Sustainable Fashion in Vogue in London
Assistant Producer, CNBC.com
It's that time across the globe where all the fashionistas flock to see beautiful clothes modeled on even more beautiful girls.
But this year's London Fashion Week 2010 came with a twist.
More than New York, Paris or Milan combined, London’s designers focused to bring sustainable fashion within the mainstream umbrella, including featuring the first ever sustainable catwalk show.
Sustainable fashion is when the product is created with protecting the environment and the workers behind the product in mind.
And lying in the heart of London’s fashion and ethically-conscious industry is Estethica – an exhibition of ethical fashion designers that was started four years ago.
“Estethica is placing the best ethical brands into the mainstream. The message is that eco labels are now ready to compete,” Orsola de Castro, co-founder and co-curator of Estethica, told CNBC.
Estethica began as a trade show during LFW of ethically conscious designers featuring 13 lines. It now features 37. The designers care as much about their sharp cuts as where the materials come from, and who’s making them.
All the designers showcasing had to adhere to at least one of three principles of fair-trade and ethical practices, organic and recycled materials and ethical excellence and design credentials.
“Just because it’s ethical, it’s still high-end and great designs,” Emesha Nagy, creative director of fashion label Emesha, told CNBC. Her label only uses bio-degradable natural fibers.
“It’s design first,” Goodone founder Nin Castle told CNBC. “Ethics help on one side, with press for example, but hinder on the other, like with sourcing … but it’s a social responsibility.” Castle uses only sustainable materials she finds in Britain for her collections, including upcycled (unused) materials from factories and leftover tents found at music festivals.
Designer Made By The People For The People uses recycled bath taps and melted glass bottles among other recycled materials to make its jewellery. The company only employs workers from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
In return for their labor, the jeweler opens bank accounts for its employees, giving the workers a sense of identity, as well as fair wages.
“The industry is looking for change, eco fashion represents the future of the industry,” de Castro told CNBC. “The whole industry is looking for ethical solutions. Big brands are beginning to shift, Stella McCartney’s organic, Gucci is very advanced in packaging, marketing and considerations.”
The British Fashion Council recently released The Value of Fashion report. The report estimated the fashion industry is worth 21 billion pounds ($33 billion) to the UK economy.
But ethically-conscious fashion is one of the challenges facing the industry, as sustainable materials fabricated in the European Union are more costly to produce than buying goods made by cheap labor in India or Africa.
A hard task, but worth it, according to some experts.
“We love working with designers who prove that you can be at the forefront of style without having to compromise ethics, quality of materials or design,” Kiyan Foroughi, the CEO of online jewellery and accessories seller Boticca.com, told CNBC.
The more people become aware of ethical fashion and buy into it, the more accessible it will become, She Died of Beauty stylist Kate Halfpenny said.
"Ultimately the cost of producing ethical fashion will become cheaper as well as more affordable for the consumer,” Halfpenny told CNBC.
This year’s LFW proved that fashion is not only a big business, but that it has scope to become more of an ethical business too.
“The quality of buyers and order numbers have significantly increased, emphasizing a new trust in eco fashion,” De Castro said.