Monday, 9 April 2012

Ethical evolution




Photos: The lovely Vanessa Jackman, who in addition to having a great eye, is one of the nicest street style photographers out there. 




Photos: The divine Dvora of Fashionistable who equals Vanessa in both talent and genuine warmth. 


In the same way that many of the ethical designers I most admire use recycled fabrics in their designs, so this post is a patchwork of the old and new – taking elements of articles I have already written for Oxfam and embroidering them with new skeins of ideas.

To recap briefly, on behalf of Oxfam I covered the ethical exhibition that LFW hosts every season – better known as ‘Estethica’. I like to think of this collection of designers, ranging from the well- established to the newly formed, as being similar to a tree. The main trunk does not change from year to year: attached to a deep-rooted eco-aware ethos. But the branches that spring from this trunk yield slightly different fruit each season. The colours, materials and ideas are renewed every six months or so, and prove to be rich pickings for the press and buyers who click their heels through the halls. It is an exhibition that has ‘sustainable’ sliding through its veins like green sap.

Although I initially talked about a range of designers on the Oxfam blog (and they all deserve admiration for their commitment to sustainability), there were three who completely stood out for me:

Junky Styling displayed a collection that tipped its well-cut collar to classic military and navy shapes. The official theme was ‘Well Dressed Weekend’; composed of a Venn Diagram between blankets and suits, with enough pieces to last for a well dressed month. The rails held the kind of coats that I would love to don for a windy walk (or at least for a blustery photo shoot). Living rurally, I have a habit of attributing anything vaguely warm and woollen looking to Wuthering Heights and Thomas Hardy territory. But then my favourite place to be is between the hills and the finely sourced fabrics.
Henrietta Ludgate’s clothes had a similarly stormy feel. The idea of a hurricane, leaving a ragged train of chaos and shadows behind it, inspired the highly architectural dresses that combined her trademark tubing with smoky colours and well-cut shapes. A collaboration with jeweller Euan McWhirter resulted in Swarovski crystals strung across the fronts in ropes of silver. These are the kind of dresses to wear in a cobweb-clothed mansion as the storm howls through open windows.  
Elemental themes also permeated Ada Zanditon, with the title ‘Simia Mineralis’ referring to the insatiable desire of the human race for technology. The designer was engaging and passionate when talking about the consequence of human consumption on the world that we all inhabit. Dangerous mining takes place every day to source the minerals needed for the latest phone or laptop. This destructive practice was interpreted through clothes with rich patterns that, close up, suggested geological shapes and structures. I was told me that all the pre-collection pieces were named after Shakespearian heroines - but unfortunately there was no ‘Rosalind’ on the rails. You can see the video that is one part ladylike, one part gothic here
 To work on and promote a sustainable label is hard – bringing additional challenges and ultimately (one hopes) rewards. But it’s not enough to be merely ‘eco friendly’ – that term is not one to hide behind or use as a defence. The clothes themselves have to be equally as appealing as those presented in the main venues at LFW. These labels must be defined by design, as well as their credentials. As news spirals about the impact of the fashion industry, it becomes all the more important to support and sustain any area that promotes a more holistic approach to production, from the workers creating the clothes through to the dyes used. And yet, to ensure success, what is required is a mainstream appeal and a widespread knowledge of why we should buy ethically. Personally, I would hope one day to see the ‘Estethica’ collection being integrated into the main fashion arena, rather than being separated out.

'Ethical' also brings its own issues, from the perception of the term to the price of the garments; the latter  often being cited as a hindrance. One has to make a conscious choice to spend a little more for something of quality and credentials, and although no bad thing, we (and I include myself here) have an attitude of spending the minimum amount for the maximum gain. This is essentially why the ‘high street’ is so popular – the clothes are cheap, there is plenty of variety, and it is very accessible. This starkly contrasts with previous decades where, as my grandma was telling me recently, “If you wanted shorts for the summer, you didn’t go out and just buy them. You made them.” I’m not suggesting that we all return to our sewing machines and seamstresses (delightful as that sounds as an ideology), but that a little re-adjustment of values might be needed. It is worth the extra expense for a hand-crafted item – such as this mustard and black Goodone jumpsuit that I saved up for, bought and recently wore to LFW, as pictured above (worn with a silk, polka dot vintage Betty Barclay blouse, black Mary Janes by Office, charity shopped belt and vintage 70s bag). It goes back to the tradition of really valuing clothes, rather than treating them as disposable.

Nevertheless, in return for this pledge of support in buying something, the designers out there must reciprocate by providing well-designed clothes, whether wearable or fanciful. Luckily there are designers who are achieving that, such as Goodone, Orsola de Castro and those mentioned above. More of them like that, please. 


Huge thanks to both Dvora and Vanessa for their wonderful photography skills. You can also find each of their blogs in my sidebar list. I was extremely honoured to have been featured on their respective blogs.

46 comments:

Lydia said...

I read some commentary not long ago about acquiring stuff in general, and how for many years, you didn't run out and buy something when a possession broke-- you mended it, and only bought what you really needed, and made due with what you had. It's crazy how the culture of the western world has changed in that regard. Interesting points here. And great pics-- I love those pants.

Thrifted Shift said...

Thank you for this excellent post. Ethical fashion is near to my heart and it's why I started my blog recently. I wanted to keep myself accountable to ethical spending by consuming less, spending money at charity shops, small local stores, and ethical companies.
--TS
http://thriftedshift.blogspot.com/

Josephine Routledge said...

Love your blog. Great content which most fashion blogs lack! Follow me x

Toshiko Shek said...

Roz, I love seeing your comments on my blog, they really mean alot to me because I LOVE your style. There are many fashion savvy people out there but you are definitely one of my style icons! Days when I can't seem to figure out what I want to wear, I often find myself browsing your blogs looking for inspiration! So, thank you for being so amazing and keep up the good work! :)

itsnother-itsme.blogspot.com

alexandratherese said...

Roz, this post wouldn't appear out of place in a national publication. The description and imagery used could rival anything Vogue has to offer - but you've already written for them so I suppose you have rivalled them! I remember the spate of posts which appeared in the early summer of last year when Lucy Siegle had just published "To Die For" and your own post on the topic was one of many discussing and debating the issues around the term 'Ethical Fashion'. I even wrote my own post about it - entitled 'Guilt' - in which I spoke of the mixed emotions I would feel when buying or even considering buying an item from a high street store. Although by now most of us have accepted the fact that for many people the high street is their only clothes outlet - most often due to monetary circumstances - yet no one has offered a solution as how to make ethically made and eco-friendly clothes easily accessible to the masses. Companies such as People Tree may be revered and popular amongst people of a certain income of residential area yet as a student the clothes are out of my price range, however desirable they may be. Charity and vintage shopping are also other alleyways to explore and I can honestly say that at least 3/4 of my wardrobe is sourced from both of these. However, many people lack the time or inclination to enter and shpo in either, and with more and more rail space filled with cast offs from shops such as Primark - is it considered any more ethical to be unethical made clothing secondhand even if the money you pay for it happens to good to a good cause?

I think one of the main issues is that many people don't really care or don't feel that they can make a big enough contribution to put a stop to unethical clothing production. I have had many heated debates verging on arguments with friends recently over unnecessary purchases they have made from Primark. Their response is always that they know it is wrong but at least by buying the cheap clothes the little kids who make them are at least getting some money rather than nothing as the factories they work in are being kept open. Despite my remonstrations that these factories are barely helping these kids and keeping them out of education, they say that even if they stopped buying clothes at Primark no one else would. In fact I got on the offensive so much that I turned on my heel and marched off to the library to request they order in Siegle's book so that my friends can read it. Only it's on my bedside table as I need to read it first to use as material to convince them. I am in no way guilt-free, but I am making a conscious effort to buy sustainable, ethical products.

It is heartening though to see designers such as these you have mentioned who are paving the way forward for covetable sustainable fashion. I would be really interested in attending the Estethica event - I really hope Oxfam advertise vacancies for more writers soon!

P.S You'll have received a very long email from me so don't feel obliged to reply instantly! xx

Cassie said...

I really enjoy your posts - they're always thought-provoking.

Natalie Suarez said...

you look so so beautiful! as always! xx

natalieoffduty.blogspot.com

Christobel Amelia Hastings said...

Thank you so much for the comment on my blog,I really do love reading yours so it was a very pleasant surprise.
I agree with everything you said, and would add that the reason (in my opinion) that part of the reason we have witnessed the proliferation of the materialistic consumer, only interested in cheap clothing is due to the sad decline of the British textile and manufacturing industry. Not so long ago people had real dressmaking skills and I feel incredibly lucky that I learnt to pattern cut and dressmake from my mother.
I will gladly follow your blog and would be delighted if you would consider following mine too.
Christobel
http://calico-casa.blogspot.co.uk/

Christobel Amelia Hastings said...

Also, in your photographs, you are standing where I go to uni every day and sit overlooking the river-great location! Christobel.

Melanie said...

The gradual shift to thrifting as a popular shopping option is having an impact in my neighbourhood - the prices in thrift shops are going up and up and up. Usually, but not always, a thrifted item is still less expensive than a new mass-produced one, better made, and softer on the planet.

The designers you highlight here all have unique voices and clear vision. I like this piece.

Your trousers are beautiful. I love how you have worn them high in front and added the wide belt on top.

Soccer Mom Style said...

If I were a designer I would definitely be the kind you are talking about here. I think it would be so much more interesting and rewarding to create (or re-create) things from old materials. I'll have to check out the links you're providing.
Also, that last photo of you is simply breathtaking!!
xx
maya

Clara Turbay said...

I like so much how you show your style is so inspiring.

goodbadnfab@gmail.com said...

What a cute post! Love the pictures!

www.goodbadandfab.com
style and musings of a LA fashion lawyer living life in the fab lane.

Miu said...

The portrait is really beautiful!

Izzy said...

Absolutely adore junky styling. It really epitomizes what I love about renewable/eco friendly fashion; it is so clever and intricate. Love the mustard trousers, couldn't think of someone better to pull them off. Izzy xo
www.swampedinflowers.blogspot.com

SACRAMENTO said...

I didn´t know Oxfam had a blog. Thank you for all this information, my beautiful and dear Rosalid.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

San said...

What a wonderful article and what fabulous pictures.

Very eloquent writing. I think our western culture is actually changing again, switching to a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle. I'm currently thinking about this a lot, but I haven't come to really coherent thoughts worth publishing. So thank you for shedding a bit more light on this issue.

Fantastic outfit by the way.

Have a great new week.

100%soie said...

you are so lovely with this outfit !!! I love the belt and the shoes, they are perfect !!!!! really beautiful pictures !

hannah said...

I thought you may find this interesting? I came across it and immediately thought of your post xx
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/apr/07/hennes-mauritz-h-and-m?INTCMP=SRCH

Katrina said...

My favorite topic for discussions and a personal passion of mine. i love what you wrote Rosalind so much! And the outfit is intriguing. I`m not a big fan of sportswear but you make it work. It is so amazing that you got to speak on behalf of Oxfam and a really great cause! Every eco geek (including me) will love you for this for ever and ever!

>'.'<

Cilla B said...

gorgeous ensemble love the color of the pants

Izzy/Bella said...

This is an issue that concerns me a lot as well having lived in the very heart of it (Soho in NYC) for a few years and seen how quickly trends change and how many garments are thrown away scarcely worn at all.

Also lovely pics! Nice to see pics of you smiling :)
Best,
Isabella
www.misadventuresofme.com

Pull Your Socks Up! said...

Firstly dear Roz, beautiful shots of you by VJ - you look so happy to be out and about looking ever so delish in your spotty blouse, mustard trews and gorgeous bag! I consider myself an ethical fashion "consumer", if there is such a thing, the only new stuff I buy are knickers, socks, some tights and usually shoes. If I didn't have size 41 feet, there are a ton of shoes/boots I would love to buy, but there are really only canoe-like second hand shoes in my size. I buy Black Milk leggings and swimsuits because they are made just up the road from me, buy men and women of all ages and creeds who love their work and are truly appreciated by their local employer for their efforts. It really does make a big difference to me, knowing that I can walk into their lovely workshop and KNOW I'm buying both local and ethically. Aside from that, as you know, I buy vintage and second-hand, but I do so LOVE to sew and refashion garments - I'm fussy about fabrics and prefer natural because of our climate. Thank you so much for sharing some of the designers' work here ... more inspiration:) xoxo

Kelly-Marie said...

My Granny always likes to tell me how she would be the envy of her peers when it came to her clothes because she made it all herself. It worries me how much of a throw a way culture we have become. It's so wondeful that you are writing on such an important subject for such a worthy organisation.
These pictures are incredible, you look so elegant and it's so lovely to see you smiling. :) xx

Ioana said...

Your blog is very beautiful. I love it. And the photos are fantastic.Congratulations ;)

Anupriya DG said...

What a smart jumpsuit!! No wonder you saved up for it!! :)

OrigamiGirl said...

You look elegant and smart as always and the trousers are amazing.

I agree with what you say about how important it is that ethical design becomes part of main stream fashion -which I think it is more and more.

However, to bring up a point of discussion, what do you think about the class issue involved in encouraging people to buy these eco-designer items?

I know that thrifting and charity shops are an option (and I love them), but whilst there is the possibility of savig up for these pieces, for some people that simply isnt an option.

Do you have any thoughts on how to make ethical also accessible?

(I agree with your points, I would just be interested in what you thought on that issue.)

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

it's a sad state of affairs that clothing has become so disposable. it's why people have turned to higher quality items that last for decades - and of course we've turned to vintage, as you have done. you are living proof that inherited pieces and thrift shop purchases can be so modern and just plain smart.
as always, you look beautiful. lovely smile!

The Foolish Aesthete said...

I recall these photos from some of my favorite bloggers too. With you as the subject, the images just had to turn out beautifully! Paired with your written discourse, it's a feast for the mind and the eye.

My own ideas of "ethical" have been evolving. At the core, I view it as "no waste". Perhaps this is just an excuse for being a pack rat as I never discard anything, hoping there will be more uses from even the most antediluvian purchases. Some would disapprove of fur or leather altogether, however I happen to love the superior warmth or durability of fur or leather to synthetics. There, it's not about being a fashionista, but a practical neanderthal! I just rationalize it with the "no waste" philosophy, intending to use these animal skins through years and years of wear. (OK, I have possibly just announced myself as a target of PETA!)

Oxfam is so fortunate to have you write for them! xxx

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

I've found over the past few years that if a garment has "a soul", if it's been loved somehow before or had the caress of a skilled hand in it's creation, I can respect it and treasure it. It hurts me to see things thrown away or carelessly created for a fickle, insatiable consumerism. I love new garments, but try my utmost to use pre-existing ones to make something new.

I loved your grandmother's quote, and although I know sewing isn't for everyone, I think the sentiment deserves attention.

Your outfit and commentary are wonderful.

Bella Q said...

Firstly, you must be a street style photog's dream! Your style is real and you are such a natural beauty! Both Vanessa and Dvora shot some great snaps of you.

Secondly, I couldn't agree more about how we need to rethink what fashion is- and combine quality new garments with creative re-use. I'm so glad your style includes ethical fashions! xo. -Bella Q

Fashionistable said...

Just looking at Bella Q's comment. She is right you are 100% a street style photographers dream. So my firstly is to say thank you for the lovely comments you have made about the shots and as always for letting me take your picture. I do love Junky styling. I would happily have walked away with some of the pieces from the show if it had been possible. I got a scarf for mothers say from Lush which was made from 2 recycled plastic bottles. I never knew before that plastic could be recycled into fabric. It is lovely too. Beautifully written report Rosalind. Thank You. Xxxx

Joy said...

the ethics in fashion is always such an interesting subject to explore. you look lovely.

bollykecks said...

Oh my gosh, photo two- you look so beautiful,classy and about 10 years older! xxx

SymbioticLife said...

This outfit is beyond lovely. You have a sense of styling that is fantastic to watch. I probably wouldn't have had the panache to pull off that belt with the outfit and therefore wouldn't have looked as fabulous as you.

Visiting your site is always such a pleasure. Not only do you present beautiful fashion but a beautiful mind to go with it. You have the courage to spark a dialogue about subjects not everyone is comfortable discussing and attract an audience that is always game to participate. Subsequently, reading the comments from your readers is often as interesting and satisfying a read as your writing. I'd never heard of Junky Styling before but after checking out their line, I'm so grateful to have been introduced to such a great eco-conscious line. Look forward to your next post as always Rosalind!

Ireland Casswell-Clarkson said...

You have a stunning smile!, the photos are fantastic. Thank you for your beautiful comment on my blog.

Rohit Singh Jain said...

Nice.:)

RETRO REVA said...

thanks for stopping by! I am looking forward to the tutorial on photos!
Hugs,
Reva

Willow said...

Gorgeous photos, and the two photos of you smiling are absolutely stunning.
I love the colour of those pants (would it be tangerine?) - I think I want them! I've also been searching for some mary-janes like this style (absolutely love them.)

Yeah, it is so very different now, of course, we can still do things like making our own clothes - which I've been doing a little bit of and am looking forward to having more practice on the sewing machine - then I can make so many different things, and if it's my own design, I won't be running into anyone wearing the same thing - as well as there being pride in saying "I made this."

-Willow

Kate said...

Beautiful jumpsuit, and it is brilliant that you are spreading the love and importance of ethical fashion! Although it is highly unlikely that everyone is going to go digging out their old sewing machines, I do love being able to say that I made something, not only does it make me feel good about it, but it makes me respect the clothes more and not just stuff them in a drawer!

Fashion art and other fancies said...

I can see why you are such a stree-style favourite. You have such a refined inner style, and I adore Dvora's blog for her daily street-style selection, too. Can't sew to save my life but I do hope that one day we might sit down together at the sewing machine. xx

Joanna DeVoe said...

What a COOL, unexpected combo!

Thea vintage said...

Love love this outfit! And I saw it on Vanessa Jackman's blog aswell!

http://theas-vintage.blogspot.se/

hiPop said...

feminine+quirky <3

Ella Vickerman said...

I love your outfit, especially your trousers

xoxo

http://www.snapshotsbyella.blogspot.co.uk/

Julia Rusman said...

Oh my god, your face is divine...

Julia's Wonderwall