Last­ing im­pres­sion

Element - - Fashion - By Re­becca Blithe

PThe fash­ion world’s re­lent­less pur­suit of a new look for ev­ery sea­son doesn’t take into ac­count the im­pacts of throw­away cul­ture. El­e­ment meets a de­signer who makes things to last. erus­ing a Starfish store, you’ll come across the likes of jeans re­born as stonewash denim satchels and or­ganic t-shirts be­ing sold to fundraise for Amnesty In­ter­na­tional. You’ll find the world’s first Fair­trade sneak­ers and clothes that won’t fall apart when your daugh­ter dis­cov­ers them in your wardrobe in years to come. The Starfish brand ex­ists within a trade where the very na­ture of the beast is to cre­ate the next fly-off-the-rack de­sign, yet some­how Starfish de­signer and founder Lau­rie Foon has man­aged to cham­pion what could eas­ily be con­sid­ered an ironic con­cept – sus­tain­able fash­ion.

Foon has long been re­garded an ex­am­ple within the in­dus­try for her com­mit­ment to sus­tain­able prac­tice and prod­uct and is a reg­u­lar at the coun­try’s big­gest fash­ion events. “We were the first to present three eco col­lec­tions at New Zealand Fash­ion Week, bring­ing aware­ness to the fact there are en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly clothes out there.”

De­spite, and per­haps in spite of, what she sees as a “dis­turb­ing” cli­mate of throw­away fash­ion, the Welling­ton based de­signer – head of the first fash­ion house to win a Sus­tain­able Busi­ness Net­work award – is suc­cess­fully forg­ing ahead.

“Our mis­sion is to prove we can look great while hav­ing a min­i­mal im­pact on our en­vi­ron­ment. Fast or throw­away fash­ion is pos­si­bly the big­gest prob­lem we have and it’s es­ca­lat­ing. It goes with­out say­ing that the re­sources used to man­u­fac­ture some­thing to last for a few wears will have a di­rect ef­fect on cre­at­ing more waste for our land­fills which are al­ready over-full, let alone the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.”

Foon’s pat­tern fol­lows a con­cept of Eco De­sign, choos­ing fab­rics for their longevity and con­sid­er­ing the life cy­cle of the final prod­uct.

“For us, the ma­te­ri­als are be­com­ing one of the most im­por­tant fac­tors in eth­i­cal cloth­ing as a good fab­ric choice will help the gar­ment to last.” She be­lieves, by us­ing good fab­ric, the cus­tomer will love wear­ing the gar­ment and be in­clined to wear it more of­ten.

While Foon can re­call her grand­mother buy­ing one new coat to last five years, her ef­forts to cre­ate sim­i­larly long-last­ing pieces run against the trends of mass pro­duc­tion and con­sumer’s mass con­sump­tion.

“Be­cause we want clothes cheaper, fab­rics we are choos­ing are not biodegrad­able. The mar­ket these cheaper brands are talk­ing to is not yet aware of all these is­sues. Hav­ing a new gar­ment that is hot right now is more im­por­tant than the long-term en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact,” says Foon.

“We are still learn­ing about en­vi­ron­men­tally bet­ter fab­rics so we try to share this in­for­ma­tion with our clients so that they, too, can start to be aware of good fab­rics that work for them and the en­vi­ron­ment.”

While Foon ad­mits the role of a sus­tain­able fash­ion de­signer is a tough one, it’s a duty she won’t give up on.

“Try­ing to de­sign in this sus­tain­able space at times has had me on my knees. Try­ing to de­cide what looks hot and what our cus­tomers would love over us­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal fab­rics is no easy place to be. We work with the brief that there is no per­fect, but there is bet­ter. These at­ti­tudes free us up to achieve and slowly we are get­ting there by in­creas­ing our use of sus­tain­able fab­rics while still look­ing great. Can we do it? We are get­ting there and I know our Starfish fol­low­ers re­ally love that we are try­ing.”

El­e­ment mag­a­zine

has two Starfishvouch­ers

worth $200 each to give

away to readers. To en­ter,

visit www. el­e­ment­magaz

ine. co.nz, sign up

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and en­ter the draw.

Photo: Greg Bowker

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