LFW SS15: The Conscious Collections
One of the things that I love about chatting to designers who have a well-honed fashion conscience is that they always have a great story to tell about their collections. Be it a tale of sourcing cloth to upcycle into urban outerwear or an anecdote about the inspiration behind a whimsical crocheted collection, a designer with a social, ethical or sustainable mission will inevitably tell a good yarn.
At London Fashion Week, not only do these conscious collections each have an interesting provenance, but they also represent some of the very best design and construction around. Many of these designers are supported by Estethica, the LFW initiative established in 2006 to promote the very best of sustainable fashion. Over the past eight years, Estethica has continued to highlight the work of established designers, and to support the burgeoning careers of new designers: this season four up-and-coming brands were given a platform in the 'Estethica Emerging Talents Showroom'.
Here is a round-up of the LFW designers who take pay homage to both style and ethics in their SS15 collections:
Ready To Wear
Christopher Raeburn (Estethica)
Since his LFW debut five years ago, Christopher Raeburn has continued his commitment to the brand's REMADE ethos through which he ‘highlights the beauty in the obsolete’. In the SS15 flight-inspired ‘Ascent’ collection, decommissioned MIG fighter pilot suits are reworked and combined with sheer organza into striking new garments. Raeburn, who produces his whole collection in the UK, has even sourced humanitarian aid parachutes which, in their original pink tone, are remade into separates and his signature parachute parkas.
Katie Jones (Estethica Emerging Talent)
Katie Jones found inspiration for her colourful crocheted collection in time spent at the seaside with her Grandmothers and their old crochet patterns. The good old English doily gives shape to the pattern for the scalloped edge of the garments, whilst the carousel at the end of the pier informs the colours for the collection and a playful pony shoulder bag. The collection is hand-crocheted in the UK, mostly by Jones herself, and the gold lurex pieces are limited due the yarn’s reclaimed provenance.
Louise de Testa (Estethica Emerging Talent)
After a successful first season at London Fashion Week AW14, Louise de Testa returned with her new collection ‘Run to the Sun’, a sporty yet elegant take on tennis attire and in particular 1930s player Suzan Lenglen. As with her launch collection, each garment has at least one sustainable element, such as upcycled materials, a zero waste pattern or the use of new technical fibres like recycled and waterproof fabric. The sporting influence is clear, but this wearable and highly versatile collection certainly shouldn't be confined to the tennis court.
Wool and The Gang (Estethica Emerging Talent)
Founded on the belief that fashion should be ‘#Madeunique with love...in a sustainable way’, Wool and the Gang established a model which combines serious style and plain old fashioned good sense. In essence, fans can either buy a kit to knit one of the garments or accessories themselves, or opt for one that’s ready made by one of The Gang’s community of makers. Wool and The Gang source carefully and consciously and even work with fashion factories to save their waste or cast-offs to be remade into yarns for their collections.
Flavia La Rocca (Estethica Emerging Talent)
One of Estethica’s emerging talents, Flavia La Rocca creates modular pieces that are designed to be multi-purpose. Garments are sold individually or in a pack so they are interchangeable: a skirt and top can become a dress for example, simply by zipping them together. There is a careful focus on sourcing sustainable materials such as super-soft recycled wool, or even cork which is new for SS15.
Eden Diodati (Estethica)
London-based brand Eden Diodati takes great pride in its commitment to ethical production. The sophisticated ready-to-wear collections are handmade from natural fibres such as GOTS certified organic silk in a social cooperative in Italy, and the jewellery is crafted by women in a Rwandan social cooperative who use traditional techniques. Both projects deliver training to the disenfranchised women producers who are thus enabled to utilise their newfound skills helps to rebuild their lives
French designer Faustine Steinmetz believes that it’s not only haute couture garments that should be lovingly made through 100s of hours of skilled work, but that ‘industrial pieces too can be created using artisanal techniques’. This slow fashion philosophy, combined with her ethos of ‘craftsmanship over trend’, is what drives her decision to spin, dye and hand-weave all her fabrics in her East London studio. Her ‘making of’ film gives a great insight into the process behind the collections.
For their SS15 ‘Palm Beach’ collection co-founders Natalie Finch and Patricia Williams have found inspiration in 1970s photography from Miami. This season the addition of scrap acetate to their signature raw wood finish brings texture, colour and an authenticity to their industrial aesthetic. True to their ‘creative, fun, youthful take on sustainable design’, Termite uses responsibly sourced wood and supports UK manufacture by hand-making its collections in England.
The SS15 Plant Hunter’s collection honours the ‘naturalists and explorers who have travelled the world in search of plants and seeds’, and aims to raise awareness of the loss of biodiversity in Ecuador where the Panama hat is produced. Following this theme, the hats and head pieces incorporate beautifully soft silk that has been naturally-dyed using plants such as marigold, logwood and even avocado pits. Like a disappearing species, Panama hat weaving is a dying craft which is why Pachacuti are launching a new project teaching the daughters of their present weavers to ensure the skills is preserved.
Mich Dulce X ZACARIAS (Estethica)
This season milliner Mich Dulce has collaborated with fellow Philippines-based designer Rita Nazareno, creative director of ZACARIAS by S.C. Vizcarra. The resulting collection of bags and headpieces combines the signature style and production techniques of each brand: Dulce brings her quirky, whimsical aesthetic, whilst ZACARIAS’ references to contemporary art and architecture are evident. S.C Vizcarra was founded in 1925 by Nazareno’s Grandmother and the company has been hand-weaving luxury bags in their workshop ever since. The Mich Dulce X ZACARIAS collaboration is produced in the Philippines by expert hand-weavers using Filipino materials such as wicker and pineapple fibre.
British accessories designer Kate Sheridan may not market herself as an ‘ethical’ brand but her values and practices show a strong commitment to conscious fashion. She utilises Italian vegetable-tanned leather, opts for stitching over glue where possible and aims to reuse off-cuts elsewhere in her collections. Sheridan produces primarily in the UK, including in her own East London workshop, using traditional techniques.
Bottletop, who has recently announced an exciting new collaboration with DKNY for SS15, also continues its partnership with Pepsi and renowned New York fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez. The Narciso Rodriguez (Heart) Bottletop Collection X Pepsi features ‘Trance Mistura’, the signature Bottletop braiding technique which blends Amazon Rainforest-friendly leather with up-cycled metal. Watch their 1 minute short film to get an insight into the production process and the positive impact it has on the women who work at their atelier in Brazil.
Lingerie and Swimwear
Sri Lankan lingerie designer Charini Suriyage shows true dedication to ethical sourcing in her beautiful collections. She uses high quality reclaimed materials and non-toxic underwires, as well as handmade trims and hand-woven fabric produced in traditional craft communities in Sri Lanka. Through working with and supporting these local communities, Charini is helping to revive skills which have been in decline in recent years.
For SS15 swimwear designer Diana Auria and artist Margot Bowman found inspiration in a traditional British pastime. Just like their previous collections, ‘Bingo!’ is bright, bold, contemporary and very youthful. Also available for SS15 is ‘Marble mayhem!’, a collaboration between Auria and Silver Spoon Attire. Each piece of Auria swimwear is made in England using 100% recycled polyamide.