With talks of sustainability in fashion pushed to the forefront, and the ensuing climate crisis, the fashion industry is forced to reckon with its existing, unsustainable practices. Here are the designers setting the new standard for slow fashion.
With only four hands, a workshop in Calais, France and an immense love for period clothing, this mother-daughter duo has been converting their community of 43,500 millenials to the joys of their unique, handmade pieces since 2016.
This is Insta-couture at its finest. Imagine a seamstress or a small tailor from the nineteenth century, with the know-how and fads of the digital era. “We are not revolutionary. We are simply updating what was done before," says the mother-daughter duo. “In the Belle Époque, we went to the seamstress, we chose a model, she'd do it according to our measurements and we received it two weeks later. In my family, we have always seen things like that. ”
Marie and Nathalie, the designers of Cléo, take orders from the Internet every Wednesday at 6.30 p.m. and draw and sew in their own workshop. Each design is available until the fabric is runs out. “Instagram has enabled many young brands to develop their own designs. There are even creators who don't have e-shops and only sell by stories."
The designs are inspired by pre-war trousseau and Trente Glorieuses tailoring. Marie is inspired by her ancestors, with blouses with puffed sleeves, trapezoid skirts or pencils for small sets with Claudine collars. The materials are 100% natural, sourced from the surpluses of large houses, factories or from the unsold stores of young designers.
Mother Bernadette and daughter Charlotte co-founded the brand, which is run from Antwerp, Belgium, consisting of a range of flowy dresses. Their designs have been listed on major retailers including NET-A-PORTER, Browns and Selfridges.
Citing Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn as inspiration, the De Geyters, incomparable collectors, have built up a veritable encyclopedia of vintage clothing: “Old lingerie, nightgowns and dressing gowns, with very beautiful details like the spun lace, hand-sewn inserts, inspired us for its shapes and finishes for our clothing” the duo states.
The Belle Epoque, Roaring Twenties, golden age of Hollywood ... Why bother building fashion on the history of another? This anchoring in a rich historical framework is the first step to a return to slow fashion, complemented by organic cuts: “Our goal is to imagine clothes that give off a feeling of ease and nonchalance. To make the woman feel strong, fresh and relaxed in her clothes, as she feels when she is in nature.”
A priarie dress, cut from Italian silk and planted with flowers of all kinds. Daisies, wisteria, peonies... Collaborating with Antwerp painter Ben Sledsens, Charlotte sketched a herbarium infused with Boucher as much as with Seraphine: pastoral, naive, with pop elements. It's as if Laura Ashley met the Customs officer while reading Rousseau.
Each creation has a clear sense of transparency, responsibility and provenance. For instance, it utilises Kantha, an ancestral technique of embroidered quilting, native to Southeast Asia. Another major project, Re-Ssone goes beyond fashion and highlights sustainability with several players in the craft industry, from cabinetmaker to weavers. Leftover scraps of the Ssone collection are also upcycled by ANOU artisans to make rugs.
Utility wear that tells a story. Jackets and pants made in organic and recycled cotton in a historic Lancashire factory. Boots made in Italy from surplus leather. Patchwork sweaters tinted from plants dye. Caroline Smithson has nurtured this style from her past and present research on the post-1968 feminist wave. How has clothing been and can it be a vehicle for emancipation?
Formerly an assistant at Hermès, Margiela and Alexander McQueen, Parisian designer Coralie Marabelle scooped up the Public Prize at the Hyères Festival with a collection of clothing inspired by a vintage photograph of an Iranian sheep shearer, which led to her Paris Fashion Week debut in September 2016.
The Parisienne designer is a vocal proponent of eco-conscious fashion. Since the launch of her brand in 2016, Coralie Marabelle has been running backwards on clichés about fashion and recycling - too conceptual or “out of school” for the most snobbish: “In my opinion, upcycling has no future only if we manage to make it profitable, only if it finds its place in everyone's closet ”, she tells us, in work overalls in her studio on rue des Blancs-Manteaux.
Here, between the drawing table, a prototype rack and a picture wall, her sewing machine watches over generous stacks of surplus fabric: “Inventiveness is born out of constraint. We know today that we store tons clothes on earth and we don't know what to do with them: we have to learn to renew them, which is what I do with the items I collect."
Her clothing is made locally and in very small batches that are both “well-made and creative”: “With fast fashion, we have lost the value of clothing, not just the attachment that we can wear to it but also the awareness of the investment it represents. ”
Origami t-shirts, long color block skirts, brutalist trench coats... The cloakroom, enhanced with experimental silhouettes, is anchored in a global approach governed by art and artists. The designer has set her business outside of the fashion calender: instead of two to four seasonal collections, she creates a capsule a month. Each month is centered around a theme: Coralie Marabelle organizes a meeting with a plastic artist, painter, photographer, in order to “put the creative process back at the center of the matter.” Its boutique-workshop, inaugurated soon, will be a space for dialogue.
A strong proponent of faux fur, English activist Emma Brewin sought to create a label with sustainability at its center. Fans of her faux-fur designs include Rihanna, Adwoa Aboah, Miely Cyrus, and Rita Ora.
Produce less, but produce better. Work differently, too. The designer has rethought her profession in its entirety, from the product to the process to include sustainability. In the countryside of Sandwich, a small port town in Kent, the designer has set up a workshop in an old pigsty. There, in front of her spinning wheel and giant balls of fake fur, Emma Brewin designs the pieces that made her famous.
“I don't spend my time in an office designing clothes that will be made in another country - this which would allow me to offer hundreds of celebrities, " she said on her Instagram account. "Everything I sell to my customers is handcrafted. ” Five to ten days are the necessary time it takes to make just one top hat. Three to five weeks for a coat ... Everything comes perfectly to anyone who can wait.
Cotton candy coats just like how Margot Tenenbaum would love them. In 2016, for her collection, Emma Brewin embroidered a bee on the reverse of an apple green hat - part of the profits would go to the Bumblebee Conservation. With candor and impertinence, she gives herself the means to create an enchanted world with sustainably sourced faux-fur. His fashion is well done. And made to last.
One of the finalists of the French Hyères Festival 2019, responsible for kickstarting the careers of Anthony Vaccarello and Paco Rabanne’s Julien Dossena, Parisian designer Lucille Thievre came up with a sensual, river inspired collection.
A return to the simple beauty of materials. “As soon as we get out of a human production scale to reach an extraordinary industrial scale, everything derails,” she tells us, "So going back to a more human, and simpler, process, and seems essential and only reasonable to me.” Dresses made in a green like “grass in the setting sun”, blouses and corsages that stick to the skin ... Lucille Thièvre's ideas are born without intermediary, in contact with a rural or urban landscape, at the turn of a conversation with a craftsman.
For the aesthetics of her clothes, it is partly towards nature that she turned: “Everyone needs to find a link with their original environment. We discover there a space which seems empty, at first, but which turns out to be a virgin land without visual and sound pollution. ” Her retail element revolves around a direct to customer system: “This allows you to maintain a direct human link with the person buying the clothing.”
Inspired by the 1980s and 90s - “It's part of me, I don't reject these references!” -, the cloakroom also evokes the textures and palettes of the Esplaces, the village where Lucille Thièvre grew up. A creator-sculptor, she favors the use of chameleon materials: velvet, taffeta, jersey ... "I often use them to change their appearance."
For ten years, Hillary Taymour has been fighting the tongue-in-cheek term around “sustainibility”. This New Yorker proves with her label Collina Strada that fashion can become, and sometimes is, an integral part of a political discourse.
Global awareness. From her fashion shows to her digital platform, Hillary Taymour raises questions and awareness around fashion. The decorative elements of her penultimate Collina Strada show - a food market in East Village - were fully rented. Fruits and vegetables would fill the fridge of each guest. The American designer explains on ssense. com: "I wanted people to think about where their food comes from and what other options are available." For the “shopping list”, she commissioned Lebanese-Canadian activist Céline Semaan from the Slow Factory incubator: “Learn how to make compost. Repair your clothes, don't throw them away. ”
Both share the same social approach to ecology. They imagine, through the prism of sustainability, a dialogue between man and his environment. Good for the earth, good for people ... It's up to creatives to interact in this science of living. Hillary Taymour knows that fashion is a tool, as fun as it is.
Upcycling with an endorphin rush, a thousand miles from the clichés of happy sobriety: “Our aesthetic is diametrically opposed to that of the ecological counter-culture, because it does not look sustainable. I try to create festive, happy, bursting pieces, while caring for the environment. ” Dresses woven from rose fiber. A jacket lined with retro flowers. Vamp gloves cut from excess lace. Tie & dye across all elements. A blissful, conscious extravagance?