ethical fashion

Ethical Fashion Is Finally Real and Beautiful

Sustainable Style has Come a Long Way.

Ten years ago, “green is the new black” was the most meaningless phrase in fashion. Why? Because ethical clothing was quite obviously not the new black. It was full of heart but not very pretty and really quite expensive. That’s changed now.

Urged on by concerns about the environment and the reality -- often dreadful -- of people who make clothes for Western markets, ethical fashion has undergone a soul-searching of humongous proportions. A new breed of designer is putting ethics at the heart of everything they do. For them, sustainability is not a cosmetic procedure or a checkbox to be ticked off. From sourcing unique raw materials and making the garments to investing in and working with impoverished communities around the world, social and environmental concerns shape key decisions. At the same time, every one of these designers understands -- in a way that ethical designers never seem to have understood before -- that beauty is key. Few people, no matter how committed, are going to spend a premium on sackcloth.

Sometimes, this means going back to old skills. Take French designer Faustine Steinmetz, who taught herself to weave via YouTube videos and now produces complex, highly-textured pieces, spun, dyed and hand woven in her East London studio. Or sustainable knitwear designer Katie Jones, who loves to crochet. Jones, who graduated from Central Saint Martins with an MA in knitwear, can spend 80 hours on a single jacket and use ends of runs of wool, second hand clothes, reclaimed denim, whatever she can find, to make wildly exuberant pieces that will make friends and influence people.

At other times, ethical fashion means working with new advances in technology. Swimwear brand Auria, for example, makes remarkable, design-led swimwear using Econyl, a 100% recycled polyamide fabric created from discarded fishing nets that have been collected back from the sea and melted down. Doing something new with an established fabric is a big hitter. Using only by-product of the meat industry, Martina Spetlova hand weaves leather and sometimes mixes the fabric with smocking, weaving, hole punching and patchwork to create unexpected dimensions. Denim is given a makeover by David and Clare Hieatt, whose new brand Hiut is slowly helping resurrect the jeans industry in David’s hometown of Cardigan in Wales.

Recently, all these designers -- Jones, Steinmetz, Spetlova, Auria, etc. -- found themselves the subjects of Selfridges’ Bright Young Things, an annual event at the London department store celebrating all things new and pioneering by featuring them in its Oxford Street windows. That’s a significant showcase. Maybe, at last, green will finally be the new black.

Have a look at Auria's swimwear! You'd never believe it's made from melted down, discarded fishing nets.


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