S & S Opinion: Sustainability and Positive Fashion rule the catwalks at London Fashion Week

Last week saw fashion’s finest descend upon London Fashion Week. London is a city that’s synonymous with forward thinking style, sleek streetwear with modernist and urban twists. It’s the home of Burberry, Molly Goddard & Richard Quinn to name but a few— needless to say the Brits know how to design and dress in equal measure.

Spring/Summer ‘20 continues with the British Fashion Council’s trajectory of the Positive Fashion Initiative. This platform has been founded to celebrate industry best practice and encourage future business decisions to create positive change— such as in February where we saw the likes of Mother of Pearl collaborate with BBC Earth.

The Institute of Positive Fashion is highly commendable and led by the 3 strategic pillars as set out in its statement: 

Sustainability 

Ethics – Focuses on social, environmental and business governance to drive a more sustainable fashion future. Positive Fashion champions the long term sustainability of the fashion sector which contributes £32.3 Billion to the UK economy in GDP and supports 890,000 jobs. Through the power of collective influence, our Positive Fashion committee of global brands, designer businesses and industry stakeholders gather thought leadership and drive change through best practice.

Equality & Diversity 

People – Represents the people, from the product makers to the staff, students and models who pioneer our brands. The BFC takes the lead in setting the standards for an industry that strives to represent equality and diversity on the global stage, championing the importance of every person in the sector as a vital and valuable part of our industry entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.

Craftsmanship & Community 

Community – Supports the community of talent, skills and craftsmanship that make up our unique industry. Our initiatives are designed to develop connections and understanding between designers and manufacturers taking a holistic approach to the long term viability of the sector. We celebrate the wealth of talent and capability that is unique to British designer businesses.

With the week defined by these tenets of Positive Fashion, we can turn our heads to the designers and creative pioneers within this space.

Roland Mouret 

Sleek silhouettes aside, Mouret promoted a slightly different cause but one nevertheless fundamental to the needs of the fashion industry. His support of the fully circular Arch & Hook BLUE® hanger – made from 100% recycled marine plastic highlighted an extremely wasteful element of the supply chain often omitted from sustainability practices. Transportation of garments from factory to warehouse where plain cheap hangers are discarded on a whim for luxury branded ones is another critical matter that should be addressed and adopted by all.

Richard Quinn

London’s shining star, Richard Quinn, and his couture-esque creations have not only won him the QE2 Award for British Design, but also seek to minimise waste with neither extravagance nor opulence spared. 

In order to do so, printers used by the designer require minimal water and any inks are neutralised in order to not leak into water sources. The fashion house ensures there is no deadstock as they make all prints in house to the precise volumes (bravo!) and thus minimise their carbon footprint as on-site production makes global shipping wholly unnecessary. 

Vin & Omi

Punk eco-friendly innovative fashion brand presented their collection in collaboration with Prince Charles, an unlikely but nonetheless incredible partnership! Featured on the final day of Fashion Week, their creations utilised nettles picked from the Highgrove home of the Prince of Wales. Garments comprising of weeds, surplus hazel, willow and chicken wire were paraded down the runway. The Prince of Wales originally met the designers in May as part of the Positive Fashion Initiative. During the discussion, the Prince of Wales brought up the idea of using nettles to create sustainable fabrics – revealing that he has an abundance of them in his garden at Highgrove House. Shortly after this conversation, Vin and Omi were invited to the royal estate to pick the nettles which would be used to create 10 pieces of clothing in this latest collection.

Although they didn’t show at London Fashion Week this month, two other London based designer who are leading this positive fashion movement include:

Bethany Williams

Another winner of the QE2 Award for Design, Bethany Williams is altering the fashion frontier with her thoughtfully curated collections. Williams decided to show during menswear week in June, but as a principle, her design methods call upon the use of discarded denim and newspaper waste for fabrics. Waste reduction is only one endeavour that is also liked by Williams. Every season she works with a charitable cause and her garments all promote social enterprises. Previously she’s worked with foodbanks, drug rehabilitation centres, employed prison inmates to create her clothing and casted models affected by homelessness. 

Her Spring/Summer ‘18 presentation collaborated with social and environmental activists and TIH Models, a niche, socially engaged modelling agency exclusively featuring individuals in unique living conditions.

Knitwear featured in her Spring/Summer ‘19 collection was created in in collaboration with Wool and Gang’s Heal the Wool yarn (which comes from 100% recycled Peruvian wool fibre and 30% of the yarn price is donated to Friends of the Earth) and taking recycled wool from Kent for the hand embroidery. Hand knitted by her mother on the Isle of Man, Bethany’s knitwear also sources raw materials from Chris Carney Collections, a recycling and sorting facility where it goes on to be washed, unravelled before the hand knitting process.

Zilver by Pedro Lourenco

If you are unfamiliar with Zilver, it’s time to get acquainted! A relatively new name to London’s fashion scene, Pedro is in my opinion the one to watch in terms of best design practice. 

The brand’s commitment towards sustainability, the environment and transparency benchmark a new standard as they share all supplier and material information on their website, channels and garment tags. 

The Autumn/Winter ‘19 collection included duvet coats insulated with plastic bottles in replacement of traditional animal down as well as soft textures from traceable Icelandic shearling moulded into luxurious winter wear. In an interview with Rosanna Falconer, Lourenco noted “Clothes must be sexy and desirable. Just sustainability is not appealing enough. At the end of the day, you cannot be completely sustainable yet. Brands use it as a marketing tool. Honesty is the fairest approach for the consumer.” 

In addition to using Certified Organic Cotton, Recycled Nylon from ECONYL, they utilise milk fibres, post-industrial recycled denim and Corozo, a vegetable ivory. Their sourcing of wool as a brief example is traceable ensuring best practices in the management and protection of the land that the animals are treated with sufficient space, good lifestyle, good environment and good handling.  

I fully support with their mission statement to find solutions, calling for change, understanding the world’s limitations and empower consumers with information to make conscious purchasing decisions. Their nuanced sustainability strategy to share their successes and challenges is also admired by high profile fans including Emma Watson. 

Final thoughts

We all know Wintour’s sentiment for Spring is that florals are definitely not ground breaking, however, pushing the positive fashion agenda may just be. It is encouraging to see the British Fashion Industry, a creative force for our economy move in the right direction to embrace fashion for good. London Fashion Week is undoubtedly a powerful platform to demonstrate the industry’s commitment to sustainability and foster collaboration and positive change. 

With this in mind, the protests of Extinction Rebellion cannot be disregarded as they campaigned to cancel London Fashion Week and attempted to disrupt business/catwalk as usual. With the reports that clothes production is still set to increase by 63% between now and 2030 for maisons and designers alike, hopefully it’s not too late for sustainability to start trending for S/S ‘20. 

How will the cadence of the Positive Fashion movement transcend in future seasons? For example, the Swedish Fashion Council cancelled Stockholm Fashion Week this year, putting a pause on events to consider the most sustainable ways of promotion their industry.  The crossing of Milan Fashion Week and Friday 20th September colossal Global Climate Strike showcases how fashion and sustainable development are intrinsically linked. For high fashion and high street alike, wearing your values will be a stylistic code to stand the test of time.

This article was originally published and featured via Fashion Roundtable.

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