Sustainable Luxury in the Fashion World

By Oliver Burns

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October 10, 2013|Luxury Design

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  • n our recent blog ‘Sustainable Luxury’, we talked about the shortage of sustainable and ethical design in the luxury market. When it comes to fashion, there certainly appears to be more activity publicised in the media, but is the fashion industry really leading the way in sustainable luxury? Problems with sustainability can be seen throughout the manufacturing process, from fabric sourcing through to creation and then on to disposal, as landfills around the world fill up with discarded clothing. As Lucy Siegle describes in her book ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing the World Out’, frequent air travel is required in order to deliver new shipments on a regular basis to stores around the world, and the pressure this requirement for fabric creates means that land which could be used for growing food, is used to grow cotton instead. However, as concern over sustainability grows, several fashion brands are leading by example and making strides within their industries; pioneering new ways of working to ensure that environmentally friendly processes and ethically sourced fabrics are at the forefront of their designs.  
Image sourced via Stella McCartney

As an avid animal rights campaigner Stella McCartney has brought awareness to the issue by refusing to use leather or fur in her designs. With these materials being seen for centuries as the ultimate in luxury fabrics, McCartney has consistently stuck to her ethos throughout all her collections and has proved that high end luxury products can be made with alternative materials and produce the same quality product. The quality of her products means that they are made to stand the test of time so that they don’t end up in landfill like many clothes do. However, if years down the line they do get thrown away, McCartney has developed biodegradable shoe soles that will degrade when placed in compost.

Image sourced via Net-A-Porter

The Green Carpet Challenge is a project pioneered by Livia Firth (wife of Colin Firth) since 2009. They have worked on a number of collaborations with global luxury brands to “unlock the potential of sustainable style” and to gain maximum publicity for the issues involved. They have worked with the British Fashion Council, the Cannes Film Festival, The Golden Globes and the Academy awards, encouraging high profile brands to create ethical designs for prominent fashion and entertainment events. Most recently they partnered with Net-A-Porter to offer an exclusive capsule collection of sustainable designs created by Christopher Bailey, Victoria Beckham, Christopher Kane, Erdem, & Roland Mouret. Not only are these exclusive collections produced to the highest sustainable standards, 20% of all proceeds will be donated to (RED) ™ which finances Global Fund grants in Africa, with a focus on eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Image Sourced via Les Confettis

Veja is a French brand which works with local communities across the word to offer products which are created in a “global chain that emphasizes solidarity and the environment, from the small producers in Brazil to the European concept stores at final output”. The efforts Veja go to in ensuring they use Fairtrade fabrics, and that the workers are treated with dignity and respect is highly inspiring. Their cotton is taken from family run farms that plant cotton and food in the same field, without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, according to the principles of agroecology. Their rubber is also naturally sourced from wild rubber trees that grow in the amazon, which are then tapped by forest dwellers who harvest the rubber used for the soles of Veja shoes. Their eco-friendly ethics also go far beyond just materials. Their stock control and transport is managed in a way that reduces their carbon footprint, and their zero advertising policy means resources can be reallocated to the workers in the productive supply chain.

Image sourced via Brand Channel

Nike has been working on sustainability within its products for years but they have now turned their attention to publicising the issue within their industry. They recently launched the Making App which ranks fabrics in terms of their sustainability in order to provide designers with an understanding of how the fabrics they choose to use, effect the environment. The App was the culmination of six years of work by their design team cataloguing the 75,000 fabrics that they were working with. Hanna Jones, Nike’s Vice President of Sustainable Business and Innovation described the reasoning behind the App as a way to “go back upstream and really try to impact the designer.” Educating designers is a great way to increase awareness of the issue at the very top end of the chain and will hopefully urge brands to create quality products that are made to last. Ultimately disposable fashion has a lot to answer for with the UK alone throwing out 350,000 tonnes of clothes into landfill every year, proving that sustainability isn’t just about having something eco-friendly, but about whether we even need all those clothes at all.

Written by SC

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