By Coral Brown
Like just about any woman, I love fashion. But from an eco-conscious point of view, the Autumn Winter 2016 fashion season wasn’t quite the parade of green principles I had hoped for. After the UN Climate Change Conference last December, and considering fashion is the second biggest polluting industry after oil, it followed that this season would be the greenest on record. What with Karl Lagerfeld’s bold embrace of sustainability at the Chanel Haute Couture show in January, I would have put money on more labels following suit (no pun intended, promise).
But it was not so. The British Fashion Council’s sustainable fashion initiative Estethica was nowhere to be seen at London Fashion Week, curiously. And while Vivienne Westwood commendably continues to bang the climate change drum, her environmental credentials stop there. As we’ve discussed on Eluxe before, her supposed eco-friendliness is all talk and no trousers. She’s been known to use PVC (denounced as the single most environmentally damaging type of plastic by Greenpeace), and for her latest collection, it’s difficult to find information on the materials used, where they were sourced or how they were made, like other actually sustainable brands. The backbone of traceability and transparency is noticeably absent.
The strange silence of established labels on sustainability was heard, but labels committed to sustainability continued to flourish, keeping up the conversation of sustainability and fashion with vivacious energy. See for yourself!
Christopher Raeburn at LFW
Sustainability is at the centre of all Christopher Raeburn’s work, and this season was no different. He re-seamed old military uniforms as part of his ‘Remade in England’ project. He playfully crosses gender boundaries with his womenswear collection, as he repurposed clothes which historically bear the foundations of masculinity, and tailored them to women. The splash of bold reds and navies contrasts with his previous collections, which are usually limited to the khaki greens and beiges of parachutes.
Edun at NYFW
Edun’s latest collection by creative director Danielle Sherman is intentionally feminine, embracing the spirit of sustainability by constructing an “amalgamation of found materials”, using responsibly sourced leather, tweed and denim from Africa. The collection is rough around the edges, with unfinished seams and magnified blanket stitching, making it all the more raw. One dress carried a design by Ethiopian artist Wosene Worke Kosrof using Amharic letters to create a delicately detailed pattern. Like the creative inspiration, the materials and production of the garments are also rooted in Africa, with buttons handmade by local artisans.
Maiyet at NYFW
Founded by anti-apartheid lawyer Paul van Zyl and Kristy Caylor, this brand has steely ethical credentials. They aim to create partnerships with artisans in developing economies, encouraging entrepreneurship in India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mongolia, Peru, Bolivia, Japan and Thailand to create sustainable luxury. Under the creative direction of Declan Kearney, this collection is subtly coquettish, with lace hems, fishnets and satins. But these materials in the autumnal colour palette of burgundies, pastels and nudes brought an original elegance to them. Ethical fashion at its finest.
Suno at NYFW
Suno is a label rooted in social consciousness, produced in Kenya, India, Peru and New York using local talent. This season Suno set out to twist the traditional. They toyed with the scale of classic designs, with wide sleeves and oversized neck bows, bringing vintage back to life. They mixed and matched tartan, floral and stripes throughout the collection; all classic patterns but in a fresh combination.
Stella Jean at MFWS
Stella Jean’s designs are made with garment workers in Africa and Haiti that receive training and have job security, encouraging self-sustaining local communities. Plus, the materials used are locally sourced, and all this combined makes her a favourite of Eluxe. She’s involved in mighty fine ethical fashion projects like Fashion 4 Development and the Ethical Fashion Initiative to boot. Her AW16 collection, called The Portrait Versus the Mask, used materials recycled from factory excess, and is awash with vibrant Ndebele patterns, geometric prints and embroidered African masks, showcasing the aesthetics and skills of a multitude of cultures.
Maison Margiela at PFW
With John Galliano at the wheel, this brand’s AW16 collection is the latest of many eclectic and innovative designs using upcycled materials, this time striving for the ‘raw-core’ touch. With models wearing tailored military jackets, giant buckled belts at the waist and pearl necklaces, these looks toy with masculine and feminine tropes. One model wears a humdrum polo shirt ripped and reattached to a loud floral dress; another wears a repurposed khaki uniform embellished with frills. A brilliant example of unbridled creativity working with sustainability in mind.
Valentino at PFW
Greenpeace’s ‘most transparent’ fashion brand was inspired by the Russian ballet and New York street style with its autumn/winter 2016 show, a delicate array of girlishly pink tulle, soft jerseys and crushed velvets. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli also offered more practical items for everyday use – large pea-coats, unstructured trench coats and often paired these with uncharacteristic thick soled biker boots. The mix of the practical and the precious was the key message here, and one that is sure to trickle down into many women’s wardrobes.