Sus­tain your style

If ever there was a style trend that can af­fect our lives for the good, it’s eco-fash­ion. So we salute Jenevieve Lyons, the SA de­signer who flew our flag high at Fin­land’s Helsinki Fash­ion Week, with its em­pha­sis on sus­tain­able fash­ion.

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In the age of global warm­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tal de­cline, there’s barely an as­pect of our lives that isn’t at risk – and that’s all the more rea­son to play our part in go­ing green. One area to em­brace: sus­tain­able fash­ion, which in­volves re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als, nat­u­ral fab­rics, tech­niques that are not harm­ful to the en­vi­ron­ment and an em­pha­sis on buy­ing lo­cal.

So we were thrilled when SA de­signer Jenevieve Lyons was cho­sen to show at Helsinki Fash­ion Week, with its em­pha­sis on the im­por­tance – and beauty – of sus­tain­able style.

A fi­nal­ist in the 2013 AFI Fas­track pro­gramme at Mercedes-benz Fash­ion Week Joburg and a ris­ing star in AFI’S 2014 Next Gen­er­a­tion De­sign­ers pro­gramme, Jenevieve has dreamt of de­sign­ing since child­hood. And now she is – with a dif­fer­ence that makes all the dif­fer­ence!

How did it feel to be in­vited to Helsinki Fash­ion Week?

It was amaz­ing to learn about other cul­tures, to at­tend panel dis­cus­sions on sub­jects like body pos­i­tiv­ity, sus­tain­abil­ity and sex­u­al­ity, and to in­ter­act with 12 other de­sign­ers from around the world – peo­ple like the Mex­i­can de­signer Ben­ito San­tos and the Fin­nish la­bel AALTO. The nat­u­ral beauty of the Suomen­linna Is­lands, where Helsinki Fash­ion Week was held, was in­spir­ing in it­self. I also loved the ‘Nordic Re­flec­tions’ theme, with its em­pha­sis on sim­plic­ity, min­i­mal­ism and global cul­tures.

What did you put on the ramp?

I show­cased my in­ter­pre­ta­tion of South African fash­ion and cul­ture, with a fo­cus on the in­di­vid­u­al­ity of peo­ple with al­binism, as well as the risks that they face glob­ally.

How does your brand work sus­tain­ably?

The Jenevieve Lyons brand is all about in­tri­cate pieces with a strong fo­cus on struc­ture and tai­lor­ing. We pro­duce eth­i­cally, use non-pol­lut­ing equip­ment, and help to cre­ate em­ploy­ment. When it comes to fab­rics, we steer away from syn­thet­ics, like ny­lon and polyester.

What did you show at Helsinki Fash­ion Week?

My col­lec­tion was a uni­sex range fea­tur­ing muted tones, opaque silks over heavy wools, and lay­er­ing. And it was called Mac·u·la (pro­nounced mak-yuh-lee). Mac·u·la refers to a spot or blotch, which can be seen as an ugly mark on the skin, or as some­thing beau­ti­ful and in­di­vid­ual.

Why is this im­por­tant and what does it say to con­sumers?

I hope that this col­lec­tion en­cour­ages peo­ple to em­brace the things that make them dif­fer­ent to others, even if they deem them as ugly or as flaws. I’d love to see peo­ple show­ing off their in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic traits with pride.

Why does sus­tain­able and eco-fash­ion mat­ter?

As clichéd as it sounds, we only have one world and we must take care of it! Fast fash­ion is grow­ing at an in­cred­i­ble pace, and its neg­a­tive ef­fects on our en­vi­ron­ment are second only to oil, which is the world’s num­ber one pol­luter. We’re talk­ing un­eth­i­cal work­ing con­di­tions, in­stances of cheap child labour, the de­ple­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources and high use of fos­sil fu­els. And then, when the fads are over, the un­wanted clothes end up in land­fills, which cause even more pol­lu­tion.

En­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion seems like an over­whelm­ing prob­lem. How can we con­trib­ute to so­lu­tions in our own small ways?

One easy so­lu­tion is to buy lo­cal! We have great de­sign­ers in SA and you can find fan­tas­tic qual­ity on our shores. Buy­ing lo­cal clothes helps to sup­port our econ­omy, en­cour­ages job cre­ation and pro­tects the en­vi­ron­ment. And also look for eco-friendly clothes.

We hear a lot about be­ing ecofriendly, but how can we tell if a gar­ment is eco-friendly.

You’ll find the an­swer to that ques­tion on the care la­bel. As a gen­eral rule, the more sym­bols you see, the less sus­tain­able the gar­ment. A lot of sym­bols in­di­cate many pro­cesses, from in­or­ganic fab­rics and toxic dyes to the trans­port that was in­volved in get­ting the piece to the store. If you can, stick to cloth­ing only made from nat­u­ral fi­bres, like wool, cot­ton and silk.

Where does per­sonal style fit into all of this?

It’s very much about per­sonal style rather than quick-fash­ion fads! In­vest in qual­ity that will last for years, rather than trends that you throw away af­ter a sea­son, and you’ll look great – and be tak­ing bet­ter care of our world.

Is vin­tage ap­pli­ca­ble?

Ab­so­lutely! Vin­tage clothes are a great way to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment, and have a unique char­ac­ter and style, so you’ll stand out. Be­side, why would you want to throw things away when they can last you year af­ter year? Rosario started the sus­tain­able fash­ion line Stu­dio One Eighty Nine in 2013, and high­lights en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns via social me­dia.

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