As China enjoys a period of rampant industrialization on an unprecedented scale, lowly paid factory workers are churning out mass produced textiles behind the scenes to meet the global demand. Contrast this with Chinese “anti-designer” Ma Ke, who detests assembly lines and opts for design on her own terms — which includes unique methods such as “burying the clothes in dirt to allow nature and time to (add) the finishing touches”.
Worlds away from the factory workers of Guangdong, Ma Ke employs artisans who hand loom all her sustainable materials in sunny studios. A pioneer of sustainability, Ma Ke’s designs truly reflect the seasons — from the flowing asymmetrical jersey dresses of spring/summer and the layered knits of fall to the structured jackets and coats of winter.
The name of world famous French designer Philippe Starck first entered my lexicon back in 1999. I had just set foot inside the newly opened Starck-Schrager boutique hotel, St Martins Lane, and I was smitten. A combination of modern, baroque, minimalism, wit and irony, it was a design like I’d never seen before. Next came the lavishly luxurious Sanderson, which is best described as a “surreal Cocteau-like dreamworld”. Stateside, you’d already been spoilt by NYC’s Paramount, Miami’s Delano and LA’s Mondrian — but at that time in London, the Starck influence was epic.
Once on my radar, there was no stopping me. I greedily devoured everything Starck from the ambience of Cafe Costes in Paris and the stunning interiors of the Felix restaurant at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong to the cult Juicy Salif he designed for Alessi.
Normally I don’t care for patchwork, bodices or berets — but that was before I spied the charming creations of London fashion label From Somewhere. What began in 1997 with a small capsule collection of second hand sweaters and cardigans has spawned into a much sought after design house, thanks to the ingenuity of its designers, Orsola De Castro and Filippo Ricci.
Recycling existing clothing maybe the phrase du jour in the world of green fashion, but how does up-cycling grab you? This is the simple premise behind From Somewhere. The designers strive to use “pre-consumer textile waste, such as production off-cuts, damaged fabrics and end of rolls” — including cotton, silk, jersey, tweeds, cashmere and wovens — in order to readdress “the balance between consumption and disposal.”
Got wood? You will. Just as soon as you lay your eyes on the Mya lingerie collection by French label g=9.8. Designer Sophie Young’s line of exquisite bras and knickers are made naturally. No, really. They’re made from white pine tree prunings.
The wood, which comes from sustainably managed forests, is enzymically processed into fiber without the need for extra water. Add to that a touch of spandex for stretch and low impact dyes for color…et voila! The resulting fabric is as soft as silk with the feel of cashmere and coolness of linen. It’s anti-bacterial, bio-degradable and won’t lose its shape. Plus it’ll be shipped to you in a cute clutch made of recycled materials or purchased fair trade.
Fashion is a wasteful industry. This statement doesn’t refer to the rivers of champagne that flow backstage at runway shows or the cans of aerosol required to set the models hair; it mostly refers to the enormous amount of excess fabric that’s a seemingly inevitable by-product of the production process. Did you know that 15% of the material in cut and sew garments are tossed out?
London-based designer and graduate of the prestigious Saint Martin’s College, Mark Liu, has come up with innovative solution to this sartorial dilemma — an imaginative cutting process that thumbs its nose at waste. By cutting pieces from a single roll of fabric (like you would cut a jigsaw puzzle), Liu’s Stique line of cutting edge fashions generates zero waste. After all, says Liu, “wasted materials are bad for the environment and a loss in potential profits.”
So, what can the green fashionista look forward to, fashionwise, in the spring/summer of 2008? If you were at Econouveau, a “collection of the most innovative eco-fashion designers in a non-traditional runway show crafted for an audience of 1,500 international press, buyers and eco-conscious celebrities and influencers”, this past weekend, you’d be in the know. But if you weren’t, don’t fret. G Living was there on your behalf.
In depth coverage is coming soon. But here’s a sneaky preview:
Los Angeles-based designer Amanda Shi kicked off the night with the latest offerings from Avita. The theme of her collection, Global Fairyland, featured a lot of pretty pastels, mini dresses, knits and florals — many of them made from her fave eco-fabric, organic cottons.
Guess? set the bar for sexy advertising. From the former campaign bombshells (Claudia Schiffer, Anna Nicole Smith, Adriana Lima and Paris Hilton) to their current cover girl Bianca Balti, the spitting image of young Sophia Loren, who can stop traffic with her mesmerizing…smile. Sex appeal has been the winning formula behind the Guess? clothing, accessories, shoe and handbag empire. What Guess? isn’t known for is sustainability. Until now.
Putting the sweatshop labor scandal of the nineties well behind them, Guess? is doing a good turn for the environment by releasing their eco-friendly line, Guess Green, to be released later this Earth Day month. First item to get the ethical make-over? Jeans, naturally. The “pinched ankle boot cuts” are made from chemical dye-free organic denim and would pair perfectly with their organic ribbed tank “embossed with a smudgy earth and peace sign”. The hand tags are made form recycled paper and printed with soy-based ink. 10% of the proceeds will go to the Environmental Media Association.
Canadians have got to be some of the nicest people on the planet. Handy with a smile and generous with their “neats”, this country has garnered a worldwide reputation for being honest and earnest. I mean, when was the last you got pick-pocketed by a Canadian? See what I mean?
Young designer Nicole Bridger is no exception (not the pick-pocketing thing obviously, the only pockets she’d pick are those associated with garment construction). Believing that the energy you put out is what you receive (call it “The Secret for Dummies”), each piece in Bridger’s eponymous line comes with its own little affirmation “to remind you to say good things to yourself, and to have a really positive day.”
“Goodbye For Nau” begins the sad letter on the Portland, Oregon-based sustainable apparel company’s website as it announces its closure after only 14 months in business. Despite the organization’s plan to turn retail as we know it upside down and establish new methods of shopping for clothes that promote greener and more responsible living, some critics say their overly ambitious business model was not as sustainable as their products. Nau, on the other hand, says the tight credit market is to blame.
After writing about The House of Organic Sustainable Fashion Show held at the Gold LEED certified Haworth studios in NYC earlier this year, one designer that caught my eye and then stuck in my mind was Swedish label Righteous. Their ultra feminine jersey knits in autumnal hues, cinched at the waist and sporting to-die-for bows were adorable. What’s more, the dresses looked as comfortable to wear as they were fashionable. I was obsessed and needed to know more.
A picture may tell a thousand word, but actual words are also handy when doing research. My first port of call was the Righteous website, which I discovered to my dismay was entirely in Swedish. The closest I’ve ever come to speaking Swedish is buying a lamp from IKEA. Hmmm. My colleague referred me to Babelfish (the website that translate entire websites — which is brilliant), but they didn’t seem to offer Swedish. Stumped again.
But as it turned out, being faced with a website in an alien language had an upside. After much contemplation, I think I learnt my first two Swedish words: I’m (almost) certain Hösten means Fall and Våren means Spring.
Launched in New York City back in 2004 by Rogan Gregory and Scott Hahn, Loomstate is quite simply the coolest ethical demin line around. The name itself maybe derived from a century old term for just-woven fabric but the result is timeless, effortlessly casual and quintessentially American. With a firm foundation in jeans and tees — which now extends to hoodies, shoes and beyond — Loomstate not only creates its garments from certified organic cotton, its fashion forward designs also create demand for these garments.
The last word on Scandinavian eco-luxury has got to be FIN. This socially conscious label, which already enjoys a firm following in its native Norway, will be rocking the runways of London’s fashion week next month. With an ethical spin on timeless classics like trench coats, asymmetrical dresses, pencil skirts, tuxedo blouses and denim, FIN would be a welcome addition to any fashionista’s capsule wardrobe Continue Reading / See Additional Photos