From repurposed fishing nets to restored leather and everlasting denim, these young designers are creating clothes with ethics woven in. Tamsin Blanchard introduces five Bright New Things
Parley for the Oceans
Looking for the latest in eco-friendly fashion? One word: plastics.
H&M announced on Tuesday that it will debut its second Conscious Exclusive campaign — an upscale version of its Conscious Collection program founded in 2012 — which includes formal wear for men, women and children. The line uses recycled polyester made from plastic waste, an estimated eight million tons of which litters oceans each year, and is slated to be available in 160 stores around the globe in late April. The move comes shortly after Adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans, a nonprofit that reduces oceanic plastic waste, to make running shoes made almost entirely out of discarded plastic.
For the H&M line, the Swedish retailer teamed with Bionic Yarn, a New York-based company that turns plastic bottles into technical yarns and fabrics. The signature piece of H&M’s line is a blush pink pleated gown (which retails for $249) modeled by Natalia Vodianova, who was tapped to be the face of this year’s Conscious Exclusive campaign. Singer Pharrell Williams serves as as Bionic Yarn’s creative director, and has previously teamed up with brands like Timberland and G-Star on footwear and denim that use the bionic yarn technology.
“It’s an excellent PR stunt, for H&M to raise awareness about ocean pollution — along with Adidas’ partnership with Parley for the Ocean,” said Lauren Slowik, outreach coordinator and design evangelist at 3-D printing company Shapeways. “But I like to hope that ocean trash is a finite resource and not something we can build whole industries on. The only real positive I see is that it helps to bring supply chain and production of materials to the forefront on consumers’ minds.”
H&M and Adidas said their ocean plastic efforts were designed to be more than just ploys to attract eco-conscious consumers. Adidas began selling its recycled shoes for $220 in November 2016 with a commitment to making a minimum of 1 million pairs by the end of 2017. It also plans to team with Parley on communication, education and research efforts.
Meanwhile, H&M is attempting to increase its percentage of garments made from sustainable materials, which was reported at 20 percent in 2015. It also asserts to be one of the biggest users of recycled polyester and organic cotton, and has a lofty goal for all cotton to be sustainably sourced by 2020.
However, despite its commitment to sustainability, H&M has still been vague in its transparency efforts and faces ongoing criticism for being a fast fashion retailer that is still using significant resources to produce low-priced goods. Natalie Grillon, founder of Project Just, told Glossy in a previous article that despite the assertions made against the company, H&M has still made strides in efforts like employee wages.
“H&M comes under fire a lot for their initiatives because they do publicize it,” said Grillon. “When really, they’ve made a ton of effort in support of better wages. But then they talk about it a lot, and then they come under fire a lot for anything at all that goes wrong.”
*This story first appeared on Glossy
We are all aware that millions of tons worth of plastic waste is washed up on shores across the world endangering marine animals and polluting our waters. In a recently study, 40 million pounds of plastic was left floating in the North Pacific Ocean alone. These facts were enough to encourage the iconic adidas sportswear fashion brand to work alongside Ocean Parley which is an environmental group raising awareness for pollution in our oceans. This partnership has delivered some exciting news which has seen the production of 7,000 pairs of trainers made from ocean waste. But this is not all, they have also created the first football jersey made from upcycled marine debris which was debuted by Mayern Munich and Real Madrid earlier this month.
This long-term partnership was first initiated in 2015 when adidas ( @adidas ) saw the importance in creating a new future for the sporting and fashion industry. adidas is a multinational corporation with a huge influence over sportswear. It is the largest sports clothing manufacturer in Europe and the second largest in the world. Having this sort of influence meant that more could be done to develop innovative new products with sustainable solutions. In a statement in 2015 Eric Liedtke, adidas’ Group Executive Board Member responsible forglobal brands said: “The conservation of the oceans is a cause that is close to my heart and those of many employees at the adidas Group. By partnering with Parley for the Oceans ( @parleyxxx ) we are contributing to a great environmental cause. We co-create fabrics made from Ocean Plastic waste which we will integrate into our product.”
The first fashion initiative was designed by the London designer Alexander Taylor. adidas’ exclusive trainers have the identical manufacturing process as their existing footwear but the process replaces synthetic fibres with yarns made from recycled Parley Ocean plastic. The knitted upper section of the shoe is made from 95% ocean plastic and 5% recycled polyester. In a unique design inspired by the ocean’s movement, a green wave pattern is created from recycled grill net and recycled into the fibre. The rest of the trainer is formed using waste plastic collected from around the Maldives where the government is collaborating with Parley to extract the plastic waste over the next five years. At a price of £178 (€200), the shoes, which contain 11 plastic bottles, will appear in adidas’ stores next month.
This is not all the companies have been producing. Earlier this month, they debuted their latest football jersey tops made from up-cycled marine plastic debris. The adidas Parley football jerseys will be worn commercially for the first time when Bayern Munich faced Hoffenheim November 5 and again when Real Madrid competed with Real Sporting de Gijón November 26. Made from Parley Ocean Plastic, the water-based environmentally friendly prints, the all-white Real Madrid and all-red Bayern Munich kits feature the club logo, three stripes and sponsors’ logos in the same colour as the kit for a unique look.
Eric Liedtke, adidas Group Executive Board member responsible for Global Brands, said: “This represents another step on the journey of adidas and Parley for the Oceans. We have not only managed to make footwear from recycled ocean plastic, but have also created the first jersey coming 100% out of the ocean. But we won’t stop there. We will make one million pairs of shoes using Parley Ocean Plastic in 2017 – and our ultimate ambition is to eliminate virgin plastic from our supply chain.”
So What Sustainable Targets have adidas Outlined for 2017?
Their latest target will see at least eleven million bottles retrieved from coastal areas by the Parley Global Clean-up Network which will be recycled and re-purposed into elite performance sportswear. Next year the collaboration hope to create another million pairs of trainers. This plan forms part of a larger commitment by the brand to increase the use of sustainable materials in its products and to make eco-innovation the new industry standard as well as ending the cycle of marine plastic pollution in the long term.
“At this point, it’s no longer just about raising awareness. It’s about taking action and implementing strategies that can end the cycle of plastic pollution for good. Eco innovation is an open playing field. With the release of the Ocean Plastic jerseys and UltraBOOST Uncaged adidas x Parley shoes, we’re inviting every consumer, player, team and fan to own their impact under Parley A.I.R. and define their role within the movement,” said Cyrill Gutsch, Founder, Parley for the Oceans.
*This story first appeared on Bio-Based World News
A new breed of fashion designer is putting ethics at the heart of everything they do. No longer is sustainability and social responsibility a token extra or cynical marketing ploy. The smartest brands are the ones taking full responsibility for every step of the process, from the supplier to the maker – and in some cases the aftercare of the product, too. These are designers interested in quality, never quantity – a generation making clothes we will cherish, that will make us consume less and make the best possible choice when we do.
Next week the windows of Selfridges in London’s Oxford Street will be dedicated to the store’s annual Bright New Things. This year the focus is on designers who are making innovative and beautiful products in a clean, transparent way. The store consulted the Centre for Sustainable Fashion to select and mentor nine designers to showcase in its windows. One BNT will be awarded a bursary of £3,000 to support their work.
Here we introduce five of the brightest, newest things and find out why crochet, fishing nets and old-fashioned hand weaving are the future of fashion.
Katie Jones: ‘With sustainability you decide what to target’
Katie Jones (previous spread) loves to crochet. She loves it so much she will spend 80 hours working on a single jacket, piecing together upcycled leather and denim to make a glorious patchwork of the finest craftwork it’s possible to find. Along with her mum, Annie, and her right-hand woman, Sara Liz Marty, everything Jones produces from her studio in Stratford, east London, is a labour of love. “We each have our specialism,” she says. “My favourite pieces are the denim and the leather pieces, which are hand punched and crocheted into and joined together. I’m in my element and at my happiest when I’m doing my crochetwork.”
Jones, who graduated from Central Saint Martins with an MA in knitwear in 2013, doesn’t like to waste anything. She goes out of her way to use up ends of runs of wool, and second-hand clothes which she cuts up to remake into her own designs with hole punching, hand embroidery, hand dyeing and knitting. Her collection for spring/summer 16 is a riot of kitsch Tex-Mex inspired colour and texture – jeans with multicoloured stars and hearts, knitted cardigans with sweetie-coloured ribbons as fringing, a simple summer dress made from reclaimed denim panels pieced together with Jones’s bright and breezy crochet trademark. Jones’s approach comes from a belief that the planet can’t take much more overconsumption and gratuitous waste. But she is not on a mission to save the world.
“You pick a couple of battles when working with sustainability and decide what you want to target,” she says. “The one we tend to focus on is reusing all waste – how you can make something new but without having to use any new fabrics – or if I do purchase anything new it’s from British manufacturers where you know the supply chain. I also love the bespoke and handmade element. When you know who made it and the piece itself, it is less likely to be wasted.”
Margot Bowman and Diana Auria: ‘It’s playful , sexy and hyper smart’
Diana Auria never learned to swim, but that hasn’t stopped her building up a thriving swimwear brand. Her partner Margot Bowman, an enthusiastic swimmer, more than makes up for her lack of butterfly.
Auria understands how to cut a flattering swimsuit. And Bowman knows how to make it look fun and glamorous. But what is really clever about their brand is the fabric. Econyl had just come on to the market when Bowman and Auria were launching their swimwear collection, Auria, two years ago, and they were the first to use it. “It is 100% recycled polyamide,” explains Bowman proudly. “It’s a new-generation fabric that comes from projects around the world – one in the Philippines – where they collect fishing nets and melt them down. It’s from the sea back into the sea, the full life cycle. But you would never know.” And that’s the important bit. They understand that nobody will buy a product just because it is sustainable. “The look is really playful, contemporary and sexy, but the way it’s produced is hyper smart.”
Auria and Bowman launched their swimwear brand after Auria finished her degree at London College of Fashion in 2012 specialising in lingerie and swimwear design. The course included a project with Speedo to upcycle its surplus LZR swimsuits which had been banned by the swimming world’s governing body Fina in 2009. “From swimming trunks I made a bikini with inflatable cups,” says Auria. Meanwhile Bowman, her flatmate, was working as a graphic designer for Estethica magazine which promoted the work of sustainable fashion designers showing at London Fashion Week. The pair decided to work together. “The ability to make women feel great in their bodies is such a pleasure,” says Auria. “The swimsuits have this good karma because they are made from recycled thread,” adds Bowman. “Many people don’t even know it’s ‘eco’. It needs to be colourful and playful and sexy if we want to get people to engage with climate change. Auria swimwear looks good enough to eat – it is really high on life.”
Martina Spetlova: ‘Leather is precious. It’s important I know where it’s coming from’
Martina Spetlova does not make a big issue of her credentials as a responsible-minded fashion designer. Nor should she. For her artisanal brand it makes sense that she should source her raw materials from suppliers she knows, particularly because that material is leather. “Hand-woven leather is a trademark of the company. We change the leather into a different texture with smocking, weaving, hole punching and patchwork. It’s very three-dimensional.”
While leather itself is not the most sustainable of materials, Spetlova, who has been working for the past year with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion to make her business as transparent as she can, insists she only uses by-products of the meat industry, sometimes working directly with slaughterhouses. “It is important for me. I don’t work with fur or exotic leathers – mainly sheep, lamb and cow.”
She has recently started to collaborate with Ecco, the world’s most environmentally friendly tannery. It runs its production on 75% biofuel, and there are strict water policies in place. It’s a two-way relationship. Ecco supplies her with leather and she in turn works with the Ecco workshop in the Netherlands to experiment with its leathers.
“Leather is a tricky material and very precious,” she says, “so it’s important I know where it’s coming from.” Her new website will include information about her suppliers and her processes.
As well as ensuring that her supply chains are as clean as can be, Spetlova, who studied chemistry in the Czech Republic before moving to London to study fashion at Central Saint Martins, is working towards zero waste in her production. She precision-cuts her leathers using computers, and any excess is used to make small accessories or donated to fashion colleges for the students to use. Most impressive, however, is her production, partly done in the Czech Republic and partly with a project in the Netherlands which works with a refugee community of weavers and craftspeople.
“I’ve always been interested in sustainabilty since I was a student,” says Spetlova. “I have that at the back of my mind. It’s important for me to know where the things are coming from and where it’s being produced. It’s part of the business.”
Faustine Steinmetz: ‘Nothing is 100% sustainable, but you can just try to do the best you can’
When Faustine Steinmetz taught herself to weave, it was an attempt to make cloth that didn’t feel like all the other cloth on the high street. If you were going to spend money on an item of clothing, she thought, it should feel different. Armed with a few good YouTube “how to” videos, she first challenged herself to weave her own version of an Adidas tracksuit. She then moved on to a pair of jeans before launching her own collection in 2013. She likes to make ordinary clothes feel – and look – extraordinary.
“When people talk about us and sustainability, they say it’s because we hand weave and we don’t use electricity. For me it’s more promoting the idea of making clothes that take a long time and that you keep a long time. Our overconsumption is the worst thing that’s happening on the planet right now.” Steinmetz does not claim to produce a sustainable fashion brand, although it is a long-term goal. “From the moment you choose to produce a piece of clothing it isn’t sustainable itself. Nothing is 100% sustainable, but you can just try to do the best you can.”
For her Selfridges window, Steinmetz is focusing on denim. She partnered with Spanish denim factory, Royo, named an eco-sustainable company in 2012 by the Oeko-Tex Association. Steinmetz is also working on alternatives to leather (for spring/summer she has made accessories with coated denim). But ultimately she likes the ideas of people buying less and buying more thoughtfully. She calls it minimal buying. When she launches her e-shop next year, pieces will be made to order and will come in a filing box to be stored with your few other minimal purchases. “It’s a new way of buying. It just makes you happier because you buy something you really like instead of going to Primark and buying loads of little things you don’t really like. People have lost the idea of saving money to buy nice clothes.”
David Hieatt: ‘We offer free repairs for life. The best we can do is make something last’
In 2009, when David and Clare Hieatt left Howies, the brand they founded in Wales in 1995, it was time to start something afresh. David found a new mission – to recreate the jeans industry that had provided employment for 400 people in Cardigan. “Our town used to make jeans,” he says. “They used to make 35,000 pairs a week for 40 years – the biggest jeans factory in Britain. In 2001 that factory closed and 400 world-class makers had nothing to make, and that’s what we are fighting for – to get their jobs back.”
The Hiut factory now makes 100 pairs of jeans a week and employs 15 people. “I’m with Bill Gates: people can overestimate what they can do in one year but underestimate what they can do in 10,” says Hieatt. “I’m hoping by the 10th year we will be nearer 400 than we are now.” Each pair takes 80 minutes to make, involving 75 processes. “We’ve fallen into a throwaway culture, but we are coming out of that. We offer free repairs for life. People understand that the best thing we can do for the environment is to make something last.” Around 20 pairs a week are sent back for repairs, which seems counterproductive to running a profitable business. However, customers are loyal to the last, no doubt because they like the artisanal quality of the indigo-dyed selvedge denim imported from a mill in Japan. “We all have a responsibility as customers, and more and more people are embracing that.”
For their Selfridges window, Hiut will be promoting their No Wash Club, encouraging customers not to wash their jeans for at least six months. “If you wash them before you’ve had time to put your imprint on them, they become quite a flat jean,” says Hieatt. And the less you wash, the more water you save. “They become your jeans – all those lines are individual to you; there’s a beautiful reason not to wash them, both for the planet and the person.”
Bright New Things is at Selfridges, Oxford Street, London W1, from 7 January to 27 March (selfridges.com)
*This story first appeared on The Guardian.
Against the backdrop of the COP21 climate summit, Adidas’ collaboration with Parley for the Oceans to create 3D-printed sneakers made from ocean waste sets an example for other brands.
“No one wakes up in the morning saying, ‘I’m going to destroy the oceans.’ No one does, but collectively, we put them at risk,” says Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans, a US-based non-governmental organisation that aims to raise awareness of the planet’s critically endangered ocean ecosystems — and what can be done.
To coincide with the COP21 climate summit in Paris, Parley for the Oceans has teamed up with global sportswear giant Adidas to develop an innovative footwear concept called Ocean Plastic. With a 3D-printed midsole, the sneakers are made entirely from materials created using reclaimed ocean waste, such as discarded plastic and illegal gill nets that harm marine life.
“The 3D-printed Ocean Plastic shoe midsole stands for how we can set new industry standards if we start questioning the reason to be of what we create,” says Eric Liedtke, a member of Adidas Group’s executive board. While the shoe is only a prototype, Parley for the Oceans and Adidas hope it will set an example for the industry to rethink their design and manufacturing processes, and help stop ocean plastic pollution. “The industry can’t afford to wait for directions any longer,” he adds.
Each year, around 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans, according to a study published in the journal Science in February earlier this year, a figure that could increase tenfold in as many years if action isn’t taken. And because petroleum-based plastics are designed to last, the waste won’t break down for decades. “Plastic is a design failure. Once it is produced it never dies,” continues Gutsch. “How can we redesign plastic to make it harmless? How can we turn the problem into an opportunity?”
In the context of the fashion industry, a project called Raw for the Oceans illustrates the kinds of solutions that can help. Jointly launched by denim brand G-Star Raw and Bionic Yarn, the eco-friendly label co-founded by Pharrell Williams, with support from Gutsch and Parley for the Oceans, Raw for the Oceans is a collaborative project that collects ocean plastic and turns it into denim. And the fact that the jeans produced through this initiative are environmentally-friendly actually makes the product more appealing, says Gutsch. “It was desirable because it was designed to help save the oceans. There was a sense of exclusivity around it, but it didn’t cost more…That’s when it becomes relevant.”
The fashion industry is in a unique position to address the problem of ocean pollution, says Gutsch. “Fashion is at the crossroads of consumerism and innovation; it is able to communicate messages others can’t address. It’s a strong vehicle of change.” Since its inception, Raw for the Oceans has recovered about 2 million plastic containers from ocean coastlines around the world. “But we need to reach a critical mass to make a real difference. When I first heard that the oceans were about to collapse, I had no idea. Yet, I contributed to it as a consumer.”
Take e-commerce, which has grown rapidly in the past few years. How many people realise that e-commerce is a major source of pollution in fashion? In part, that’s because every single item shipped, even the smallest, must be individually wrapped in plastic.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, containers and packaging accounted for 30 percent of total solid waste generated in the US in 2012. And this figure is undoubtedly set to rise with growing global e-commerce sales.
In 2014, protective packaging reportedly represented a $22 billion industry, with plastic foam alone valued at $6 billion, as millions of products are constantly revolving around the planet, waiting to be sold online. Not only do they consume fossil fuel, but if the customer sends the item back, the ecological impact doubles.
“Products have become messengers of the era we live in. We can only change something if we establish a new standard, and steer suppliers and manufacturers in the right direction,” says Gutsch, pointing to projects like Adidas new sneakers as examples of this. “It’s in the hands of the creative communities to make a change. It’s not the consumer’s fault.”
In turn, Parley has also launched a new sustainability scheme — A.I.R. (short for avoid, intercept, redesign) — which provides guidelines that any fashion business or consumer can follow, beginning with everyday choices, like avoiding using plastic, intercepting to help manage waste and redesigning and reinventing to explore alternative solutions.
“The only way to move forward, in the future, would be to produce on demand,” says Gutsch, citing 3D printing methods as a sensible alternative. But there are other sustainable solutions: consuming less, creating products that have a longer life expectancy or mimicking nature to develop products that disintegrate.
*This story first appeared on the Business of Fashion.