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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.

Another ethical designer showcasing for the first time, is Jan Townsend of Jacob James. From the unlikely beginnings of discarded fabrics, plastic bottles and weeds, Jacob James invests love and creates beautifully sustainable hats.

 

The inspiration for Jacob James A/W 2011 comes from transformation – taking the ugly, unsightly and unloved and fashioning it into beautifully tailored hats. The pallet of soft greys with an accent of beige/blue is a reference to dusk, a time when all things are transfigured by the change from day to night.

When I briefly caught up with Jan at LFW, here’s what she had to say:

Q. Tell me a little about yourself and your design background?

I actually have an engineering background, so that’s how I learnt to draw, and I then transferred the skills. The designs for the hats basically come from the fabrics, as that is what we’re all about – the stinging nettle fabrics, and the recycled bottle fabrics. There are certain designs of hats that you can go for with those fabrics, so you have to start with the fabrics, see what they’re capable of, and then take it from there.

Q. What was the inspiration behind doing ethical and sustainable fashion?

We wanted to create hats that you could wear when it’s cold, so a useful product, but with these interesting fabrics. Originally we started making bags out left over leather that we had access to, but we found the market was already quite full, and then someone asked us if we could make hats, so we went away and drafted some patterns, took them to her and she was our first hat customer. So we’ve just stuck with the hats since then.

Q. Have you encountered any challenges when trying to adhere to this ethical philosophy?

Actually no we haven’t.

Q. What do you think the future is for sustainable fashion?

I think it will go into the mainstream. I think people will just used to seeing it in the shops, and you won’t have to go to specific ethical outlets to get it.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring ethical fashion designers?

I don’t know…I wish somebody would give me some! I suppose just to be thick-skinned and keep going.

Q. If you had to choose one famous person to be your muse, who would it be?

Bertie Wooster!

Stockists include: Corina Corina, Warwick; Black Swan, Somerset; walford Mill, Dorest..

For more information on Jacob James and to view the collections, visit the online shop: www.jacob-james.co.uk.

Ciel is a contemporary womenswear and lingerie label with a simple design aesthetic to make beautiful clothes from the best possible green fabrics. Ciel signature hand knits and quilted parkers, relaxed boyfriend sweaters, beautiful soft organic alpaca knitwear and sophisticated draped jersey, which sit well between the vibrant Liberty up-cycled print silk dresses, organic cotton underwear and silk lingerie. Ciel’s range presents design-led, hand-finished garments with an eco-philosophy at its heart.

This week I was able to catch up with the designer of this unique brand, Sarah Ratty, on her first time exhibiting at Somerset house.

Q. Sarah, tell me a little about yourself and your design background?

Well my mum was a fashion lecturer at Brighton University, so I’ve been trained in the fashion way since the age of four. I’m very interested in the history offashion and textiles and I look at quite a lot of vintage pieces. I’m very inspiredby the fashion of the 40’s and 70’s.

Q. Would you say this reflects your own personal style?

Yes definitely, I like to do fusions, taking elements from different times and mix it up with more modern styles.

Q. What projects have you got in the pipeline?

I’m doing a collaboration project with Liberty Art, where I’m up-cycling the Liberty archive prints. So we’re doing limited edition pieces, and I’m doing a collection that’s going into Whistles in April.

Q. What was the inspiration behind doing ethical and sustainable fashion?

Well I’ve always been an ethical fashion designer, ever since I started with my first brand, Conscious Earthwear. I started with recycled knitwear from post consumer waste, had it laundered, and then we’d make these wild and wonderful creations out of Aran knits.

Q. How do you ensure that you work in a sustainable and eco-friendly way?

Well I’ve always used recycled and up-cycled materials, but now it is great as we’re also making our own hand-knits out of baby alpaca. The alpaca is organic and un-dyed so it comes in 36 different natural shades…so it’s quite exciting for me as a designer to have come full circle.

Q. Have you encountered any challenges when trying to adhere to this ethical philosophy?

Well I find that the restrictions you place upon yourself can make you more creative. That’s something that certainly happened for me. My whole ethos was that I wanted to try and make every garment range that I could, but in a green way, whilst also ensuring that it is modern, contemporary and has its own story.

Q. So what’s the story behind the organic cotton underwear and the Liberty upcycle print lingerie?

Well, because it’s the international year of the tree, I wanted to use the work I’m making to talk about the ocean of breath that we share, and to bring focus whilst still integrating into the rest of the collection. So this Autumn/Winter collection is like Amy Johnson meets Hansel and Gretel in the forest.

Q. What do you think the future is for sustainable fashion?

I think that as people become more aware, it will be the norm for the fashion industry. That’s what I want. I went to the UN last year and I was on a panel talking about the rise of the ethical consumer and what’s next, and from this I
created something called the Designer’s Green Call. This was to get people to sign up and say what it was they’d like to see in the next 10 years in terms of fashion. The feedback was universal – we need for recycled polymers to become the norm, we don’t need to have virgin polymers anymore.

Some very exciting news recently has been that Walmart has said that for futureproductions they want all of their polyesters to be from re-cycled polymers. That’s huge because that opens up the supply chain for everybody. I think it’s really important that we work hand in hand with companies like this, and designers that are here are leading the way.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring ethical fashion designers?

Do it, don’t think too much. Do it and enjoy it. Have a go and make something happen.

Stockists include: Frameworks, Japan; Igigi, Hove (UK); Eco-Age, London; Whistles – UK. For more information on Ciel, visit the online shop www.cielshop.co.uk.

MAXJENNY is designed by one of Scandinavia’s most innovative new fashion designers at the moment: Maxjenny Forslund. Situated in Copenhagen, the company was built in the spring of 2007 and the first fashion collection was successfully launched in the autumn of 2007.

 

Maxjenny does not work in a traditional way of making patterns, instead she works directly on the body and onto fabric, studying the movement of the body’s own architecture together with the garment itself. This enables her to constantly improvise and follow the fabric’s characteristics, measurements , and to use the whole width of fabric.

Using sustainable methods such as recycling, up-cycling, and organic materials, Maxjenny ensures her items are ethically produced, in keeping with Esthetica’s ethos.

The ready to wear line called THE NEW BLACK is a collection that allows various designs and colours to be mixed and matched, allowing for individual styling. The outdoor line, STREETSCULPTURES, comprises of jackets that will turn heads for a lifetime, as the look is edgy and street savvy.

During London Fashion Week I was able to catch up with this inventive designer who is at the forefront of her field.

Q. Maxjenny, tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your design background?

Actually I am a taught furniture designer at Denmark’s design school, however I have always been interested in textiles, surfaces and colours, and after having succes in my original field, I felt it was time for a change. My mother is a fashion designer so the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! I’m very niche, I do fashionable outdoor, and a jersey line, though this season it has been mixed up with some organic wool and silk.

Q. How would you describe the MAXJENNY woman?

Anyone with an edge

Q. What has been your inspiration for autumn/winter 2011?

Wings, drapes and squares

Q. What was the inspiration behind moving into ethical and sustainable fashion?

Well if I’m being honest, it wasn’t a planned thing. I stumbled across this recycled PET bottle fibre fabric, and I had a discussion with my beloved one, this was some years ago now, and he said believe me, this is the new black. I didn’t believe him at first, but now it has become a sport for me to find the best fabric and the best colours to do something super fashionable, but which is also sustainable.

Q. I know you’ve had some interest from Japanese buyers, how has that been in terms of spreading the sustainable fashion message?

Overseas they are actually more in the forefront than we are in terms of sustainability, from fashion to healthy food, so actually it is great that they have shown interest, and I want them to discover me even more. I really want to hit Asia etc, so I’m working hard on that!

Q. Would you say MAXJENNY reflects your own personal style?

I’m sorry to say, and this is so bad, but since I have been working, I find I am not able to dress how I want as much, because I need to be able to move etc. So I mainly wear my good blackish lines, and then when I go out partying I wear my colourful ones. I would love to be more colourful during the day, but it’s not always possible, but I try to ensure I look good with drapes etc, so it is still possible to work around it.

Q. If you had to pick a famous person to be your muse, who would it be?

Chloe Sevigny – I think she has a good style, I like someone who can dress carefully in colours.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring ethical fashion designers?

Collaborate with really good, responsible people. Also network a lot, and try to ensure you’re at the right place at the right time.

Fore more information on MAXJENNY and to view the collections, visit www.maxjenny.com. MAXJENNY is also featured on www.yoox.com, the first online retail space for Esthetica.

Goodone is an independent fashion label that reflects contemporary London through conscious design. Designers Nin Castle and Clare Farrell use local community production in the UK and recycled and up-cycled materials to create high-end fashion and forward-collections.

The collection focuses on the previous theme of Aran knit, celebrating the wealth of knits already available as well as producing hand knitted accessories and trims. Panelled dresses and jumpers still feature alongside oversized pieces, powdered silk shirts and blanket coats mixed with draped scarves, and suede details.

During London Fashion Week, I was able to catch up with one half of Goodone.

Q. Nin, tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your design background?

My name is Nin Castle and I run a company called Goodone, which specialises in upcycling. I studied fashion at Brighton University and I set up the business when I finished there. It has taken quite a while to try and develop the idea and learn how to use the upcycle fabrics, but I think we’re really getting somewhere now. This autumn/winter collection is our fifth season at fashion week, and I think it is our best collection yet. I think that we’re really showing that through a design led approach to sustainable fibres you really can get a cool, slick product.

Q. How would you describe the Goodone woman?

Assertive yet feminine, conscious yet positive.

Q. What has been your inspiration for autumn/winter 2011?

Cable knits, scarf drapes and powdered silk shirts

Q. What was the inspiration behind Goodone, and what made you move into ethical and sustainable fashion?

Same as everyone else’s really, just a bit pissed off with the way the industry works at the moment. I really do try and promote us as design first though, and then ethics second. I’m really aware that I want to be known for design, but then the ethical side as being an added bonus.

Q. How do you ensure that you work in a sustainable and eco-friendly way?

We mix reclaim fabrics, whether that’s used garments, and then we mix that with pre-consumer waste and then sometimes we mix some new British fabrics in as well. Basically we work out what we want to make and then think what’s the
most sustainable way and how can we use the most amount of reclaim fabrics within the design.

Q. What do you think the future holds for ethical fashion?

I think it is growing so much, so quickly, and I think more and more projects are happening which is making people become aware of it. I think that with all the cotton prices going quite mental and fabrics becoming more expensive, the whole of the fashion industry, maybe not right away, but in perhaps 5 years time, will have to adopt some changes.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring ethical fashion designers?

The best thing to do is to get an internship with a designer that you really like, and then make yourself dispensable so they can’t do without you.

Q. How would you define your personal style?

Goodone!

Stockists for Goodone in London include: Topshop, London; Beyond the Valley, London; Diguardo, London; Katarina Phillips, London; 69b, London.

Alternatively, visit the Goodone website at www.goodone.co.uk to view the collections, and for more information. Goodone is also featured on www.yoox.com, the first online retail space for Esthetica.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, in which case I commend you for your eco friendly living arrangements, then you will be aware of one of the largest fashion events that hits London twice yearly – London Fashion Week.

esthetica[1]London Fashion Week is the international showcase for one of the UK’s most important creative industries, and this year it has returned to the beautiful Somerset House, in the heart of London, where over 170 designers are showcasing their Autumn/Winter 2011 collections.   Never failing to impress, London Fashion Week presents an innovative and diverse schedule to an expected audience of over 5,000 buyers, T.V. and radio crews, fashion editors and writers, with emerging talent showing side by side with iconic British designers and brands.

As I teeter my way around the exhibition in my newly acquired sky scraper heels, sipping my complimentary glass of champagne, I am blown away by the sheer size, but also the uniqueness of each of the designers’ displays.  Feeling rather like a kid in a sweet store (or, in these shoes, a bull in a china shop) I am fascinated with the realms of luxurious and breathtaking jewellery, footwear accessories, and ready to wear garments.

Keeping with the ethical ethos of Hello Eco Living, I honed my attention on the twenty two ethical fashion designers whose brands were on display in the Esthetica part of the exhibition.  For those of you who aren’t au fait with what Esthetica is, here is the low down:

The British Fashion Council founded Estethica, sponsored by Monsoon, five years ago to showcase the growing movement of cutting edge designers committed to working sustainably.  All Estethica designers adhere to at least one of the three Estethica principles of fair-trade/ethical practices and organic and recycled materials, and are selected for both their ethical credentials and design excellence.  The success of this initiative, the internationally strongest of its kind, is evident in its rapid growth from its first season of 13 designers to over 20 for AW11’s Esthetica Collective.

For the tenth season Estethica is forming a significant part of the exhibition at London Fashion Week at Somerset House, and the BFC is delighted that designers showcased in Estethica are now seen alongside mainstream collections in leading retailers worldwide.  Caroline Rush, CEO of the BFC commented, “The Estethica initiative goes from strength to strength reflecting the fashion industry’s appetite for sustainable product and collections. The variety of collections – encompassing ready to wear, jewellery, millinery and other accessories – and the diversity of the designers’ methods of production and use of materials is truly inspiring. Estethica continues to lead the way in showcasing ethical sustainable fashion.”

Now if the thought of sustainable fashion and recycled materials conjures up images of bin bag bandeau dresses and shawls made of sweet wrappers, get that picture out of your head now, because I can assure you that the collections in the Esthetica exhibition in no way compromise on style or quality.  Plus, in an age where it is more crucial than ever to live sustainability, raising consciousness of sustainability in fashion, one of the main areas of consumerism, is vital.

Anna Orsini, one of the exhibition’s curators commented, “Everyone involved in fashion, whether high end designer or high street, needs to address the issues of ethical trade asking searching questions as to the provenance and the lifecycle content of the clothes produced and sold in the UK and globally.”

Along with Anna, the other curators of the Esthetica exhibition, Filippo Ricci and Orsola de Castro, all continue to drive Esthetica forward by bringing in new designers and supporters, ensuring eco fashion is recognised on an international scale.
Over the course of the next few days, I will be catching up with some ethical fashion designers to ask them a few questions on their products and on ethical fashion.

The Estethica exhibition is taking place in The Embankment Galleries, Level 1, at Somerset House, Strand London WC2 from Friday 18th February to Tuesday 22nd February 2011, 10.00am – 7.00pm.

London Fashion Week is firmly pencilled in our diaries – a fabulous adventure to discover new ethical designers who have the talent to break in to the mainstream.

Let’s take a look at what Sommerset House had to offer…

Nicola from Beautiful Soul brings vintage kimonos into the limelight for A/W 2010 – luxury fabrics the are durable teamed with a design that can be worn in a multitude of ways. Recycled jeans turned our heads – who would’ve guessed that a beautiful and elegant top could be produced from your old pair of jeans? If LFW is all about innovation, Nicola has it in abundance.

Beautiful: Vintage kimonos
Beautiful: Vintage kimonos

Lu Flux took us by surprise. Upbeat, full of energy and raring to go with their eco credentials, there’s something in this range for everyone who wants to unleash their inner child. From hand knit mittens to eccentric dresses you’ll want to touch and play with something in the range this year.

Fun: Florals are on trend
Fun: Florals are on trend

Possibly our pick of the show, Kayu Design showcased a range of bamboo sunglasses – handcrafted. As a resource that grows twice as fast as a tree and restores itself in just 5 years, we’re loving bamboo. They look hot and by buying a pair, Kayu funds one sight restoring surgery in the developing world (best not ask for a complimentary press sample then!)

Inspiring: bamboo glasses
Inspiring: bamboo glasses