The idea of sustainability in fashion has been tossed around for a while now, but if the Spring/Summer 2020 shows are anything to go by, then brands and designers have finally gotten the memo on climate crisis. It's about time, too. The statistics on the impact of fashion on the environment are staggering: the industry is said to be responsible for 10 per cent of all carbon emissions, it is the second-largest consumer of water, and generates approximately 92 million tonnes of waste each year. Sustainability can no longer be just a trend or a buzzword, it is both a necessity and an obligation.
Fortunately, the industry is changing, even if slowly. 2019 saw the inauguration of the Fashion Pact, an environmental initiative aimed at tackling the issue of global warming, biodiversity, and ocean protection, signed by 150 brands including Gucci, Prada, Versace, Ferragamo, and more. A significant number of fashion houses have also pledged to go fur-free, such as Kate Spade, Prada, Versace, Coach, and Miu Miu, whlie others have set the goal of carbon neutrality, like Gucci.
On the other hand, as consumers our responsibility is to rethink our choices with an eye on sustainability, as much as is within our means. How? The simplest explanation can be summed up in a paraphrase of what food writer Michael Pollan advised about eating: buy investment pieces, not too many, mostly plant-based. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for when you next hit the shops.
When Marine Serre launched her eponymous label a few years ago, she made it clear that sustainability would be key for her brand. At least 50 per cent of the garments in each collection is made using upcycled materials, with the number increasing every year. Her Spring 2020 collection is no exception. In Serre's expert hands, bed sheets, tablecloths, recycled plastic, and even driftwood and empty soda cans morph into delicate lace slips, slick raincoats, floor-length djellabas, maximalist jewellery, and much, much, more.
The New Zealand-based label may be just four-years-old, but the brand is already a seasoned pro when it comes to conscious fashion. The Spring/Summer 2020 season sees the house achieving its target of 50 per cent circularity, with the aim of eventually becoming a completely circular business. Innovative materials such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, natural linen, and TENCEL™ (derived from wood) are used to create elegant and timeless pieces like ruffled blazers, open-backed dresses, and fluid evening gowns.
Zero + Maria Cornejo
Long before sustainability became a hot topic, there was Maria Cornejo. Since she founded her label Zero + Maria Cornejo in 1998, the Chilean-born designer has steadily championed an environmentally responsible approach to fashion. Her ingeniously cut and artfully minimalist designs are a staple among the fashionable set, made even better by the use of eco-friendly fabrics like recycled cashmere, viscose made from wood pulp, and ECONYL® yarn. 84 per cent of each collection is produced locally in New York, with the rest made by small and independently-owned factories in Italy, Bolivia, and Peru.
Gabriela Hearst could basically write a guidebook on how to do sustainability with style and vice versa. In a first for the industry, her Spring/Summer 2020 show last September was totally carbon neutral, with energy costs offset by donations to the Hifadhi-Livelihoods Project in Kenya, and the emissions footprint of guests compensated by donations to Our Children's Trust. A quarter of the collection is made from dead stock (materials that would previously end up in landfills). Even better, each design is handmade by female artisans in rural areas of Uruguay, and all packaging is made from biodegradable and compostable alternatives liike TIPA and recycled cardboard.
Vin + Omi
Nettles and fashion aren't usually uttered in the same breath, but with Vin + Omi, it really is a case of anything is possible. In the over 15 years that the two designers have worked together, they have created 20 new eco textiles, and for Spring/Summer 2020, the duo shine a spotlight on the common nettle. A clever technique is applied to turn flora into fabric, wherein nettles - harvested from the garden of Prince Charles, no less - are stripped of their leaves, retted on grass, and decolourised via mercerisation, and then woven, part felted, or appliquéd to great effect. Repurposed denim, sustainable latex, organic cotton, and ethical alpaca wool are also employed to brinig the artists' singular vision to life.
Mara Hoffman founded her self-titled label right after she graduated from the Parsons School of Design in 2000, but it was only five years ago that she took cognisance of the destructive path fashion was on. Ever since, the designer has sought to be part of the solution, rather than the problem. Working exclusively with organic or recycled cotton, linen, hemp, alpaca, TENCEL™, and lyocell, this season Hoffman has dreamed up a collection of easy and breezy silhouettes in shockingly brght hues, inspired by a cruise (more environmentally friendly than flying) around the islands of the Meditteranean.