It’s easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of Fashion Week when there is so much excitement about emerging young London designers. It was only a few years ago that the likes of Christopher Kane, Marios Schwab and Louise Gray were showcasing their debut collections to unsuspecting audiences; now they are fashion heavyweights commanding the order of LFW. Celebrated for its endorsement and support of fresh design talent, it is widely accepted that as the capital of experimental and extreme style, it is London that people look to for inspirational and progressive approaches towards fashion. So it is only natural that London takes this tradition one step further and applies the same forward-thinking attitude towards ethical and sustainable fashion initiatives.
Launched at London Fashion Week in 2006 and sponsored by high street retailer Monsoon, Estethica is a revolutionary endeavour conceived to support the growth of sustainable fashion and exhibit the elite of eco design. Celebrating its fifth year and cementing its prominent place on the British Fashion Council’s LFW schedule, a brunch was held to inaugurate the exhibition, where the designers participating were able to enlighten and educate over champagne and canapés. Nineteen carefully selected designers and ethical fashion companies (chosen for their merit in design and commitment to sustainable methods of production) showcased their efforts for spring/summer 2012, The guidelines state that to be part of the Estethica family, the designer must be working with organic, Fairtrade and/or recycled materials.
The BFC is doing great work in raising the profile of these brands and designers with a conscience, and in turn ethical fashion as a whole. Providing the opportunity to be showcased at the heart of London Fashion Week is a coup in itself; a unique platform that these designers are fully aware of and take advantage of wholeheartedly. Of these nineteen bright young designers, each has a unique take on the principles of design practice and a distinct aesthetic. Most noteworthy, their limitless passion for ethical fashion is not compromised by their love for beautiful clothing and accessories proving that when it comes to dressing, one can be stylish and sustainable.
As the exhibition’s sponsor, Monsoon’s range of sustainably sourced and ethically produced apparel titled L.O.V.E is the perfect example of a major high street retailer going against the grain of popular high street retail concepts. New to the fold, Eva Zingoni brings ‘sustainable couture’ to the exhibition, with her lux-inspired collection based on recycled fabrics cut from excess materials otherwise discarded by Parisian fashion houses. Eco-friendly favourite, Lost Property of London, known and loved for their fashionable yet functional bags recycled from abandoned fabrics, returns to Esthetica. Jewellery designer Joanna Cave presents her collection of recycled silver and ethically sourced pearls next to and in association with Partimi, an eco-friendly ready-to-wear line that uses organic wools, silks and linens. Both brands take their inspiration from childhood memories and the beauty of nature. It is important to note that these designers certainly benefit from the support of organisations such as the Environmental Justice Foundation and the Soil Association Certification These bodies are also part of the collective effort of educating consumers and ensuring that every stage of a garment’s production process is accredited for.
There is certainly a demand for a new attitude towards fashion. The days of trend-based quick fixes and questionable quality in garments are rapidly fading – phrases such as ‘the triple bottom line’ and ‘upcycling’ are becoming part of everyday fashion. This is indeed a very welcome departure and the start of a brand new era for ethics in the fashion industry.
Rio Jade Ali is a London-based fashion writer and consultant, currently working on heritage projects with Burberry and Margaret Howell. She is undertaking her master’s at the RCA in Critical Writing in Art and Design.