Estethica - the epitome of modern luxury
Since arriving in London, I have been on a quest to hunt down the best sustainable fashion designers the UK has to offer. It has been a roller coaster, to say the least. A lot of ups - a few of downs - a few moments of utter disappointment, but, thanks to this season's Estethica, the excitement and optimism that brought me to London has returned.
Estethica, in it's seventh year and fourteenth season, is a platform to showcase and promote sustainable and ethical brands at London Fashion Week. This season, fourteen brands were showcased: first-timers included Bottletop and Phannatiq, while regulars, such as Henrietta Ludgate and Lost Property of London returned.
During one of my 'down' moments I acknowledged that a major problem with many of the sustainable brands I had discovered on my search, is that they are often not as shiny or polished as their high fashion and high end counterparts. This was not the case at Estethica. Each brand was extremely polished, in branding, presentation, and construction.
Although I was impressed with the entire showcase - there were a few standouts for me:
Beautiful Soul London design whimsical dresses and separates which are timeless, feminine, and all produced in the UK. Their AW13 collection – ‘I heart Ladybirds’ - combines a beautiful print with soft silhouettes, to create a very young, fresh collection. The range whisked me out of dreary London and sent me to an enchanting world of rolling green hills and summer picnics.
Katrien Van Hecke presented a strong collection for her first time at Estethica. The Belgian designer creates magnificent pieces that are simple in shape but rich in colour, texture and detail. High quality raw materials are transformed through natural dyeing and airbrushing and, as they are all made by hand, each piece is unique. Some even smell like the herbs they were dyed with! The brand oozes modern luxury.
Upcycling is a great way to approach the subject of sustainability in fashion. We are short of resources, so taking advantage of second-hand clothing, end of roll, damaged or left over fabric, is an excellent way to cut down on the amount we use. The problem however, is that often upcycled clothing can look unresolved and pieced together.
Good One (header image and below right) is a brand that demonstrates how well upcycling can be done. They combine end of roll cloth with new, locally produced sustainable fabrics, to create knitwear that is innovative, interesting and most importantly, consistent. Bold colour-blocking encourages an edgy look that is strong and stylish. Their AW13 collection is true to the brand’s ethos, presenting a look that is young yet sophisticated.
It was not only womenswear that was well represented at Estethica - some striking accessories were also on show. Lost Property of London exhibited their innovative bags and accessories in a collection featuring upcycled sails, while a pair of electric blue shoes from Paris-based Centre Commercial (bottom), with their lovely quirky shoelace detail, nearly made me weep. I don't know if it was due to their sheer beauty or the fact they're not being released until next summer.
Having been blown away by Estethica I went to explore the other showrooms at London Fashion Week. Although there were some beautiful collections, they did have me wondering, at what human or environmental costs these garments been made? And if the designers in Estethica can develop collections with transparent supply chains, materials that are low impact, with labour that is fair and local, and with dyes and printing techniques that are as safe (for water, land, and people) as possible, then why can't these brands do the same? I saw some stunning garments, but what many of the brands were lacking was that story or narrative which is often so rich in collections produced by sustainable fashion designers.
This is not to say that all the designers outside of Estethica are not doing the right thing - because that is not the case at all. Some designers such as Christopher Raeburn and Gudrun & Gudrun have the credentials to showcase in Estethica yet choose to show in the main exhibition. Gudrun & Gudrun, a duo from the Faroe Islands, take advantage of one of the abundant resources of the islands - wool. Their chunky knits are hand-knitted by Faroese and Jordanian women, each of whom are known to the design duo by name. All yarns and skins used are a bi-product of the food industry - just one example of a supply chain that is open, honest and transparent. Their pieces are of such high quality that they are sure to stand the test of time in both aesthetic and construction.
So thank you London, my faith has been restored.