Friday, April 23, 2010

Ethical and Sustainable Fashion

Having worked with Alexander McQueen and Gareth Pugh, Ada Zanditon's sculptural aesthetic is fast finding an ethical fashion following. With a focus on environmentally-friendly practices and materials, Zanditon uses natural and organic fibres from ethical suppliers and all her fabrics are dyed with non-carcinogenic dyes.

EDUN was founded by Ali Hewson and her husband, Bono, in 2005 to help position Africa as a viable source of fashion production. Beginning with organic cotton, the brand aims to lead by example with a trade for aid approach that sees the company, in which LVMH bought a minority stake in 2009, investing in local communities in Africa and providing them with a means to make an income.

With a production base in Katmandu and Bali, Komodo (which was founded by Joe Komodo after he transformed some old Levi's into patchwork jackets to sell on Brick Lane), aims to spread “good vibes and messages" through its use of planet-friendly materials and dyes, as well as ethical fair trade practices.

The label behind Livia Firth's Oscar dress, From Somewhere, makes use of pre-consumer waste to create gorgeous up-cycled creations that have been seen on the likes of Lauren Laverne, Peaches Geldof and Emilia Fox. The designers and founders of From Somewhere, Orsola de Castro and Filippo Ricci, are also the brains behind Estethica at London Fashion Week. Their efforts go to reducing the 2 million tons of textiles that end up in landfill in the UK each year.
Following the principles of fair trade, Made teams up with influential designers and style savvy celebrities to design jewellery that is then sourced and created in impoverished communities in East Africa, stimulating their economies and training local artisans in new skills. By providing fair wages and support, the company hopes to break the cycle of poverty through “trade, not aid”.

People Tree works towards promoting sustainability and helping people in the world's most marginalised communities escape poverty by actively supporting 50 Fair Trade producer groups, in 15 developing countries. The brand, which recently collaborated on a collection with Emma Watson, provides training to artisans and their organisations so they can improve their skills, and strengthen their businesses and social impact. People Tree also offers additional support to farmers, allows time for production by hand and often invests in local community projects too.
There's something undeniably chic about a girl sporting a man's Panama hat, no? Pachacuti is the first Fair Trade company to receive the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) certificate for its work with female hat weaving cooperatives in Ecuador, where Panama hat-making is the primary source of income for the women in these rural communities.

Karen Stewart and Howard Brown founded Stewart + Brown in 2002 to create a knitwear brand with a focus on ethically and sustainably sourced Mongolian cashmere that's built to last, therefore curbing the fast fashion trend.

"Knitted by grannies, supported by supermodels" is the tagline attached to The North Circular, a knitwear brand from Lily Cole, which uses wool from rare sheep breeds at the Izzy Lane sheep sanctuary in Yorkshire. The beanies, socks, scarves and dresses are all hand made in the UK, creating a low-mileage product that supports local industry, makes use of sustainable fibres and supports traditional knitting skills. Plus, 10 per cent of profits go to the Environmental Justice Foundation.

Danish label Noir Illuminati II injects some vampy Scandinavian glamour into the eco-friendly fashion scene with its socially responsible, sustainable collections. By sourcing certified organic cotton from Uganda and using technology to give it a designer edge, the brand is changing the way that the higher end of the market perceives ethical fashion.

Sika works closely with local traders and manufacturers in Ghana, using natural fabrics sourced from Ghanaian markets to generate regular income for those involved - all while creating wearable, and desirable, pieces that work perfectly with this season's tribal trend.

From a collection of brooches, buttons and lace found in antique markets, Finnish designer Minna Hepburn has built an ethical fashion company that minimises the impact on the environment through the use of organic, fair trade and recycled elements wherever possible.

Annika Sanders and Kerry Seager, of Junky Styling, up-cycle rescued second-hand garments to promote ethical consumerism. All of the brand's clothes are produced in-house or outsourced locally, so the working conditions of the employees are second-to-none. Furthermore, customers are encouraged to bring in their un-worn clothes for "wardrobe surgery" to create a new garment without creating waste.
Where aims to marry the eco-friendly and fair trade principles of ethical fashion by sourcing its shoes and accessories from small producers and artisan communities around the globe, and paying them a fair price for their labour. On the flip side of the ethical coin, the brand tries to use natural and environmentally friendly materials.

In a world where fast, throwaway fashion is often manufactured at the expense of fair wages and safe working conditions, Monkee Genes provides genuinely cool jean shapes in Soil Association-approved organic fabrics (denim dyes can be very harmful to the planet). And every step of the production process – from the cotton picking to the hemming – is fair trade.

Bottletop focuses on quality, sustainability and local craftsmanship to generate employment in impoverished places by creating environmentally-friendly and ethically-sourced, covetable products. On a deeper level, the company supports education programmes and strives to empower young people in disadvantaged regions by teaching them new skills and adopting a long-term holistic approach by addressing key issues such as sexual and reproductive health, substance abuse and gender equality.

Using ex-military fabrics, Christopher Raeburn creates ethically-aware garments that are "proudly remade in Britain". After the Royal College of Art graduate won the Ethical Fashion Forum prize in December 2008, he went on to show at London Fashion Week and his collection of parkas, made from up-cycled parachutes, was picked up by Browns Focus. "My stuff is about good design, produced in England," Raeburn told The Guardian "It's a very happy accident that it's also ethical. I didn't set out with that as the primary goal; For me it's about reappropriation."

(Vogue U.K.)

I love the innovative thinking behind these stylish creations. It's one thing to recycle, but still another, to translate that thinking into helping impoverished countries. I'm all in favor of taking something old and working it into something new and exciting. While this is far from a new concept, I always applaud those who look toward ethical solutions.

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