Having never been to London Fashion Week before, we didn’t know what to expect. Among all the weird and the wonderful sights, we met some very innovative and knowledgeable designers.
The selection criteria for Estethica stipulates that brands either: include “organic fibres and the use of upcycled and recycled fibres and materials”; and/or adhere to the key principles of “fair trade and ethical practice in the production process.”
We wondered how these selection criteria had been devised, and if they could be made broader and more evidence-based. At Best Foot Forward, we have devised a methodology for assessing the environmental profiles of different textiles, which is based upon metrics for pollution, water, carbon, land use and cost. We wondered whether the principles of Estethica could be optimised via consideration of these broader metrics.
The Estethica exhibition opened with an array of dresses by top designers, including a Stella McCartney creation made from organic cotton and organic silk exclusively for Livia Firth’s Green Carpet Challenge(). Organic cotton featured prominently at the exhibition, but – perhaps because of the selection criteria – we couldn’t find any hemp or flax (which require very little pesticides, irrigation or fertiliser).
However, we found some of the designers particularly inspiring…
She spoke passionately about how endangered species had inspired her designs, most notably tigers for her S/S’13 collection. She was particularly concerned about biodiversity. Where possible she avoids cotton (which is associated with large-scale water and pesticide use) and uses materials such as bamboo and silk instead.
The Burrard Collective
Aren Pe of The Burrard Collective provided us with enthusiastic insight into his use of pineapple leaf fibres for natural colouration, and experimentation with water hyacinth fibres. In many parts of the world, the water hyacinth is a prolific invasive species, and he hoped to encourage people to use it for textiles.
Diana Auria and Margot Bowman of Auria used Econyl – recycled nylon made from carpets and fishing nets. Diana informed us that customers particularly liked the ‘full-circle’ of the products they buy – from fishing nets to swimming costumes.
Perhaps the most environmentally impressive collection was created by Junky Styling. Junky’s designs were not just recycled but upcycled; old items and offcuts were reworked into new composite stylish garments. At Best Foot Forward we have recently worked with an iconic fashion brand which sends offcuts for shredding and incineration; upcycling could provide a more environmentally-sound solution to this waste issue.
MaxJenny made bright and colourful outerwear from recycled bottles, designed for durability (‘live life lighter’) and practiced design for minimisation. Fabric wasted in manufacture can often be as high as 40%; this can be avoided through thoughtful design. MaxJenny’s have designed a dress made from one piece of material and used just three holes for head and arms, and shirts were designed with a single-seam. This mirrors the ‘design for minimisation’ ideas promoted by the Issey Miyake, who has challenged designers to create as many garments as possible from one roll of cloth, thereby minimising waste.
Many of the designers spoken to had recently graduated from fashion design degrees, and explained how integral sustainability was to their studies. This even coming from designers who were not associated with Estethica. Yet, what was interesting to us was, within the same venue promoting Esthetica and students talking about sustainability, was the Rock Vault exhibition, which made for an interesting juxtaposition. The Vault, promoted by the British Fashion Council, displayed jewellery created from the rare mineral palladium – the mining of which is associated with the consumption of vast amounts of energy and water, and associated with much land degradation and pollution.
Estethica was an inspiring event, and – with inclusions from big names such as Stella McCartney, Tom Ford and Antonio Berardi – left one hoping that it was the start of something big as young designers begin to consider sustainability as an integral component of their designs.