Ethical chic that you'll want to wear

Fairly-traded clothing can be a bit muesli, but Paula Burns finds some great sustainable threads that abide by the fundamentals of fashion — beautiful things you’ll want to wear

Fashion is renowned for its fast, furious and somewhat frivolous state. It’s an ever-changing stream of trends with designers churning out collection after collection leaving us in a dust of disposable fashion. This is what our consumer society demands.

There’s no down time and so we crave something new almost instantaneously. Fashion week should be renamed fashion months. No sooner have Spring/Summer trends been shown when the fashion squad high-tail their way to the runways of the resort collections and so the list goes on.

The result being a continuously-changing high street where trends are cheap and short-lived. So how do the street stylers among us stay on trend without compromising our ethical values?

We’ve all seen the documentaries and heard the horror stories of how some workers are treated just so we can have cheap, on-trend clothes. Thanks to Pamela Anderson, most of us have of heard of PETA. These are the issues of sustainable fashion. Sustainable fashion is all about being kind to our environment and our fellow human beings.

In other words, not using materials such as fur, and ensuring the people in far away lands that make those sought after pieces are treated fairly.

While our ethical conscience wants to do the right thing, there is the fear that going the eco route equals baggy clothes with no shape made from hemp.

So is sustainable fashion the land where style is forgotten or can you be ethical and a true fashionista at the same time?

There’s no need to fret. The high-street has the eco situ covered. This week sees the release of H&M’s 2016 Conscious Exclusive Collection hit the rails of their Dublin flagship store on College Green.

Their motto, ‘Looking good should be good too’, couldn’t be more true. With the face of the campaign being Julia Restoin Roitfeld, daughter of the infamous ex editor-in-chief of French Vogue, Carine Roitfeld, H&M have created a sophisticated, artistically inspired collection. Here you will find languid summer dresses and beautifully-structured art print tops.

“Working with innovative sustainable materials and ornate embellishment, the collection is a layering of references, shapes and textures topped off by intensely decorative accessories and deco-inspired bijoux,” says Ann-Sofie Johansson, Creative Advisor at H&M.

The materials used throughout the collection include organic silk, hemp, recycled linen and Tencel blends, as well as new innovative materials. When it comes to accessories, beads are created using recycled glass.

Keeping with the trend of the spring/summer season, and keeping one step ahead of the fashion pack, H&M are the first to use Denimite which is a material made out of recycled worn-out denim, in their accessories. This is sustainability at its best, bringing innovative, kind, materials to fashion.

As if the ready-to-wear Conscious Exclusive collection wasn’t enough, H&M have also included three wedding dresses for eco-fashion-minded brides. With elegant embellishment, raw silk and tiers of ethereal lace, there’s no compromise on bridal beauty.

When it comes to sustainable high-street fashion, H&M don’t stand alone. The go-to store for boho chic, Monsoon, is committed to ethical trading. The Monsoon Accessorize Code of Conduct sets out minimum requirements related to working conditions, pay, and employment rights.

They also support SEWA, India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association, to set up embroidery centres and community programmes in Delhi and Bareilly in North India. When it comes to animal welfare, Monsoon have a list of standards they adhere to, which includes selling only faux fur and leather, and skin products sourced as a by-product of the meat industry.

So when you’re stepping on to the warm sand this summer draped in a colourful, billowing, Monsoon kaftan, you can be assuredsustainable fashion hasn’t been compromised.

Closer to home, Edun, which was founded by Ali Hewson and her hubby Bono, was born from the concept of sourcing production and to encourage trade in Africa. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Hewson said, “Everything we’d seen that was ‘ethical’ in terms of clothing at that time felt like it was granola,” she laughs.

“One of my main points was that the clothes needed to be desirable, they had to have an aesthetic, to have great design behind them. It’s not a business unless people want to buy it and wear it and live in it.”

With 95% of Edun’s collections manufactured in Africa, and a permanent slot in New York Fashion Week, it seems Hewson has achieved exactly what she set out to.

The queen of sustainable fashion, Stella McCartney, continues to reign supreme. Just like her mother, McCartney is a lifelong vegetarian, devoted to the philosophy that it is better to do something then nothing: “We are responsible for the resources that we use and the impact that we have.

We take responsibility for operating a business and maintaining a supply chain the respects the planet as well as the people and animals on it.” McCartney’s dedication to her ethical fashion beliefs haven’t compromised on her creativity. The already iconic Falabella bag is testament to that.

  • H&M’s 2016 Conscious Exclusive Collection is available in its College Green flagship store.


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