Woman of the cloth
An uncompromising stance using ethical and fairly traded fabrics for her clothing has stood an Auckland fashion designer in good stead.
When Element caught up with fashion designer Miranda Brown, she was just catching her breath after New Zealand Fashion Week 2011. “Fashion Week is a giant project, it is so much more than the clothes,” she says. “You’ve got to find the shoes and the models and the make-up.” Miranda Brown Conscious Cloth has been at the forefront of New Zealand’s sustainable fashion scene since 2002.
“The collection is called ‘All the creatures great and small’,” she says.“we’ve used a lot of imagery of New Zealand’s lost wildlife, like the laughing owl and the huia, to try and bring awareness to our native animals and the others that we could also lose.”
From merino capes with laser cut-outs of owls, to more consumer-oriented merino dresses, all of Miranda Brown’s collection for next winter uses sustainable and ethical fabrics and dyes.
“We are made up of the same substances that the earth is,” she says. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that out and there is a really conscious shift happening in the industry now that we are too hard on nature.
“The quadruple bottom line for me is the balance of economical, environmental, social and spiritual wellbeing.” From her studio in Westmere, Miranda designs her garments with traceable and locally produced MAPP Merino, where she can trace the fabric back to a particular farm.
“We use organic cotton, linen and silk that we source from overseas,” she says.
“People actually die from the pesticides used in cotton production and that is not something I want to be a part of.
“Because of this we’re growing Fairtrade organic cotton and working with the not-for-profit sector to improve the lives of cotton farmers.”
All of the contract producers the designer works with are chosen for their Fair Trade status.
“Dying fabric is the hard one. Vegetable dyes can lose their colour quicker than metal-based dyes, but they contain lots of nasties that are bad for the environment.
“We use dyes that are GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) approved.
“They have minimal heavy metals and we don’t waste any. If the dye isn’t all absorbed into the fabric, we’ll dye more cloth to use it all.”
With a background in film and costume design, Miranda shifted her focus to her own label and projects in 2002, and insists she is more of an artist than a fashion designer.
“I call myself an artist and I want to apply a lifestyle philosophy to the business sector,” she says.
For upcoming seasons, Miranda will keep looking for sustainable fabrics, and encouraging other fashion designers to do so.
“I think we have a responsibility to be asking where everything comes from, and trying to be more sustainable with the way we use our resources.”
Miranda Brown has strict controls on her supply lines. Babiche Martens