The time has come for a new wave of eco-friendly fashion that can be both ethical and desirable
Last month a new must-watch documentary was unveiled to shake and shock viewers with the unfair circumstances that are happening behind fast fashion brands. Called The True Cost (trailer below), the film looks at the impoverished garment workers in Bangladesh, the unsafe working conditions of the trade and the environmental impact behind the manufacturing of clothes for high-street labels. Showing intense footage, The True Cost is the latest reminder of how unsustainable the fashion industry has become. The sector, which accounts for 2.5 trillion dollars worldwide, is also stained with massive use of water, pollution and and an ocean of waste. If things don't change, the scenario could get really bad. Its is believed that by 2030, the supply and demand gap for water will increase, the need for water exceeding by 40% the supply. And if the giant garbage patches in the middle of the ocean aren't getting smaller the plastic waste will take around 400 years to biodegrade.
Luckily, many people in and out of the fashion industry are gazing towards this increasingly unsustainable supply chain and have decided it's time to do something about it. Some brands, like Patagonia, have paved the ethical way since the 90's, and now new labels are joining the squad. Slowly but surely, what was once a niche movement of up-cycled garments for secluded audiences is now becoming a profitable sector with luxury items that are produced ethically and smartly.
TURNING POST-CONSUMER WASTE INTO PREMIUM FASHION
Though not exactly a by-product of the fashion industry, one of the biggest costs of 21st century is the amount of plastic waste discarded regularly. There is a vortex in the middle of the Pacific Ocean full with plastic debris - but we don't need to go that far to find large amounts of refuse sitting somewhere while waiting to be decomposted. So why not take some of that waste and give it a new use? Though they may not come from the most glamorous backgrounds, plastic bottles and aluminum have the potential to become the new luxury material, for high-end ethical fashion. We round up some of our favourite brand examples below.
G-Star Raw for the Oceans
'Let's turn ocean plastic into something fantastic' is the logo of G-Star's collaboration with Parley for the Oceans. Together with Pharrell Williams, G-Star unveiled a collection of clothes made with Bionic Yarn, a fibre made from discarded plastic retrieved from the sea. The collection features cool printed tees, patterned bomber jackets and above all, denim. Denim jeans, denim shorts and denim blazer, shaping quirky cuts and effortless looks. From £30 to £270, G-Star Raw offers an affordable alternative for stylish and green apparel. This multiple stakeholder collaboration went even further. Earlier in the year, G-Star got leading i-D magazine to create a documentary called The Plastic Age directed by Jake Sumner that dives into the issue of the ocean plastic.
Ekocycle x Harrods
Advocating for the environment is totally in, especially among music stars. Like Pharrell, Will.I.Am is also taking action for the cause with a brand founded by him and The Coca-Cola Company called Ekocycle. Sharing the ambition "to motivate brands to make things from recycled materials and make more sustainable living cool", the label unveiled earlier this year a collection of premium collaborations with brands like Adidas, MCM and H.Brothers at the high-end London shop, Harrods. Next to the usual luxury brands housed by Harrods, the pop-up store featured clothing, shoes and travel gear with a sustainable twist, as they were made from plastic bottles, aluminium cans and other consumer packaging.
Adidas x Parley for the Oceans
The latest brand to catch the sustainable fabrics wave is Adidas, which released a new concept for a shoe earlier this month. Together with Parley for the Oceans, an organization that aims to raise awareness on the damages we are doing to the ocean, Adidas launched a trainer with sustainable cushioning on the bottom. The party, though, happens on top, as fabric used for the shoe is made from materials reclaimed from illegal deep-sea fishing nets and other waste pulled from the ocean. Although the trainer is still in the prototyping phase, the brand is expected to launch more consumer-ready products later this year, filling a gap for sportswear and shoewear with sustainable materials.
REDUCING WASTE ALTOGETHER
Topshop Reclaim to Wear
When a fashion collection is designed, the manufactures try to reduce the waste to the minimum. There is always waste left, however, and this can add up to huge piles of diverse pieces of fabric that go directly to the bin unused. Against this is Topshop's new collection Reclaim to Wear, launched this month in partnership with the namesake organization. The third edition of Reclaim to Wear sews together pieces of fabric left-over from previous collections to give them new life. This zero waste method can be a challenge for designers, but the end result is a collection of garments and accessories that are in tune with the environment.
CHALLENGING THE MATERIALS
Some might argue that a zero waste method in retail is not bad, but it's not the solution as we keep buying clothes and disposing them very fast. They are not wrong. What happens after consumers give their old clothes away to charity? If those clothes cannot be sold at a thrift store, they end up in a landfill, and if they are made with synthetic fabrics -as they mostly are - they take ages to biodegrade. Although they take less time to biodegrade, natural fibres aren't a much better option either, because their environmental impact is huge. Cotton, for example, uses 22,5% of the world's insecticides and 10% of all pesticides on agricultural land. So in the end, the land and the workers who expose themselves to the toxic products are the real victims of the fashion industry. This dark scenario might not have to be repeated for much longer though, as a Swiss company called Freitag recently developed a new fibre that is 100% biodegradable, compostable and even moisture-wicking, called F-abric. Coming in twill or jersey, the textile can be used for trousers, t-shirts or jackets that will naturally decompose over time. Imagine burying your trousers in your back garden after one last wear. If they are compostable and biodegradable, this will hopefully be the future.
If you want to find out more about the future of fashion join us at #INTERLACED2015 on 3rd September. Tickets are on sale now.