If there was one message received loud and clear by the guests of Green Fashion Week, it was that fashion’s role in creating a sustainable future could be monumental. Forget for a moment the green initiatives by companies like Kering and LVMH, important as they are – this event was all about proactivity from individuals.
The four day event which took place in Milan and was hosted by GD Major Entertainment bore a greater resemblance to a conference than your standard on-schedule fashion week; throwing down some major truth bombs for the attendees, namely the staggering carbon footprint left during the production of clothes. Water – everyone’s favourite drink after prosecco – is being used by the hundreds of gallons to make the clothes piling up in an overstuffed stockroom near YOU.
Whilst the fact that after oil production the fashion and textile industry is the most polluting one in the world is a harrowing one, it’s also not news. Every conscious consumer with half a brain knows that the way fashion is being manufactured is totally flawed and that it’s down to them to change their buying habits to effect a positive change. The real problem is creating clothes that are both desirable and ethical. The data is vital, but not massively sexy: you can’t look fabulous in a pie chart and you ain’t gunna pull in a very boring list of statistics (probably).
That’s where the fashion comes in. Seven international designers showcased their work at this year’s Green Fashion Week. The majority of the collections erred on the side of commercial; casual separates that offered an ethical alternative to high street shopping, but the real showstoppers came from London College of Fashion alumna Nelly Rose, and Italian designer Silvia Giovanardi.
Giovanardi’s collection – inspired by her honeymoon in Japan – made for an exciting finale to the evening of fashion shows at Milan’s Westin Palace Hotel. Using organic fabrics and hand painting, Giovanardi’s pieces were a delicate and romantic ode to the Land of the Rising Sun. The crafting was incredibly polished with an elegant colour palette, but it was disappointing to see an all-white ensemble of models, especially considering one of the key organisers was Major Model Management who must have a plethora of diverse girls at their fingertips. What would have made this Japanese inspired collection really sing was if it had been worn by a Japanese girl – for a politically charged event this seems like an embarrassing and rookie oversight. Nevertheless, Honeymoon 1 is a sophisticated offering from Silvia Giovanardi and the transparent supply chain and 100% Made in Italy label is exactly the sort of business model that more brands should be adopting.
Young print designer Nelly Rose is no stranger to international fashion; her eclectic design approach incorporates traditional Indonesian craft techniques and London creativity. Instead of the classic runway show, Nelly Rose presented her collection at GFW’s Green Party, held on the 32nd floor of the iconic Pirelli Tower, giving guests the opportunity to get up close and personal with the clothes – reclaimed leather hot pressed with bright foil motifs and multi-colour woven silk pieces with abstract Batik prints. Whilst sustainability is at the core of Nelly Rose’s business philosophy it is the blend of timeless artistry and jarring eccentricity that is the real charm, and it’s no wonder that she is a rising star in the world of ethical fashion.
So, let’s talk about that concept; ethical fashion. There’s something about this idea which seems to be off-putting to the consumer. Clean eating has taken off in a whirlwind of Fair Trade coffee, organic 100% cold pressed coconut oil and craft ale brewed from the tears of Turkish virgins, but clean dressing? Not so much. This could be because up till now the technique for getting people to buy into green fashion is to throw raw data at them, and as we established earlier, this is the most boring thing EVER. There are those who think that even using sustainable vernacular is damaging; Queen of Green Orsola de Castro has repeatedly said how sick she is of hearing the phrase “ethical fashion” – guilty as charged – because it is an immediate turn off to those who think that this means wearing hessian potato sacks and buying exclusively from Oxfam. MA Fashion Journalism student and editor-at-large Belgium for 1Granary Aya Noël wrote an entire market report on the techniques of selling green fashion to fast fashion addicts. Her best idea? Don’t tell them it’s green.
The frustrating thing is that it’s becoming increasingly easy to be a responsible buyer. There are myriad options on the market now, which is obviously a double edged sword; people are buying more than ever, certainly more than we need, but we do have the choice to buy ethically. Vivienne Westwood summarised it perfectly at her recent talk to students of Central Saint Martins when she said “we live in a decadent society, not a civilised one”. Basically we are all greedy bastards – but we don’t have to be. Buy well but buy less, do your research, be informed, have a conscience, say no to the bullshit and spread the word that green fashion can be sexy and awesome and creative. It’s great that there are people putting on events like Green Fashion Week, but wouldn’t it be better if every fashion week was green?