SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS: THE BEST OF THE SHOWS FROM LONDON FASHION WEEK
BY ALICE WILBY
With the cross party Environmental Audit Committee report on the unsustainability of the industry due out on the final day of Fashion Week. Climate change activists from Extinction Rebellion gathered to ‘swarm’ the streets, protesting at the environmental destruction the fashion industry is wreaking on the world, sustainability was the most powerful topic this February.
The shows fell into two camps. Progressive designers, activists and inquisitive souls, bravely calling out and standing up against the industry’s negative impact on the environment. And everyone else, carrying on with business as usual. Their heads firmly buried in the sand.
Here are my favourite sustainable solutions offered up by our most forward thinking fashion crowd.
Oxfam - The Secondhand Heroes
Working with their long term collaborator, stylist Bay Garnett, Oxfam enlisted the help of top models including Stella Tennant, Yasmin Le Bon, Laura Bailey, Lottie Moss and Kesewa Aboah, super-cool designer Bella Freud, and music stars Emeli Sandé and Una Healy, to bring their characterful clothes to life. The collection Garnett put together, encapsulated everything seasoned secondhand fans love about shopping at Oxfam. Alongside everyday wearable staple items, you can find one of a kind vintage dresses, 70’s graphic print, 80’s power jackets and immaculate designer pieces.
Buying from Oxfam gives clothes a second life, keeping them out of landfill and is unquestionably the most sustainable way to shop. Oxfam’s pioneering recycling hub Wastesaver saves more than 12,000 tonnes of clothing from going into landfill every year. Everything is sorted with expert care, with clothing sorters looking out for what is on trend, to ensure that their customers get a relevant selection of clothes.
Garnett said: “I’m styling this show for a very simple reason. I love clothes, and the opportunity to work with them in a way that can actually help people is so exciting. I get a lot of pleasure from knowing that. I love second-hand clothes, and I love Oxfam’s commitment to fighting poverty. This collaboration is a no-brainer for me.”
Fee Gilfeather, Oxfam’s sustainable fashion expert, said: “Here at Oxfam we never lose sight of the reason we sell fashion, which is to raise money to help the world’s poorest people... The clothes in Oxfam shops really do transform lives. A £10 dress can provide clean water for 10 people in an emergency. The outfits created by Bay illustrate beyond a shadow of doubt that our affordable, stylish clothes look incredible.” All the clothes worn in the show are now available for sale on Oxfam’s on-line shop.
Bethany Williams - The Award Winning Social Pioneer
Bethany Williams has achieved a lot since graduating in 2016. From the get-go, her vision was to build a sustainable brand that gave back to society, supported the marginalised and raised awareness on environmental issues. And she is delivering. This year at her debut LFW show, she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Award for Design, in celebration of her work and dedication to environmental and social causes.
Bethany used her LFW debut to showcase her vision for how fashion can be a force for positive change. Working with The Liverpool Echo to utilise their waste and the San Patrignano rehabilitation programme in Italy, that teaches people with drug dependencies traditional crafts, Bethany has made a bold, colourful unisex collection. Furthering her social commitments, Williams has pledged 20% of the sales of this collection to Adelaide House, a women’s shelter in Liverpool that provides refuge for domestic abuse survivors and prison-leavers.
On the catwalk, alongside model and activist Adwoa Aboah, Bethany continued her support for TIH Models, a unique agency working with homeless men and women, offering them paid, industry rate work.
Whilst presenting Williams with her award the Duchess of Cornwall praised Bethany’s ability to “Bring ideas and people together and put change for the good at the heart of her business.”
Imagine if every designer decided to put positive change at the heart of their business like from Bethany Williams! How different the industry would be.
Duran Lantink - The Luxury Up-cycler
Turning traditional notions of upcycling on their head, Duran Lantink raids luxury brand sale bins to find the source for his designs. Prada, Chanel, Mui Mui and JW Anderson are all fair game. Each label is expertly cut up and stitched back together with another, resulting in an even more desirable hybrid than the original.
Reflecting his diverse mix of inspirations, Lantink’s upcycling methods and collage techniques echo his desire to produce clothing using innovative, sustainable and ethical practices.
For the International Fashion Showcase, Lantink’s installation set has been built in the same vein as the clothes. Ex-display and visual merchandising props from all the top fashion houses have been crafted together to create a fictional, smash n grab Black Friday sale scene. Complete with broken window, Duran’s tableau challenges us to question overconsumption, the never ending sale cycle of continuous reductions, and the hype and value we imbue luxury goods without question. Lantink hopes to inspire us to think about how much we buy, and instead each time we want something ‘new’ to go back to our own wardrobes and craft something for what we already have.
Lantink’s beautiful, maverick collection will be available to buy from his pop-up at Libertys in March.
Naushad Ali - The Zero Waste Minimalist
Naushad Ali’s timeless, elegant designs foster a deep love of Indian traditions and crafts, creating designs that bring together modern cuts and heritage fabrics.
Working to ensure every piece of the cloth is used, Ali collects what would normally be thrown away as off cuts, and then at the end of each season he crafts these reminder pieces of fabric into garments that fit seamlessly into the visual tone of rest of his collection. Proudly making approximately 40 garments from what would have otherwise gone to waste, it’s not only inspiring, but an integral part of his brand story, adding real value to the collection.
Inspired by traditional Indian craftsmanship and heritage fabrics, but with firm roots in new design techniques, Ali expertly blends the expertise of Indian craftsmen with contemporary fashion to create the most elegant, wearable, Zero Waste pieces.
Mother of Pearl - The Sustainable Reinvention
Luxury brand MOP are taking back control of their supply chain. A lifelong passion for sustainability and a creeping unease at what was becoming an increasingly throwaway industry, Creative Director Amy ... spent 3 years carefully researching her brands supply chains. The result was the No Frills collection. A 100% traceable/transparent collection that can be broken down into 10 sustainable attributes.
This LFW, Mother of Pearl joined forces with BBC World to launch a flagship collection inspired by BBC Planet. Using cutting edge sustainable production methods to demonstrate how new technology can help us in reducing fashion's impact on the planet. They will also be launching a short film to promote discussion about the environmental impact our consumption of fashion is having.
The collection was shown in a chapel, with models marooned on plinths at one end, surrounded by recycled plastic balls. On hire from an events company, the sea of plastic balls was designed to represent all the micro plastics that wash off our clothes and into the sea each year. I was dubious at first of them even using plastic full stop. There was something very alarming about wading through it all. Sadly it was all too easy to imagine the claustrophobic, suffocating feeling sea life might experience when overcome with microplastics. Let’s hope all the other press, bloggers and fashion folk also got the metaphor.
Tengri - The Luxury Lifestyle Brand
Pioneering fashion and lifestyle brand Tengri work with nomadic herders in Mongolia, transforming the wool from the yaks they farm, into luxurious materials and in turn provide the herders with a sustainable income. Launched at the Herrick Gallery, the Sky collection is comprised of signature trench, pilot, aviator coats and classic overcoats. It blends eastern and western influences and includes a jumpsuit and key separates designed for both men and women. Aspects of vintage flight-coats worn by pilots in the air and off duty, are combined with functional design elements of traditional Mongolian clothing.
Tengri meaning ‘Sky God’, the primary deity of a pantheon of gods, is believed by early Mongol and Turkic people to govern all human existence and natural phenomena on earth.
Tengri studio also previewed their limited-edition shoe collection, created in collaboration with heritage shoemaker Joseph Cheaney & Sons. For optimum comfort and mobility, the brogues feature a yak hair insole, and a layer of Mongolian sheep wool replaces the rigid cork resin in the sole. Alongside the accessories, Tengri also showcased their new tailoring fabrics, including the studio’s signature Khangai Yak, sourced from the remote steppes of Khangai, Mongolia.
Extinction Rebellion - The Show To Eclipse All Others
Intentionally picking one of the busiest days of fashion week to spread their message of alert, members of Extinction Rebellion blocked roads around key show locations in London to protest. Calling on the British Government to declare a climate emergency, and with a rally cry to the British Fashion Industry of ‘there’s no fashion on a dead planet’ members of Extinction Rebellion were protesting the heavy carbon footprint and ecological damage caused by our hugely unsustainable fashion industry.
Clare Farrell, fashion designer and co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, told us, “We disrupted business as usual (at LFW) and asked broadly what culture could be doing to help humanity in this grave crisis. Because the fashion industry is in the business of inspiration and when you recognise that you have power in creative leadership, when you know that if we lose 200 species per day, there is an endpoint… it’s time for people to step into virtue ethics and ask what it means to live a good life and what is the purpose of their business. Its time that creative people were put to task to challenge themselves properly to think about what can be done differently and how the future can be different. Stop trading on scarcity and loneliness and isolation and playing on people's insecurities and bring people together. We need to find commonality and we need to find collectivity and resilience if were going to make any sense of the collapse that we have already committed to, and which the fashion industry is increasing in pace by adding the carbon emissions equivalent of the output of Russia, every year.”
Standing next to Clare Farrell on the front line, journalist Lucy Siegle declared that the Extinction Rebellion road bock was ‘the show to end all shows’. Quite an eerie statement considering the most recent IPPC report has concluded that we have less than two decades to take action against climate change in order to avoid disaster. When you consider that the fashion industry is responsible for more man made carbon emissions then aviation and shipping combined, it’s imperative that we engage the fashion industry to take drastic action fast.
Dressed in black, as though in mourning, Extinction Rebellion protesters ‘swarmed’ the streets, blocking the main roads leading to LFW shows. Each ‘swarm’ lasted 7 mins, during which leaflets were handed out and the public kept informed of why it was happening.
Extinction Rebellion are emploring the industry and us as individuals to seriously consider the impact and consequences of our actions.
Our future and our plant depends on it.
You can join the Rebellion here.