Ethical labels at LFW
By BEL JACOBS
As London Fashion Week approaches, we found up the brands that are leading the ethical way on this season’s catwalks.
Luxury, humour, print, design and strong, strong ethics combine in MOTHER OF PEARL, helmed by creative director Amy Powney since 2015. Based in East London, the brand co-won the 2017 British Fashion Council/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund with a beautiful fusion of easy shapes with luxe fabrications. The work draws references from Powney’s childhood in the North of England: from the strong women around her as well as from the sportswear trends of the 90s. Hence, the label’s “embellished yet pragmatic tomboyish femininity,” according to Lisa Armstrong, Daily Telegraph. Without being overt, Powney is passionate about people and planet; her capsule collection No Frills, launched last year, was a labour of love, setting new standards in traceable sustainability. Magic.
Founded in 2011, PHOEBE ENGLISH is part of the new generation of young designers eschewing mainstream fashion - and its practices. For CSM MA grad English, this means everything is proudly made in England, with close attention to detail, precision and quality. In particular, English explores innovative surface structures and textile engineering to create exciting, challenging work that attracts an intelligent and devoted following. “As designers we need to have a greater awareness of the complete picture - what processes, materials, distances etc. go into or raw materials before we use them, how and why we use them, and consequently what happens to them after we sell them and what business models we are selling them through. We are making too much and not using it enough,” she tells iD on the opening of Inanimate, Animate. (Only) Half The Reflection, the exhibition she has created instead of a LFW catwalk show. “The earth is drowning in the disposable clothing that we are continually churning out. Our lakes and rivers our either being drained for fabric farming or filled with hazardous fabric dye chemicals, our oceans are full of the plastic clothing microfibres which come from washing our synthetic clothes in washing machines, (clothing makes up a massive 30% of the total plastics in our world oceans.) This information is out there, and once you know it, you can’t unknow it.”
Taking inspiration from his background amongst Ireland's rebellious working class teens in Wexford in Ireland, Central Saint Martins graduate and Fashion East Alum RICHARD MALONE combines a love of sculptural forms and zingy - almost tacky - colour to create “elegantly-constructed garments that are simultaneously sculptural and easy to wear,’ (Olivia Singer, British Vogue). Sustainability lies at the heart of his work: yarns are sourced from the Himalayas and Malone works with a community of female artisans in Tamil Nadu, Southern India, to hand-weave fabrics and dye them naturally. HIs recent exhibition Rise, Repeat at the Now Gallery was a fresh immersive event inviting visitors to try on his clothes via hanging structures and films.
Exaggerated, almost toy-like silhouettes form the framework for playful textural innovations, often involving hand craft and embellishment, in MADDIE WILLIAMS’s exuberant clothing. Ideals and narratives drive the design process; the story behind her graduate collection, for example, imagined a group of Goddess figures who provided sharp riposte to the Elitist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy. Timely. Feminine attributes such as hips and waists are highlighted and everything is made from reclaimed or renewable materials, including bicycle tyres, British wool sourced directly from farms and dyed using plants, carpet underlay, Yurt window off-cuts and reclaimed Royal Mail post sacks. ““I have a love of texture, I’m always trying to find ways to create new fabrics that make people wonder what they’re made of, or want to touch” she told It’s Nice That.
They’re so fresh and still so furious that it’s hard to believe VIN & OMI have actually been on the scene since 2004, way before anyone thought or cared about sustainability. The design signature plays on bold, angry prints on exaggerated cuts, with a strong nod to music and pop culture - hence the collaboration with Deborah Harry - but it’s the innovations that really make you stop and think: hybrid fabrics with a range of plants, including; nettles, flax, fireweed, cow parsley, horseradish; rPET textiles with silk-like finishes to wool; no-kill fleece from from pet llama, alpaca and sheep to create the ultimate eco-fake fur; chestnut 'leather' made from the skins of the chestnut and horse chestnut. Shall we go on?
The beauty of brokenness continues to inspired designer WEN PAN, who graduated from Central Saint Martins Womenswear in 2015. After hitting the finals of the Hong Kong-based Redress Design Award that year, Wen interned at Christopher Kane, Alexander McQueen and UMA WANG before launching her own namesake womenswear label. An aesthetic of raw fluidity, deconstruction and textured layers evokes characters in a balance of femininity and roughness. Using natural, organic fibres and eschewing leather and fur, design journeys always start from traces of common people's lives. www.youngbritishdesigners.com