Street cred goes green for London fashion

GREEN is the new black and cotton is the new fur, as environmental awareness has become all the rage in London Fashion Week.

A group of 20 designers has unveiled its collections in an exhibition called Estethica run by the British Fashion Council (BFC) to promote fair-trade clothing as well as garments made from organic and recycled materials.

The exhibit includes designers from around the world displaying ready- to-wear garments and accessories. It includes unique items like handbags woven out of recycled sweet wrappers, but there are also more conventional looks such as skirts and cardigans made from organic cotton.

BFC chief executive Hilary Riva said the goal was to promote style that is also environmentally friendly: “You don’t get into London Fashion Week just for being ‘eco’. What we’re looking for is high-level design incorporating ‘eco’.”

Irish label Unicorn uses materials such as organic cotton, wool linen, wild silk and bamboo, ensuring that everything from planting to cultivation is done through fair trade and with as little environmental impact as possible.

The Unicorn collection on show yesterday includes coats and dresses inspired from the 1940s and 1960s, made from felted wool organically died in shades of purple, red, orange, brown and black.

Unicorn designer Sophie Rieu said: “It would be great if fashion opened up to the ethical fashion phenomenon and began to question the way they produce clothing. So much has been taken for granted and profit has been too high on the agenda.”

London-based designer, Gary Harvey, was showing a dress made from 42 pairs of blue jeans, and another from 37 black T-shirts Shoe design label, Terra Planna, now on sale in Clarkes, uses chrome-free leather and recycled blankets for their dressy heels.

For every product they sell, they give 17p to Climate Care to offset carbon emissions from the manufacture and transport of the shoes.

Peaches Geldof and model Lily Cole have been seen wandering around fashion shows wearing vest-shirts saying Save the Future. The organic cotton tops are designed by Katherine Hamnett who is hoping to establish an EU regulation prohibiting the import of cotton or cotton products made using forced child labour.

She said: “I’d like to see a ban on cotton from Uzbekistan. Cotton should be organic and the USA, EU’s and China’s cotton subsidies should be stopped.

“I never do business with China and never will until the human rights abuses are addressed.”

Speaking at the event yesterday, editor of The Ecologist Green Pages magazine, Matilda Lee, said: “Fashion was at the centre of the social and artistic liberation movements of the 1960s and ’70s, it brought the powersuit out of the boardroom in the 1980s and took streetwear to the streets in the 1990s. It is no doubt then that fashion in the early 21st century will express what is on the public’s mind, and there is no doubt that green and ethical issues are at the forefront.”

Riva said: “London has established itself on its credentials of young talent and creativity. Street really is the background of London Fashion Week compared with the big brand centres of Milan and Paris and latterly New York. Everyone knows what to expect from those cities, and I guess in London, you expect the unexpected.”

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