In Part 1 of this feature, we introduced you to eco-fashion by unveiling the ‘not so pretty’ side of fashion. Well friends, there really is no other way to package this simple ugly truth that the most glamorous and beautiful industry in the world is one of the top polluting ones! And we need to become aware that as active consumers fuelling this fire, we need to shop smarter. After all, it’s all coming back to bite us in the end- unhealthy environment means unhealthy life.
But we’re UrbanMeisters and we completely understand you’re groaning inside thinking do I really have to give up fashion to save the planet?! Pause. Firstly, you don’t have to become Captain Planet- just a more responsible shopper and we’ll keep showing you how. We know you care about the environment but that fantastic new collection at your favourite brand is calling out- we tell you go there but try not to clean the store out! Secondly, who says you can’t have fashionable and eco-friendly in the same sentence? This is the problem with our understanding of eco fashion- we think it’s all uncool & unsexy. And UrbanMeisters is here to change that perception. We bet by the end of this feature you’ll be a die hard green fashion convert!
Established players walking the eco-fashion talk
We kickstart with the big names in fashion you love that are taking eco fashion to new heights.
The Non-Conformist Queen- Dame Vivienne Westwood
One of the most influential fashion activists, Vivienne is an inspiration. “I’ve got a voice because I’ve got a lot of credibility as a fashion designer,” she says. “So I have been using my fashion for the last five or so years as a medium.” Vivienne Westwood has committed to not expand her fashion business and instead sworn to choose quality over quantity in order to reconcile her business ambitions with her strong ecological beliefs and her concerns about mass production. She is a staunch advocate of green concerns and is not shy of tearing down her fashion peers and the whole industry for not taking responsibility. We need people like her championing the cause of eco fashion. Our editor-in-chief had the chance to meet her at COP21 in Paris last November where her message was loud and clear- “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.” It really is simple and do-able but we never take the step.
The Maverick Princess- Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney started her business on a sustainable, cruelty free material sourcing model. She was much ridiculed for her lofty idealism. Until 2007 when a very reputed environmental report found that the livestock industry accounted for 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transport sector. Since then many other players have followed suit trying to source or even organically produce substitutes that give the same feel as leather and have succeeded – case in point- the best selling McCartney tote Falabella.
High Street Fashion King Inditex
Inditex is world’s biggest apparel company owning Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear & Bershka among others and it’s sheer scale of operation worldwide has forced it to put stringent and innovative measures in place that ensure a low environmental impact. Most fashion players buy & produce stock in bulk and then market it, leading to a lot of waste in manufacturing and invariably unsold stock. Inditex decide to change this business model. So now Zara creates products in response to market feedback via quantitative & qualitative data collected from stores in real time. And if a giant like Zara can manage this then why not over players? Inditex also works on the principle of ‘lean manufacturing’, a concept championed by Toyota which basically looks into eliminating wastage within the production process. And the profit figures? We quote Dr Hausman (Professor of Management Science & Engineering, Stanford University) on what he calls the ‘Zara Gap’ theory- ‘by adopting a more flexible, demand- driven operating model, there is an opportunity to increase their profits by 28 percent and their market capitalisation by up to 43 percent.’ Need we say more? Sustainability and profitability go hand in hand.
Flirting with green fashion- Karl Lagerfeld’s eco couture at Chanel
So let us tell you our Editor-in-chief is a Chanel addict, Karl Krazy and her apartment is on the other side of the Haute Couture atelier of Chanel. And she’s not averse to taking a keen peek once in a while into the inner workings of this fabulous fashion house. And yes she has spotted Karl plenty of times. But what she also spotted last year in October, were the bee hives Chanel installed on their roof to produce their own honey (like LV since 2009). Before you think they’re all adding to their product portfolio, it’s purely for gifting. However this made our UrbanMeisters team super happy because bees are close to our cause and hearts- our mascot. The story didn’t end there, bees were obviously an inspiration for the Chanel Haute Couture show this January- the first eco couture show from the prestigious fashion label.
This Haute Couture show was all under the banner of “high-fashion” ecology. As Karl Lagerfeld explained, he wanted to “to take ecology one step further and to make it high fashion, a very elegant and very luxurious version of it…”.
So why is the fashion world divided on this? While fans of the brand feel it’s an important statement in the eco-fashion stakes from the most sought after fashion brand in the world. And they did go all out in the presentation. The décor was pure and minimalist: a slatted wood pavilion in the vastness of a green garden. Most importantly all of the stage material was composted and recycled after the show. Another striking feature was the selection of innovative and sustainable materials used for beading, plaiting etc: wood chips, recycled paper, organic woven yarn and wild cotton. Altogether, the show spelled out that Chanel could clearly become the fashion leader in a new area of ecological high end materials. Provided they commit to it and don’t just flirt with one of shows.
And that’s where the critics pounce in. They are of the impression, and not wrongly so, that this is one of those famous cases of ‘Green Washing’. Real eco-fashion is all about finding sustainable methods through the whole value chain. It is a long term vision with a shift in business model and orientation. Not a PR stunt with high visibility and no genuine transformation.
What do we think? A bit of both. No doubt we need a long term and driven impetus to eco-fashion led by giants like Chanel. And this eco-couture show could be the start of an amazing fairy tale in sustainability. If we see that Chanel from now on starts continuously improving their value chain, making sustainability excellence a key business value that expresses craftsmanship and quality, then it’ll be truly praiseworthy. And while we hope this will be the case, we do think it’s a one season wonder. And let’s be frank, Karl Lagerfeld is not the most suitable role model for sustainable material stakes- his refusal to budge from fur at Fendi is a case in point among many others.
Sustainable fashion brands on the rise- Spotlight on The Reformation
We updated you in the last feature about Balenciaga, Burberry, Tom Ford and some other high profile brands who have announced their departure from the traditional fashion week calendars. It’s a very welcome step as it would automatically take away the pressure on the total value chain. It’s the first step towards becoming more responsible fashion. But there are also a lot of very cool and edgy emerging designer brands that are already sustainable and green. They are legitimately doing their bit make green fashion a reality by taking a holistic approach to sustainable design. From ethical organic sourcing of raw materials, safe and non-polluting methods of production and responsible promotion, these brands are walking the talk. And did we mention they’re really cool designs? Amour Vert, StudyNY, A Peace Treaty are some really note worthy eco-fashion brands.
Our cherry pick for you is The Reformation. Here’s why:
- Honesty & Visibility: So they give total transparency on the whole value chain, from growing the fibers, making the fabric, dyeing, transport, manufacturing, packaging, to garment care and recycling. They showcase for each product the amount of carbon dioxide emitted and water used and compare it to the US industry standard. On top they offset the emissions and water used during production, with planting forests to naturally capture CO2 from the air. They control their waste, toxicity and fair labour and also invest in clean water solutions.
- Amazing green quality: They make their pieces from rescued deadstock fabrics and repurposed vintage clothing. But they go a step further and develop fabrics made from fiber with lighter environmental footprint compared with conventional cotton or polyester. Look at Tence for instance- the material is made out of eycaluptus trees and has a much more eco-friendly footprint than cotton. The best part is that search for innovative sustainable material is an on-going process here and a pivotal part of their R&D.
- Recycling: Super easy recycling program. Watch this
- Urban, edgy, sexy design: If you think all this makes the clothes frumpy and uncool then you’re very very wrong. The fabrics fall perfectly, the materials are qualitative and comfortable, yet very sexy. Have a look:
Shop sexy, shop green!
Photo credits cover: www.thereformation.com