An Ode to SUSTAINABLE FASHION:
3 Diverse Leading Global Brands,
Each Championing a Mini
Buy less. Choose Well. Make it Last.
– Vivienne Westwood
Having reported on global Fashion Weeks from Paris to Tokyo over the past year, trendy big-league and indie designers alike have been unanimous in propagating the themes of ‘returning to nature, sustainability, transparency and lowering our carbon footprint’. But talk is cheap and time will tell how many of these companies will put their money where their mouths are. However, navigating what already is a philosophical minefield, the term ‘sustainable’ comes with its own baggage and perhaps a more workable term to use in this context may be ‘less unsustainable.’ Technicalities aside, the stark reality is that unless we all do our bit, there may be no Plan(et) B left for us …
We only have two choices: do nothing or do something.
– Tony Kirwan
The million-dollar question is, how do we make high-performance textiles that have a low impact on the environment? How do we manage to manufacture products without underpaying those who make them? How do we change the mindset of a brainwashed consumerist public, dizzy from decades of buying disposable, cheap fashion to being more discerning, more socially conscious and ultimately, less wasteful?
As for those in charge of making our frocks and sneakers and tea towels … balancing morals, ethics and a social conscience (while balancing the books) is what forward-thinking companies have been busying themselves with well before you were doing your locked-down onscreen pilates.
Sustainable Fashion is not a trend but the future
– Antonia Böhlke.
The thinking consumer, more so now than ever, wants to know there’s a story to their favourite brand. And not just any old story, it needs to convincingly tick the boxes for sustainability, transparency and protecting our planet.
The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.
– Robert Swan
I have chosen 3 leading international brands – a French shoe wear brand, a South African textiles brand and a Dutch haute couture label – to illustrate how tiny but smart steps may indeed serve to redeem the Fashion Industry and how these brands, each in their own way have been actively considering their carbon footprint. Now, these new age movements may not be a flawless improvement on old-school methods, but they’re going some way in challenging and reinventing the now-frowned-upon ways of doing things.
The most sustainable garment is the one already in your wardrobe.
– Orsola de Castro
Green is the new black
Take, for example, my favourite (French) sneaker brand Veja. From the outer appearance of a Veja sneaker – sleek and fashionably retro-looking – you’d never be able to tell that the organic Brazilian cotton used comes from a farm where no harmful pesticides will poison local rivers and that the Amazonian rubber for the soles is tapped using age-old traditional methods. Imagine sneakers made from recycled plastic bottles, with the upper design using tilapia fish skin or vegetable-tan leather or a leather-like material made from curdled milk? With the insole made of sugar cane and the outsole of rice waste? Awesome, right?
It doesn’t stop there, the packaging and dispatching of the products are in partnership with Atelier Sans Frontieres who help those struggling to find work and those who have been incarcerated. As for transparency, the company is upfront as to how much they pay their employees and are happy to disclose these figures publicly. Marketing/advertising? Not Veja’s thing – they’d rather save those costs as every pair of Veja sneakers costs about 5 times what it costs its average commercial counterpart to produce. I say V-YAY to all that, bring on another pair of Veja!
Watch the extraordinary story of Veja here:
The first step to slow fashion is asking why before you buy.
– Elizabeth Joy
Credits: Lookbook Adult: Vincent Desailly
Packshots & Still life pictures: VEJA STUDIO
South Africa-based Mungo is a beloved and inspired international brand of luxe homewear, fashion and textiles. This company is not in the business of cutting corners. Here every aspect and step of the production process is carefully considered – from the raw materials to the people who weave their extraordinary products to life.
A proponent of Slow Fashion, Mungo creates products that stand the test of time while staying firmly focussed on both consumer and the environment. Transparency, sustainability and traceability are qualities valued above all by this company that has made it their business to commit to the upliftment, social wellbeing and education of local communities. (Admirably, 1% of the company’s annual turnover gets donated to charitable causes in South Africa.)
Their stunning recently constructed mill/ community hub is open to the public seven days a week. Here visitors and locals alike can reconnect with the age-old language of weaving and experience the entire process – from the spinning and dyeing of the yarn to the weaving and finishing of products. Ongoing innovation and research are part and parcel of this family-run company’s ethos too: they’re adamant to improve both the human and natural environments they operate in. Not only does Mungo aim for a future where all production uses only organic cotton (which requires minimal irrigation and produces up to 90% less greenhouse gasses) but also one where cotton is grown and harvested locally. A resounding eco thumbs-up to Mungo!
Watch the story of Mungo here:
Ethical should be the new normal.
Mungo SA and global – www.mungo.co.za
Mungo USA – www.mungo.us
Mungo EU – www.mungo.co
Stockists in South Africa:
Johannesburg | 44 Stanley Avenue
Cape Town | 78 Hout Street, CBD
Cape Town | High Constantia Centre
Plettenberg Bay | Old Nick Village
Every time you spend money, you´re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.
– Anna Lappe
IRIS VAN HERPEN
Dutch eco-techno haute couturier Iris Van Herpen is the high priestess of sustainability in Fashion. Her fascination with nature is evident when one is afforded a glimpse into her studio which is, for all practical purposes, well, a science lab. Waves, water, fossils, plants, membranes and soundwaves are her thing, she’s in awe of the intelligence and patterns that occur within nature.
To say she creates cutting-edge works of art & design and develops new-age fabrics does little justice to the mind-bogglingly innovative magic that happens inside this creative hub. Imagine creating printed material that cleans up the air? How about garments that change colour and shape as you wear them (so as to create even less need for wardrobes full of clothing)? Imagine dresses made from plastic debris unearthed from the bottom of the ocean? Printed 3-D shoes and 4-D garments? Well, these are the projects that Iris Van Herpen has been contemplating and for the most part, successfully executed.
Unsurprisingly her medium of choice is haute couture, for the simple reason that the latter is the ultimate form of Slow Fashion, deliberately creating garments on demand only. Haute couture gives her the time to invest in research and innovation, to develop novel sustainable fabrics and invent new ways of doing things without overt time pressures. No surprise either that she’s not a fan of fashion trends, which in turn, encourage warehouses full of copycat fashion on the high street at least six time per year, resulting in fashion that might get worn once, or not at all.
She’s preoccupied with innovation – to reduce our carbon footprint – and recycling. A recent creation, Sphaera (or ‘sphere’) for singer Björk reads like a piece of science fiction – not only is it sculptural and responds to the movements of the body, but it is interactive too. It expands around the singer like an orchid in bloom, it’s delicate petals reflecting light and according to Iris Van Herpen Björk is a ‘futuristic orchid avatar’, the dress an ‘aura’ around her with its parts moving in tune with the singer.
The innumerable celebrities who have been dressed by Iris Van Herpen – from Lady Gaga and Eva Green to Beyoncé and Naomi Campbell – have an immense appreciation for this designer’s forward-thinking vision and determination. And they’re not alone – we salute you too Iris Van Herpen! A true eco-warrior for the integrity of Fashion.
Watch Iris Van Herpen at the Virtual Design Festival:
Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better
– Maya Angelou.
It is befitting to conclude with some pearls of wisdom:
Just like you are what you eat,
You are what you wear
I’ll let you chew on that.