Fashion goes eth­i­cal

Bot­tle tops and old shirts send green mes­sage to fashion.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ENVIRONMENT - By EMMA CHARL­TON

COIFFED with tresses of sharp green reeds, the mod­els wore skirts of flat­tened bot­tle tops, tubes of moss as neck-ruffs, gowns tai­lored from patch­worked old shirts and joy­ously out­sized An­dean knitwear.

De­sign­ing with the planet in mind is the mantra of the dozens of de­sign­ers who show­cased their spring/sum­mer col­lec­tions at the Eth­i­cal Fashion Show in Paris last month.

“Be­ing eth­i­cal is harder work,” said Is­abelle Quehe, who founded the event seven years ago. “You have to source your fabrics, find peo­ple to work with, some­times train them in their coun­tries of ori­gin,” she said.

“But there are far more ways of de­sign­ing eth­i­cally to­day than when the show was cre­ated,” as new green fabrics ar­rive on the mar­ket, from al­paca in Latin Amer­ica, to re­cy­cled plas­tics, polyester or junk ma­te­ri­als, said Quehe.

To a sound­track of trop­i­cal bird­song and pat­ter­ing rain, Paqocha from Ecuador showed a body-hug­ging cat­suit of macrame-like al­paca knit, while Es­ther Casto up­dated Peru­vian tra­di­tion with bat-wing pon­chos in green and caramel. Cre­at­ing beauty from junk, Ber­lin de­signer Stephan Hann stitched old photo neg­a­tives into a hon­ey­comb of black loops for a dra­matic body-sculpt­ing dress, and lay­ered disks of scrap into a pea­cock-feather mo­tif skirt.

Fur even got a look-in in one of Hann’s dresses, made from printed leopard-skin vinyl pan­els, while a spec­tac­u­lar bri­dal gown had a trompe l’oeil train made with puffed balls of reused old shirts.

Hosted at Paris’ new City of Fashion and De­sign on the River Seine, the Eth­i­cal Fashion Show’s four days of cat­walks and round-ta­ble de­bates are one of a string of green-minded events gain­ing mo­men­tum on the global fashion scene.

In New York the GreenShows Eco Fashion Week just held its third sea­son, while London Fashion Week hosted its first ever “sus­tain­able fashion show“, show­cas­ing de­sign­ers in­clud­ing Stella McCart­ney and Vivi­enne West­wood. Green fashion events have long ex­isted on the London fringes, but it was the first time the Bri­tish Fashion Coun­cil cleared a slot on its of­fi­cial sched­ule to show­case a se­lec­tion of cre­ators with a con­science.

Eco-aware­ness has reached Italy too, where Gior­gio Ar­mani has started us­ing re­cy­cled polyester, Fendi has a bag line made of reused tyres and rugs and Marni has made tyre-rub­ber ban­gles, ac­cord­ing to Fashion Il­lus­trated weekly.

Quehe be­lieves the Paris fashion scene – which “still sees ethics as un­fash­ion­able” – is lag­ging be­hind its ri­vals in clean­ing up fashion’s act.

For Sylvie Be­nard, head of en­vi­ron­men­tal mat­ters at the French lux­ury gi­ant LVMH, “lux­ury and sus­tain­able devel­op­ment are com­pat­i­ble.” She ad­mits few large fashion houses have made ethics or the en­vi­ron­ment vis­i­ble pri­or­i­ties – “be­cause what counts is the beauty of the prod­uct” – but ar­gues that the high end of fashion is in­her­ently sus­tain­able.

“Real lux­ury is about prod­ucts that last, that are passed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion – and which are made in ex­cel­lent labour con­di­tions, some­times us­ing ar­ti­san tech­niques that would be lost if it were not for haute cou­ture,” she said.

Fabrics and tech­niques aside, there is a so­cial side to most of the Paris show de­sign­ers’ work, too, like Mayte Alor­con from Peru who em­ploys sin­gle moth­ers to stitch her up­mar­ket al­paca shawls and pon­chos from home.

Also from Latin Amer­ica, Lima-based de­signer Su­san Wag­ner paid in­mates in a prison out­reach pro­gramme to pro­duce a line of bags in­spired by pre-Colom­bian wo­ven mo­tifs, up­dated for the 21st-cen­tury.

And Cy­clus, a Colom­bian firm that cre­ates ur­ban men’s bags from in­ner tubes re­cov­ered from garages across Bo­gota, makes a point of giv­ing se­cure, full-time con­tracts to its work­shop staff in the city.

“We are try­ing to pre­serve our val­ues as we grow,” said Aude Helias, one of five part­ners in the ven­ture.

For Cy­clus, as for many eth­i­cal de­sign­ers, that means work­ing with se­lected small stores - rather than big re­tail­ers.

“It’s tempt­ing at first, be­cause a big store will or­der 1,000 items in one go,” said Helias. “But they can re­ject a batch of bags for a tiny fault, and de­stroy a whole chain of val­ues at the push of a but­ton. I’ve seen it hap­pen.” – AFP

Cre­ative: Waste has been put to good use in this out­fit fash­ioned out of bot­tle tops and old shirts.

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