By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Let’s face it: it may be beautiful, but couture can be crazy. Some of the most stunning pieces ever created are basically unwearable. Think of Alexander McQueen‘s FW2013 collection (directly below), John Galliano’s elaborate Geishas (further below), or Iris Van Herpen’s Biomorphic collection, for example.
In this sense, couture elevates clothing to an art form, but the origins of the term refer to the fact that the garments were made to order and fitted individually. Of course, the catwalks are just ‘inspiration’ for customers to adapt such dramatic designs to their own needs, but there are some designers who present more quotidian looks that clients can easily imagine themselves wearing to their next big event.
Because it isn’t mass produced, we always think of couture as being representative of ‘slow fashion,’ and because it’s almost always made by hand by well-trained European artisans, we also consider it ‘ethical.’ But due to some of the materials used, couture isn’t always ‘eco-friendly’–unless it’s from one of these houses.
Here, we highlight a few special brands that create elegant everyday eco couture–not that you would wear this daily, but it’s not so artistic that it’s strictly destined for design museums. These are dresses that are made to order, but can be used year after year, occasion after occasion.
Famous mainly for her wedding dresses, Sanyukta Shrestha has now branched out hand-woven, hand-embroidered, and hand-made couture for all occasions. Timelessly elegant, Sanyukta’s collections are always ethical without compromising on luxury and design in any way.
Another design house famed for bridal wear, Studio Tammam has increasingly been seen on red carpets and black tie events throughout the UK, in particular. Influenced by vintage design and the golden ages of glamour and fashion, their bespoke service offers a first class experience, couture clients to trial and fit their purchase as many times as they desire to ensure a perfect fit. Clients are welcome to suggest design alterations or additions and our expert fitters will ensure each garment fits perfectly.
Eva Zingoni is the reference point of sustainable couture made in France. Her limited editions are made from recycled material, specifically left-over fabric, leather, thread, zippers and buttons of Parisian Maisons. Zingoni manages to breathe new life into these surplus materials by creating beautifully draped garments that have a luxuriously alternative twist. Before founding her own label, Eva worked for many years in top fashion houses, and developed the urge to salvage excess production materials and use them in a personal creative process. Every Zingoni creation is one-of-a-kind or made to order, putting the ‘couture’ in ‘eco-couture.’
Where most people would see discarded newspapers, old jeans, ancient curtains and military surplus, Gary Harvey sees pure couture.
The former creative director of Levi’s and Dockers Europe is now an eco-chic designer and the fashion director at 125 Magazine. His unique, cheeky dresses are spectacularly theatrical and elegant, and are all designed to change people’s perceptions of second-hand clothing. He uses material he finds in places like thrift stores to raise awareness on limited natural resources, environmental issues and the importance of craftsmanship in upcycling. As with most couture designers, some of Harvey’s results are wackily worthy of museum-costume exhibits, whilst others are perfect for elegant dinners out or plush holiday parties.
Founded by the Italian designer Daniela Degrassi, who was inspired by the variety of fine textiles she collected during her travels around the world, Annaborgia was launched in the USA. Her Bridesmaid’s Ready to Wear collection is intended to be worn beyond weddings, and is created without any toxic dyes whatsoever. Daniela likes to instil her female childhood heroes in the dresses she creates for today’s unconventional, free spirited women: the indomitable Pippi Longstocking, the unconventional Jo from Alcott’s Little Women, and the defiant tempered women portrayed on the silver screen by Katharine Hepburn are just a few of the empowering female characters that have inspired this exceptional ethical label, which we would love to wear to the Eluxe Awards, coming up next October!
Sohad Acouri grew up in Lebanon, surrounded by pine trees and the sea. As a child, he was always watching his mother, who was a tailor, create custom shirts for high profile clients such as Jacques Chirac and Camille Chamoun. This early background influenced the designer in two ways: first, he grew to love handmade fashion, and secondly, he had a desire to conserve the natural world that enveloped him in his early years.
The result is a made-to-order fashion label that draws its inspiration from the shapes and forms of flowers and shells and the image of sunlight dancing on waves, created whenever possible from fabric that’s either made from sustainable fabrics or end rolls. Acouri once stated that he cannot “design a dress without creating a dream”; for us, he’s an ‘eco dream’ come true!
This Filipino fashion dynamo never fails to wow with his creations. Always curious about working with innovative eco-fabrics Ezra Santos is proud to base many of his creations on ‘pinatex’, a kind of silky fabric made from the fibres of pineapples. It absorbs dye very easily, so requires fewer toxic chemicals to achieve a rich, shiny hue, and it’s 100% biodegradable too. Based in the UAE, Santos is best known for creating glamorous and unique red carpet dresses and bridal wear, but as you can see from these images, he’s also happy to construct edgy, stylish dresses for simply special occasions.
This is one designer who’s done it the other way around: he began designing ready-to-wear and has recently broken into the couture market. Silverstein, who was a finalist on Fashion Star and who is known for his zero-waste techniques, is now making a name for his made-to-order formal wear, which has adorned brides and celebrities, including Jennifer Hudson, Kristen Bell and that greenest of supermodels, Amber Valletta.
Her speciality is designing stunning custom-made bridal gowns, but today, Leanne Marshall’s name is becoming well known as a designer of both sustainable couture and ready-to-wear fashion. Her sophisticated designs are characterised by their light, flowing lines, feminine details and timeless elegance. Each dress is handcrafted in the USA using only the highest quality, sustainable materials.With touches of modern sophistication and a nod to youth culture, Leanne Marshall has captured an incredible grace and beauty in all of her her collections.