By Chere Di Boscio
Not long ago, Russian fashionista, Buro247 founder and owner of theTot website, Miroslava Duma was enamored with the fashion industry: she adored the creativity, the beauty, the practicality of all things sartorial. She lived in a blessed world of front row fashion, shopping sprees and killer outfits – until she started to learn about the damage fashion is doing to the planet.
Most Eluxe readers will sympathise; you’re probably aware that fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, contaminating our waterways with pesticides and dyes; scarring the earth with metal and gemstone mines and oil wells for the petroleum byproducts used in polyesters. More fashion production means more land is cleared for cattle and cotton crops, and let’s not even talk about the amount of post-consumer clothing waste that gets stuffed into landfills and takes centuries to biodegrade, if ever.
Given these hard facts, as a mother of two, Duma began to fret about the future of her children, and then decided to do something to make it a bit brighter. She put her high level fashion connections to use and formulated Fashion Tech Lab (FTL Ventures), a company which aims to apply its staggering $50m in investment into ‘wearable technology that’s better for the planet’.
These substantial funds will be channeled into projects like a fabric made from milk, which looks and feels like cashmere; an Orange Fibre Fabric, made from waste from the juice industry, and which is so soft and silky, Salvatore Ferragamo just created a capsule collection from it. There’s even a textile infused with microparticles of peppermint oil to kill bacteria and keep you smelling fresh, whilst having to wash clothes less.
Some of these initiatives are quite eco-friendly, and have earned coverage in Eluxe. Others, however, seem to be a bit of a greenwash, or even downright unethical. For example, Duma has focused attention on an Asian company that creates real fur by using stem cell technology – sure, it’s better than killing animals for fur, but it still raises the moral questions that vintage fur does: who’s to know how ‘ethical’ your fur is? And what message are you sending when you wear it?
The same could be said for the artificial diamond enterprise that can ‘grow’ stones in a laboratory in a matter of weeks instead of digging up land for mines. But surely there are equally beautiful gems that are easier to obtain, take far less energy and don’t send out a message that (blood) diamonds are still ‘a girl’s best friend’?
Another worrying aspect of Duma’s project is the potential invasion of your privacy ‘wearable tech’ threatens. Citing the example of Pokéman Go, she gleefully points out that kids playing the game virtually ‘let Google into their houses’ through the app – allowing Google to map everything in (what certainly should be) a highly private environment. She justifies this by saying: ‘in the tech world, if you are working on data mining, the evaluation of your company is is multiplied by 100,’ she told FT. By wearing clothing that allows for location services and data collection, you’re basically selling your privacy out for some faceless corporation’s benefit – at which cost to you, we don’t yet know.
Clearly, the real reason Duma was able to get $50m to fund her company wasn’t because investors were concerned about the environment; instead, they’re more worried about the drop in demand for luxury goods as millennials increasing understand material goods bring us little happiness indeed. “Kids are not ready to spend money on luxury,” Duma stated. “They would rather go to a restaurant and spend really good money on really good food. It’s an experiential thing. But that’s what I’m talking about with this clothing; it’s about storytelling.”
Duma’s intentions are undoubtedly good, and her fashion cred cannot be disputed. But to throw $50m into artificial diamonds, fur and nanotech clothing seems to be merely perpetuating a demand some of the most unethical products on the market. Wouldn’t those funds be better spent funding vicuna producers in Peru, or young designers incorporating up-and-re-cycling into their work? Despite the cutting-edge technology involved, I t seems the story Duma is actually telling is a very old one indeed: the Emperor Has No Clothes.
Images: 1 – Qmilk 2. Wikicommons 3. Encyclopedia Britannica