At a press conference to open London Fashion Week, Natalie Massenet, Chairman of the British Fashion Council, announced (amongst other statistics from Oxford Economics) that the direct value of the UK fashion industry to the UK economy is £26 billion.
According to Mayor of London Boris Johnson, such figures show “the hugely important contribution that fashion makes to our economy”. However, with a hefty 14.6 million tonnes of textiles being wasted each year in the US and UK, along with 90% of our clothes being imported, it is safe to say that the fashion industry is in need of some lessons in sustainability.
Fortunately, when it comes to sustainable fashion, there are some who are paving the way for a more ethical and environmentally friendly way of operating within the fashion industry. It is these types of fashion designer that the British Fashion Council’s initiative Estethica aim to showcase.
Founded by the British Fashion Council in September 2006, Estethica promotes sustainable fashion at the heart of London Fashion Week, supporting more than 100 designers from over 20 countries to date. Esethica designers are chosen for their design excellence and commitment to working in a sustainable way, and all designers must adhere to at least one of the three key Estethica principles:
– Fairtrade and ethical practice in production
– Inclusion of organic fibres
– The use of up-cycled and re-cycled fabrics and materials
Since my last visit to London Fashion Week, set within the neo-classical beauty of Somerset House, things in the Estethica showroom have changed. This season, for the first time, established sustainable Estethica designers were integrated throughout the Designer Showrooms at Somerset House, acknowledged by an Eestethica tag. Not only did this mean that these more ethical designers would be able to reach a wider audience, but it also showed that these businesses can sit alongside their peers.
“We are proud to acknowledge that so many talented designers are committed to transparency, sustainability and social responsibility and look forward to seeing their collections unveiled here at London Fashion Week.” commented Caroline Rush, Chief Executive at the British Fashion Council.
The Designers receiving an Estethica Tag this year were Bottletop – bold bags and accessories, Katrien Van Hecke – silk and hand dyed dresses, Mich Dulce – hat extraordinary, and Pachacuti – the World’s 1st Certified Fair Trade Organisation and bringer of hand-woven and hand-embroidered hat ribbons.
On my last visit to the Estethica showroom I caught up with ethical fashion designers: Nin castle of Goodone, Jan Townsend of Jacob James, Sarah Ratty of Ciel, and Maxjenny. In the new camp this year, and being featured for the first time in the Estethica showcase at London Fashion Week, there was:
– Cangiari: The first eco-ethical fashion brand of the superior level of Italian fashion. Founded in 2009, this line obtained the Global Organic Textile Standard and is renowned for combining ancient Calabrian weaving techniques together with innovation, creativity and tailored finishes. Cangiari fabrics and garments are made using organic yarns and colours, in order to respect the ecosystem and the welfare of those who wear them.
– Devika Dass: Founded in 2012 by London born, Devika Dass, following a trip to the Andes in South America, this line turns away from typical mass production techniques and channels. Devika works with only the most skilled local Peruvian craftspeople in traditional knit techniques, together celebrating the idea of artisanal skill and creating extraordinary pieces. Each garment produced is entirely hand made and is a work of art in itself. The precious wool used is of the highest quality available and includes top grade baby Alpaca, dyed and spun in traditional ways.
– Flavia La Rocca: An Italian fashion designer whose brand’s ethos is based on innovation and style, her clothes composed of interchangeable modules that, through the use of hidden zippers, can create multiple combinations.
– Louise de Testa: A French fashion designer who created her brand in Paris two years ago. Based on eco-design and made in France manufacturing, this sportswear line creates a new aesthetics combining elegance, comfort, and technicity.
– K2TOG: Standing for ‘Knit 2 Together”, K2TOG is a luxury knitwear label that takes the waste not want not approach. The brain child of Brighton born Katy Jones, K2TOG features knitwear that is colourful, handcrafted, remade and revived, using over 90% reclaimed materials. According to Katy, her inspiration for sustainable fashion came from her family, as her Grandma would always revive her knitwear, often unravelling jumpers she knitted years or months ago to re-knit into something new. In terms of her debut AW14 collection, Katy draws inspiration from traditional Eastern European Folk Art, making playful reference to the pattern, layering and embroidery of these regions with a dose of traditional British quirk. When I asked Katy how she would describe her line, she said “traditional with with a twist” – a reflection of her own personal style.
London Fashion week AW14 took place from Friday 14th-Tuesday 18th February 2014. For more information on London Fashion Week’s Ethical Designers, visit www.britishfashioncouncil.com/Estethica.