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Published by Harmonia Norah, 2017-06-28 07:29:24

fashionfeature

fashionfeature

Julia Restoin Roitfeld is the face of H&M’s
Conscious collection, COS is fashioning
jewellery out of recycled denim
and Gucci has made the It bag
ethical. Could eco-fashion
finally be getting the
cool factor it deserves
asks Sarah Ann
O’Hegarty.

30 IRISH TATLER JUNE 2016

REFORMATION We live in an age where we debate
the pros of kale over celeriac,
SOUL organic versus Fairtrade,
colouring or, better yet, origami
for mindfulness: Yet, for so many of us, the
origin of the clothing we wear doesn’t penetrate
our carefully constructed‘I-woke-up-like-this’,
demeanour. In other words,‘gramming a shot
of organic cotton doesn’t seem to carry the
same cachet (or the tandem number of likes)
as the quinoa porridge you had for breakfast.
Suffice to say, an important facet of our
#blessed lifestyles is seriously lagging – our
clothes.

Let’s be real, the correlation between ethical
dressing – to be clear, what we wear; how it is
produced; the sustainability of raw materials;
the effect it has on the earth; the working
conditions of those who produced it and the
company’s social consciousness policies – and
the cute top you’re lusting after come payday
remains, for many, a disconnect.

Head of Sustainability for H&M, Anna
Gedda, is acutely aware of the need to provide
clothing that ticks both the ‘slow fashion’ and
trend boxes in order to pull in punters.“In the
nineties we made our first attempts with a
collection made of organic cotton.To be frank,
although the material was really good, the
clothes were simply quite boring and the
interest from customers faded quickly. So we
realised the key to success is not only to make
fashion sustainable but to also make
sustainability fashionable.”

One eye-opening collaboration with Stella
McCartney later and the brand expanded its
horizons in terms of materials and styles, and
is now in the wake of announcing style pin-up
Julia Restoin Roitfeld as the face of the brand’s
Conscious range.

It’s been a distinct period of highs and lows
in the endeavour for a more ethical shopping
environment in the last decade, and there’s no
denying green fashion’s constant state as ‘the
other’. Previously relegated to a somewhat
no-man’s land in the fashion zeitgeist, neither
niche nor mainstream, making an ecologically-
appropriate choice an afterthought rather than
a conscious buy. Until now, collections have
had to bear the term ethical like a hyperbolic
scarlet A – ethnic prints in predictable colours
need only apply. And the fashion market, fickle
creature as it is, has been taking its time to bite.

Design graduate Alanagh Clegge, part of the
hot-right-now crop of up and comers from the
National College of Art and Design believes
the best is yet to come with sustainably
conscious young designers. “There is always
a market for a conscious consumer, someone
who is interested in what they’re buying and
wants it to last,”she says emphatically. Clegge
is the recipient of the Thomas Dammann Junior
Memorial Trust Award, a bursary that will
enable her to travel to India and commission
local craftspeople for her embroidered pieces,
empowering them and their community in

JUNE 2016 IRISH TATLER 31

Ahmedabad in the Gujarat State.The pieces will instantly inspired – the brand’s website reads is coming from and I have done the research
be available as part of her label Four Threads, like a gathering of some of the hottest models on every single raw material I’m using within
stocked at Emporium Kalu from August. of the moment from Staz Lindes to Bambi my collection’. It was incredible and I thought
Northwood-Blyth. Even Kering-owned Gucci it was quite encouraging.” Clegge echoes this:
Crucially, however, if we are to change our has traded materials on its Dionysus bag – the “I want to secure long-term relationships with
shopping habits, where do we turn? A piece that’s veritable catnip for street-style craftspeople in India to empower their trade. I
googling of most big-name brands will likely followers – substituting PVC for polyurethane. really hope this kind of sustainability becomes
unearth a sustainable section on their websites, the new normal. When someone is buying a
boasting facts and figures. But how does this Meanwhile, if socially conscious company garment they want to know where it came
actually translate into real life, and how much Eileen Fisher, who supports global initiatives from, the people behind it, and their story. We
of it is PR spin? that empower women and girls, gets one more need to not be led by fast-paced trends. Buy
mention on the TV series Girls the Twittersphere less, but buy really well.”
It was reported that one of the most is going to cry product placement.
astonishing things to happen in the wake of Where does this leave us? We’re not perfect
the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster, which killed over It is the preserve of the millennial generation when it comes to converting our mindsets, and
1,100 factory workers and injured hundreds to demand full transparency when it comes to our wardrobes, to a more conscious way of
in Savar, Bangladesh was that it apparently their shopping choices. Fashion Director of purchasing. But it is nice to see strides being
took some brands weeks to discover whether Brown Thomas Shelly Corkery comments that taken to bring a new way of thinking into the
or not they were involved, despite their clothing it makes sense ethically and commercially. mainstream.
being uncovered in the rubble, such is the lack
of transparency amongst large corporations “When interviewing candidates for our In the words of everyone’s favourite frog, it’s
regarding supply chains. In the wake of this CREATE programme, without hesitation all not easy being green. But it is beautiful, and it’s
atrocity, the high street in particular has made the candidates said,‘I have full visibility on all certainly what we want to be.
distinct strides to clean up its act. of my raw materials, I know where everything

John Carmody of the Animal Rights Action WE ARE
Network (ARAN) counts social media as the ISLANDERS
biggest ally for the consumer when it comes to
a company’s cruelty-free agenda. In the wake CONSCIOUS BY H&M
of investigations into angora farming which
spurred the likes of Whistles, Tommy Hilfiger REFORMATION
and Ted Baker to stop selling it, sending
shockwaves through the industry, he opines ASOS AFRICA WE ARE
that people are finally looking for answers. ISLANDERS
“With everyone hitting the share button people
can see the reality of things, they’ve got no STELLA McCARTNEY
other option but to question their choices
going forward.”

Morals aside, the problem that the new guard
faces is to make ethical synonymous with cool
– in other words, a green badge as irresistible
as the latest cult designer or It bag. Imagining
pieces that are eligible on this front for their
design alone, not just their ethical kudos.
Exhibit A: An ultra-desirable piece that boasts
as much fashion savvy as any other designer
treasure and as a bonus is ethically friendly.
(See Stella McCartney for how to do it in style.)
Exhibit B: A typically ethical buy that boasts
ecological-reach as its sole USP.
No guesses as to which is the more attractive
proposition.

Are things on the up? Doubters should turn
to ASOS Africa’s latest collaboration with
Chichia, which reads more Brixton than
Botswana. Meanwhile, the @asos_ecoedit
Instagram account further highlights that all
things eco may be getting a well-needed dose
of London swagger. Irish label We Are Islanders
is carving a path for eco-luxury pieces that have
as much voguish appeal as green kudos. US
label Reformation – which is widely credited
for gifting sustainability a much-needed sexing
up – is set to introduce a perks programme
later this year to coincide with its RefScale
initiative, informing customers of the
environmental impact of their purchases by
measuring the CO2, H2O and waste savings of
each garment produced. Log on and get

32 IRISH TATLER JUNE 2016


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