London, Paris, Berlin and Milan fashion weeks. A snapshot on the latest cutting-edge sustainable fashion brands.
Can you give us an overview of sustainable fashion in the various fashion cities “par excellence”?
London is my home and as an english designer myself, I have always had a soft spot for recycle, reuse and redesign. It is a part of the British make do and mend mentality, and combined with an abiding love of vintage, which is also a very english trait. I don’t think anywhere in the world reuses materials quite like the British. There are so many great examples of designers working with recycled materials, including From Somewhere, Junky Styling, Michelle Lowe-Holder, Traid Remade, Hetty Rose etc. All showing at either Estethica or the Ecoluxe trade shows as part of London fashion week.
Parisians have their own unique and unmistakable sense of style expressed through design, and the Ethical Fashion Show is one of the most important eco fashion trade shows anywhere in the world. True to Parisian style, they seamlessly mix contemporary fashion with hand craft and import, as only the French can, with a unique mix of couture, indipendant design and the ethnic melting pot that is Paris. At the Ethical Fashion Show this year, there was a strong contingent of Uzbekistan and Tagikistan artisans, slick design from the likes of Ultra, avant garde form Sakina M’Sa and recycled urban accessories from Marron Rouge.
Berlin is a hotbed of young, urban design from the casual to the technical, with many artists and designers relocating there for the creative and artistic freedom the city embraces. Italian menswear label Banuq are one such example who show at the GREENshowroom Berlin, alongside the likes of Jonano with their urban femininity and Studio Ecocentric with their strict sense of retro design, and Schmidt Takahashi’s eclectic mismatched dresses, all showing at the GREENshowroom, as part of Berlin fashion week.
Milan has one of the most avant garde and cutting edge fashion trade shows anywhere – WHITE. Jam packed with edgy, cool designers, including ethical and sustainable ones in the Selection by C.L.A.S.S. area. Km/a is one of my favorite labels anywehre, who work with recycled materials, show in the basement of White. So does Barbara I Gongini, who works with organic cotton and vegetable dyed leather and is one of the most conceptual designers around. The show also encompasses the likes of Silenzio Stampa by Alice Visin, who hand make jewelry from recycled paper.
Walking around these cities, have you seen some relevant shops which propose sustainable fashion/lifestyle?
I’m not as knowledgable about what is happening at a retail level, as I tend to spend most of my time working, writing and researching at a design level. Never the less there are some places that stand out.
Milan – “Navigli market” on the last Sunday of the month has outstanding vintage fashion and accessories as well as flea market bargains. Asap Lab who sell a completely organic and vegetable dyed collection of basics
In the end…
I think it is vital to celebrate what truly talented designers are doing to move eco fashion onto the next level. Those who do not compromise their aesthetic for sustainability or vice versa. Those making a difference in the way they work as well as the way they live. And those that can act as models for the next generation of designers to build upon.
Sass Brown is the Resident Director for the Fashion Institute of Technology’s study abroad program in Florence, Italy. Originally from London, England, Sass established herself as a designer with her own signature collection selling in the UK and across Canada. As a researcher, writer and blogger, her area of expertise is eco fashion, in all of its different expressions, from slow design and heritage craft skills to recycle, reuse and new business models. She has published papers and spoken around the world on the topic of sustainable design, has worked and volunteered in women’s cooperatives in Brazil, and taught workshops to manufacturers and fashion enterprises in Peru. Her book, Eco Fashion, published by Laurence King, has been translated into Italian as well as Spanish, and showcases some of the best expressions of eco fashion around the world. Her website and blog – www.ecofashiontalk.com is a one stop shop for everyone interested in eco fashion from a fashion, ethical or ecological perspective, featuring weekly designer overviews, resource listings and an eco fashion calendar.
Interview by Laura Molteni