The designers behind TOME NYC visit their factories to check on working conditions in person. Re/Done takes old Levi’s that would have ended up in the wastelands and turns them into something cool again. H&M has its Conscious collection, made from natural fibres like cotton and bamboo and endorsed by Olivia Wilde.
While I myself didn’t realise the scale of sustainable fashion until Emma Watson turned up to the MET Gala in an upcycled Calvin Klein gown made from plastic bottles (yes, you read that right), the innovations being made by design houses is nothing new. Sustainability is an increasing worry in a world of fast fashion, which leads to piles of waste taking up room in landfills – materials that can be otherwise used for better purposes. Carbon emissions and the employees working in the factories are also a concern, with calls for designers and company owners to be more aware of the impact creating fashion at a maddening pace is having not only on the planet but also to the people making it.
At Up on Constance rooftop bar Thursday August 4th, five Australian designers and company owners came together to give a presentation about “slow fashion” and how it’s cool be conscious. Pure Pod showcased its latest collection made of hand painted fabrics and relaxed cuts, while Lauren Shuttleworth of stationary brand Words with Heart, pointed out how equality is a touchy subject in fashion, from women wearing heels to the colour of a model’s skin. Nick Azar from The Great Beyond likened the situation to reverse psychology – damned if you do and be labelled tokenistic, damn if you don’t and be called out as a racist.
Fashion and technology was another subject that was touched on during the night. Victoria Lai, the founder of FashHack, saw in the US how smart fibres are being run into clothes to maintain a comfortable body temperature for the wearer, and how 3D printing is becoming eco-friendlier. Rather than using factory fresh plastic pellets, ground is being broken to use plastics found in landfills and waterways. The collected materials would be ground up and reformed into cartridges, ready to use in the printer as efficiently as a new one. Less waste, same results.
Kelli Donovan worked as a buyer for large companies in the eighties and became burnt out. After moving to Byron Bay and finding yoga (“as you do” she quipped), she decided to create her own label, Pure Pod, and sourced materials that would be kind to both the planet and to people – bamboo fibres. “The skin is our biggest organ,” Kelly says to an attention-rapt crowd “and you have to be aware of what you put on it.” Bamboo is also used by The Great Beyond and there is not much supply to keep up with demand. It is a non-toxic, allergen free material that takes less carbon emissions to make and is incredibly soft. I will attest to that – I couldn’t stop pressing the bamboo fabric baby swaddles I bought for my best friend’s baby against my face. You judge now, but just try it. The softness is real.
To make the industry friendlier to both the environment and to the people behind the scenes, education is key, whether you’re the consumer or a fashion major at QUT. The students studying under panellist Icaro Ibanez-Arricivita are pulling a Re/Done by cutting up “old fabrics” and sewing them back together to create new garments.
It’s cool to be kind, as the saying goes. The panellists and the attendees at Up on Constance showed just how cool it can be, and are examples that innovations are being made. Slow fashion is on the rise, and who knows? There may soon be a smart jacket coming to a Myer near you.