For a hot second circa 2011 I had a blog about sustainable fashion. I was passionate about it at the time, reading everything I could on the matter, attending events, making contacts, and opining on Twitter. I even tried to convince my friends and my boss to care! While this newfound passion kept me busy for a while – and somewhat fulfilled – I always had an uneasy feeling about the whole thing. It stemmed from the fact that most of the brands, products and protagonists, with sustainable credentials, were so far removed from the mainstream that ethical fashion would remain forever marginalized; an awkward fashion club for the conscientious.
Latterly, sustainability seems to have come out of the closet, with words like ‘natural’, ‘recycling’ and ‘ethical’ becoming associated with cool and covetable brands. I can go no further without mentioning Chanel’s S/S 16 couture collection, which emerged with materials composed of paper and wood fibres.
“Sustainability is part of an expression of our times”, said Karl Lagerfeld backstage at the S/S 16 Chanel Couture show.
But does that mean it's a fashion moment, soon to be démodé once again? Archived until its next revival? By its very nature, couture is sustainable, and the polar opposite to fast fashion. It’s worlds apart from the problems with mainstream fashion production yet its influence endures.
Elsewhere, young designers are showing their realistic understanding of sustainability by tapping into local production, recycled fibres, natural dyes etc. but not all of these things at once. Nor are they so quick to attach eco labels to their brand identities, just for some nosey investigators to come and tear apart. Rather, they see sustainability as part and parcel of their DNA. Witness this at the latest Bright New Things showcase at Selfridges, London. The young designers chosen are all about design innovation first and foremost, with a ‘doing our best’ approach to sustainability. Messaging from sustainability heavyweights Stella McCartney and Christopher Raeburn reinforces this new era of responsibility-embedded creativity.
The most important consumer group right now – Gen Z – will keep pushing the sustainability agenda, as it chimes so well with their obsessions with identity, and their preference for realness over a veneer of authenticity. They’re also more into achieving cool status through their opinions and experiences rather than the brands that they buy. Sustainability, transparency and honesty will be key touch points for an ambitious, engaged and marketing savvy consumer group. Let's hope that sustainability has more staying power this time around.
Thanks for reading,