‘‘There is too much fashion’’ declared fashion’s king of exclusivity, Dries Van Noten, in a recent interview with The Independent. With the international fashion shows lasting an entire month, pre-collections, endless collaborations, and the increase of ‘disposable’ clothes in shops such as Primark, I’m inclined to agree with him.
Fuel sources are destined to peak (and then go into rapid decline) around 2030, and with the textiles industry accused of both polluting landscapes and contributing to climate change through environmentally unfriendly production methods, it can be argued that the fashion industry is on a one way highway to self- combustion. However, a backlash against the unrelentingly greedy consumerism that created the cycle of production, consumption and waste has begun to emerge from the more conscientious and creative divisions of the fashion industry. The reaction to unethical and disposable ‘fast’ fashion can be viewed through three things: the rejection of globalisation by international fashion houses, the rising popularity of the’ arts and crafts’ movement, and the increased number of ethical, eco- friendly fashion labels.
With a shocking estimated 60% of Western clothes being made in Eastern sweatshops, combined with the high street’s unchecked plagiarism of catwalk looks, historic British brands such Burberry and Mackintosh are leading the way in returning to local craftsmanship, through small factories located in the UK. Burberry has made its classic trench coats in the same factory in Castleford since the garment’s creation, and is in the process of building another factory for British production in Pontefract, Yorkshire. Mackintosh were on the verge of closure in the 1990s when staff bought the company, based in Cumbernauld, Scotland, and began establishing the classic coats as an upmarket brand; collaborations with Liberty, Louis Vuitton and Gucci followed. The Mackintosh and Burberry brands have since reached cult status within the UK, with customers celebrating the unique and artisanal nature of production in the British factories; thus, the backlash against the homogenisation of the high street began, through ensuring the quality and individuality of the designer collections.
This reaction to sweat shops and ‘fast’ fashion can additionally be seen in Birmingham’s growing independent ‘arts and crafts movement’, which sees a collection of like- minded types encouraging and developing creativity and original design in response to the waste and unethical attitudes of high street shops. The Birmingham- based website ‘Teahab.co.uk’ is at the forefront of the movement, pushing for a ‘celebration’ of handmade and individual clothes and accessories as well as a diminishing dependence on high street fashion.
Furthermore, combined with this growing passion for artisanal and individualistic fashion is the increased international awareness of the ethical and ecological issues surrounding the industry. The best collaboration between high end and high street has to be the upcoming Sophia Kokosalaki for ASOS line. London’s brightest new designer is launching an affordable, cutting edge and ethically produced collection, made in Sri Lanka by a women’s cooperative. Furthermore, online retailers have popped up such as Prophetik, People Tree and made.uk.com, a website which is exemplified by its motto: ‘by the people for the people’. The site sells Fairtrade jewellery and accessories from African cooperatives, and also features designs from celebrities such as Laura Bailey, Peaches Geldof and Pippa Small. Such high profile endorsement points to a growing market for sustainable and ethical designs within the UK, a market that is being embraced by Birmingham, from the eco and ethically friendly printers ‘Get A Grip’, based in the Custard Factory, to craft magazines such as ‘Folksy’ and the ‘Creative Open Workshops’ (C.O.W.), located in the Jewellery Quarter.
A product of Birmingham’s Creative Open Workshops
As well as in Birmingham, the crafty movement has exploded across the international fashion scene, hopefully paving a way to a more creative and unique perspective on fashion. Burberry Prorsum’s S/S ’12 show featured a close focus on craftsmanship and innovative fabrics and prints, with tribal motifs woven in raffia and fabric dyed with rich, exotic colours using the ancient batik method. In Paris the atelier used by couturiers for decades, Lesage, was inundated with requests for individually crafted pieces for the A/W ’12 catwalk shows, from Mary Katrantzou’s embellished ‘HB pencil’ skirts, to the strangely compelling glittery eyebrows at Chanel.
Mary Katrantzou A/W ’12
Through all of this we can see another trend rising up through the fashion industry: one for craftsmanship, local design and production, and ethical manufacturing. Will we see Primark and co. decrease in popularity and profits, commit themselves to producing smaller, more ecologically and ethically friendly clothing and, dare we say it, more expensive clothes any time soon? Unlikely, but at least now the discerning customer has an alternative to the wasteful world of ‘fast’ high street fashion. As for ‘too much fashion’? It seems that now we have even more choice. Poor Dries.
Burberry Prorsum S/S ‘12
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Love, Amy Rose
Article originally written for fusedmagazine
Image for C.O.W: