia due to Volcano absenteeism. YIKES!
Yasmin and Laura Bailey
The PANEL: Laura Bailey, Verra Budimlija planning director of thinktank G2, Orsola de Castro owner/designer of upcycling label From Somewhere, Baroness Lola Young arts & heritage consultant and independent cross bench peer in the House of Lords. Out of shot is Charty Durrant, fashion consultant.
Brain in gear, I reacquainted myself with my thoughts on the subject. My view on ethical fashion is that something has to happen to rectify the disconnect between fashion seasons and actual seasons. Winter coats in on sale in September and bikinis on rails in March are an accepted shopping norm, but should they be? We also need to question a system that demands of designers they produce two main seasonal catwalk collections, as well as two pre-collections annually. High street stores produced a new range every six weeks. It was these points that revved the discussion into gear.
What we were all agreed on across the panel, is that awareness of ethical fashion/clothes needs to be fostered in teenagers. We also agreed that educating young consumers to develop personal style, rather than chasing fashion trends would be beneficial to everyone.
For me, what emerged from the panel discussion is that it is a darn good thing there are a bunch of people out there trying to make a difference to the way we think about and consume clothing. We need the London College of Fashion and its Centre for Sustainable Fashion. We need the British Fashion Council and Estethica. We need the designers selected for Esthetica to start making a difference, and to get recognition and exposure in the fashion press. Most especially though, we need them to make clothes that are desirable which stand up as stylish, functional, practical, beautiful - whatever they intend for them to be - but in the wider market. Not in an ethical market.
Christopher Raeburn creates functional outerwear using reclaimed, second-hand army fabrics, including leather and parachute silks. www.christopherraeburn.co.uk
The better ethical designers get at looking as good as the rest, (like Christopher's work above), but with the added edge of green credentials, the more likely we are to see the movement growing. It is the future. Stella McCartney has shown that you don't need to use leather to create amazing accessories. Edun has shown that you can create your own supply chain by growing cotton, and educating and caring for your workforce. There are manifold ways to be ethical.
On a personal, philosophical level I don't believe in consumption for consumptions sake. I find it sinister that we should be encouraged to keep shopping (J.G Ballard's Kingdom Come anyone?) So Primark, Peacocks and Tesco clothing lines are not on my shoppping list. I only buy what I need. But I DO want to support designers who are trying to educate people by creating ethical clothing in whatever form that might come in whether it is non-chrome vegetable dyes for leather; rearing their own sheep and knitting jumpers from them; upcycling, recycling, remaking..
I do find it difficult to find amazing ethical pieces for the magazine at times, but the selection on show for AW10 gave me hope.
Baroness Young was right when she stated "when things change, the two ways need to co-exist for a while."
From Somewhere uses off-cuts from the design process and upcycles them into beautiful pieces, like this one. Established in 1997 it is one of the pioneers of of the UK sustainable fashion movement. IThe clothes it creates improve season-on-season. www.fromsomewhere.co.uk
Loved this "Madonna" dress in 93% Bamboo fibres by MAXJENNY, they are worth checking out http://www.maxjenny.com/
Carapace gauntlet by Makepiece
Phyllite jumper by Makepiece
Edgeway dress by Makepiece
Here is Beate Kubitz of Makepiece with the sheep that make the above garments! She co-owns the label with designer Nicola Sherlock-Windle, and all of their well-designed - some fashionable, others functional - knits are created using British farmed wool, alpaca, and mohair. http://www.makepiece.co.uk/
Meet Nin Castle of Goodone. Her energy and flair was infectious, and Yasmin told me she could see Goodone going all the way. Nin designs using upcycled surplus luxury fabrics and used garments, she also makes use of end of roll cashmere and British knit. The designer is posing with a mannequin wearing her bestselling and very sexy crochet panel knit dress. Her next project is a collection using all the surplus fabrics from Arcadia Group for a TopShop collection. Watch this space! www.goodone.co.uk
Photos by Fashion Editor at Large and from the press packs of designers shown.