Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sustainable Fashion - hippy/hip? by M.O.

cover of October's Eco World Fashion Magazine - the DIY issue

Green is trendy and all that, but a lot of the time 'ethical', 'eco', or 'organic' bring to mind images of off-white canvas, long shapeless skirts, and other aesthetically dubious tree-hugging connotations. Similarly to feminism, the term is used vaguely, too much, and often condescendingly. It kinda makes me feel a bit sick. Sustainable fashion is serious business, but just as much glamour and style as anything else (on that note: did anyone get anything from the Jimmy Choo for H&M scramble? I always underestimate people's fierceness and motivation to queue). The fact that there's a slight moral premise to it doesn't mean that everyone wearing organic cotton will look at everyone else not wearing it like they are criminal idiots. Another parallel comes to mind - that of vegetarianism or veganism. It's true that some people think that shit like that makes them superior, and will as a consequence look down on everyone else, but it's not a movement relying on the existence of assholes in the world. Neither is sustainability, so it doesn't deserve the automatic reactionary treatment. Whether recycled, vintage, or diy, style is still style, and hence controversial, unforgiving, and a lot of work.



It is true that some very noble initiatives are more on the funny, or cutesy, or downright pastoral side. The popular thing of making bags out of billboards is pretty cool, but no matter how fancy the designs, it will always work best on messenger-type sporty/urban pieces, channeling foreign typography and skateboarding/surfing style at best. I'm not saying it's ugly - it's just a very specific style - very low-brow&pop culture. In that context, I think it really works, but I find the transgressive attempts quite tiring. Rather than trying to outdo themselves to make loudly printed vinyl look business-like or feminine, recycled banner designers could branch out into other products, for example furniture (excellent examples by the Barcelona-based company Vaho: chairs, and even flower pots)

Stuff like Ecoist candy wrapper bags is exactly the kind of thing that in my opinion firmly ties sustainability to a bit of a crap/pop fest. The design may be durable or inventive, but it's hard to get genuinely excited about the aesthetics. It's more like something you buy if you're a teenager on a schooltrip, or as a ~funny~ gift for someone you don't know very well.

Making graduation gowns out of plastic bottles is so genius, so hilarious, so sweet and so tacky at the same time. Possibly the epitome of sustainable non-style (but for other reasons, very compelling!)

Moving onto stylish stuff: things made by TRAID (Textile Designing for Aid and International Development) are awesome. Their label TRAIDremade "design and produce gorgeous clothing for women and men using second hand textiles that would otherwise be thrown away". They really say it all themselves: "Each piece is a complete one off and sustainably remade by hand in our workshop beside the seaside in Brighton". Please admire, pictured above, one of the super limited edition of gorgeous eco bags designed exclusively for Timberland and in stock now at Timberland Regent Street and Fournier Street. TRAID Flagship shops in Brighton and Camden, more on this list.

Junky Styling is the home of "timeless, deconstructed, re-cut and completely transformed clothing." Take a moment to look through their massive galleries of proper catwalk shows, with mens- and womenswear. The label was set up by two best friends, Annika Sanders and Kerry Seage, who were club scene stars in the early 90s, and decided to transfer their talent into business "after extensive travels as skint teenagers" and "countless compliments on their clothing". They have a shop in East London, a custom order service, a walk-in wardrobe surgery and a book about it.

Fashion Conscience's slogan is "Seriously stylish, seriously ethical". "Eco fashion never looked so good": my point exactly. They have gorgeous pieces sorted into organic, vegan, sustainable, fairtrade, recycled. And everything looks brilliantly chic.

In two week's time I'll post about Christmas gift ideas; until then, keep it Modo people ;)

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