London touts its sustainable fashion posse, and they are worth the look.
Now in its 13th season, the exhibition, hosted by the British Fashion Council, showcases a selection of designers which have shown a commitment to both social and environmental sustainability. The criteria includes incorporating intelligent design principles to reduce an item’s life cycle impact, reducing the carbon footprint of transporting manufactured goods, using up-cycled or post consumer waste materials, and empowering the local communities where the products are made.
The West Wing of Somerset House was abuzz Sunday as the featured designers, with morning-appropriate flutes of bucks fizz in hand, were on board to talk about their collections. After viewing the 15 collections, we chose five standouts, which were impressive not just for their wares but also for their enlightened efforts to take the fast out of fashion.
The headline designer of the Estethica exhibition was Belgian-born designer Bruno Pieters and his collection for Honest By, a label that is revolutionizing brand transparency. Launched in January of this year, Honest By has pledged to publish every aspect of their brand’s operations—categorized by material information, manufacturing details, price calculation, and carbon footprint—in meticulous detail on their website. You don’t have to go mining through some arcane corporate sustainability report for the specifics either; each individual item for sale has an exhaustive set of specifics listed directly underneath it.
The clean and simple aesthetic of the Pieters collection mirrors the ethos of the brand, which will begin inviting new designers it grows. When the brand launched earlier this year, Financial Times editor Vanessa Friedman called it the “most subversive etail initiative” around, and rightly pointed out the fact that up until now, “fashion, especially high-end fashion, is a business built on opacity.” We like that Honest By holds transparency as its starting point, and we hope others follow suit.
Accomplished young designer and London College of Fashion alum Diana Auria teamed up with her illustrator friend Margot Bowman for her SS13 swimwear collection. The whimsical and utterly dream-like prints were inspired by the Greek goddess of the hunt Artemis, and what might happen if the deity were to “fall from the heavens and onto the set of Baywatch.”
Using 100% re-purposed polyamide, Auria’s skivvies had prior manifestations as fishing nets or carpets; once the raw materials are procured though, the entire design and production process takes place within the UK. The design and silhouettes of the suits—which are thankfully not limited to skinny girl only string bikinis—include pieces that can go from beach to night, including a crop top that is screaming to be be paired with high waisted denim and worn to an east London club.
Each collection of Carla Fernandez’s label is inspired by a particular state or region of her home country of Mexico. A great example of this originates in the Yucatan Peninsula, where her pieces for the SS13 Mayaland collection are heavily accented by the rich tradition of textile arts specific to the region, such as hammock making, embroidery, wood turning, and silver and gold filigree. Local artisans help make the clothes, and when the wares go into mass production, Fernandez pays the original artisans royalties to honor their original ideas and designs.
Made using mainly linen, cotton and silk, Mayaland’s luxurious wraps and ponchos—which look like the type of thing you want to put on and never, ever take off—also feature local-inspired motifs such as embroidered armadillos, adding an element of whimsy to the richly textured fabrics. Fernandez also spearheads a mobile fashion lab, called Taller Flora, which travels around Mexico to set up workshops with indigenous communities and promote local craftsmanship.
Sri Lankan born and educated both in her home country and the London College of Fashion, lingerie designer Charini Suriyage makes uber sophisticated lingerie that simultaneously empowers the women who make it. By hiring local craftsmen who are trained in various heritage textile techniques—such hand silk weaving, embroidery, and Sri Lankan beeralu—Charini attempts to prevent the decline of these traditional industries in her home nation.
The production and manufacturing of lingerie is generally a very wasteful process; intricate fabric patterns and piece-meal designs tend to leave behind lots of scraps. To combat this, Charini’s pieces are designed to have a minimum number of components and any waste is re-incorporated into production. Sourcing all her materials from within Sri Lanka and avoiding all elastic, plastic, metal and harmful dyes in her pieces, Charini also manages to design shape wear that you would most definitely want someone to see at the end of the day.
Filipino born and based milliner Mich Dulce makes hats that are fit for a British wedding out of a material that is entirely foreign to northern latitudes: t’nalak. Made from hand woven banana fibers, this material is an integral part of the indigenous T’boli tribe’s heritage, and Dulce uses it in part to revive this area of craftsmanship. Partnering with a local poverty alleviation group to hire disadvantaged women in her area, Dulce—who studied at London’s Central Saint Martin’s and New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology—said imbuing her designs with a humanitarian ethos is fundamental to her work.
The earthy feel of the hats’ natural banana fibers balances out the structural shapes—including elaborate bows, bunny-like ears, flowers and clovers—and bright colors such as fuchsia and burnt orange. Her creations are at once feminine and tough, and we wouldn’t mind owning each and every one.