Monday, April 6, 2020

'Put Earth First': Can A Greener, Fairer Fashion Industry Emerge From Crisis?

The shutting down of society as we know it is giving a lot of time for reflection, not least in fashion circles. In an interview in the design magazine Dezeen, the influential trend forecaster Li Edelkoort has called it a “quarantine on consumption” that is having a devastating impact on our economy and culture, but ultimately offers “a blank page to a new beginning”.

While sections of the fashion industry already knew they could not continue on their current trajectory, it was inconceivable that brands could be forced to slow down, let alone stop production altogether. But that is what has happened as famous names from Prada to Zara have turned their production lines to making medical gowns and masks, and luxury houses have changed from making perfume to sanitisers. It’s an unprecedented interruption of an industry that has relied on speeding from one season’s sales to the next. And it is bringing with it a new sense of connectedness,

Until factories started to feel the effects of Covid-19, the global fashion business was producing 150bn items of clothing each year, far in excess of the needs of a global population of 7.9 billion. Clothing consumption globally was in 2017 projected to rise still more, by 63% by 2030, according to the Global Fashion Agenda and Boston Consulting Group. Who knows if those projections will be dented now that bricks-and-mortar shops are closed, orders have halted and supply chains have been stopped in their tracks?

As factory orders dry up, the lowly paid, overworked garment workers without sick pay or any financial cushion are the ones who are paying the biggest price. The question is how, when the self-isolation and fear abates, we can use this temporary moratorium on production to correct the course of a carbon-guzzling and exploitative industry. We cannot continue down this path of unchecked overproduction, waste and human misery.

On Saturday, people around the world will be reflecting on the temporary decrease in CO2 as they turn off their lights at 8.30pm (local time wherever they are), to take part in Earth Hour. This annual environmental campaign by WWF will remind us that, according to the UN, we have only 10 years to keep global warming to 1.5C. This is something the academics Kate Fletcher and Mathilda Tham are acutely aware of. In their new report, Earth Logic Fashion Action Research Plan, they write: “The time frame of 10 years is the same as a child’s time at school. One eighth of most people’s lifetime, or 10 annual reports for a business. Consider what you, your family, community, workplace will do in the coming 10 years. Every moment will count.”


Their argument pivots around the idea that the only way to ensure we cut carbon emissions and end the cycles of overproduction and waste is to imagine a whole new system that places the Earth’s needs before those of industrial growth. In a post-Covid-19 world, that’s beginning to look slightly more feasible. “We propose planet before industry as a radical idea in which the health and survival of our planet Earth is given precedence over business interests,” they write.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark focus the fact that business as usual can be stopped in its tracks. Anything, it seems, is now possible. According to the environmental journalist and broadcaster Lucy Siegle, who wrote the foreword to the Earth Logic report, this break is a “lifeline” to the industry and a “chance to reboot our efforts and change our course based on evidence and fact”.

“Once we realise that the current system is always going to be self-limiting as there are finite resources, putting Earth first is the only option,” says Fletcher, of the London College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion. This is not about tinkering around the edges of the existing way of working, creating “sustainable” collections or clothing recycling schemes: Earth Logic attacks the very root of the problem: the existing economic model itself. This means a shift from production to the maintenance, use and care of existing clothes. It means reducing the volume of clothes we produce, and in turn, the amount of resources we are using. It means moving from globalised, tangled and unsafe supply chains to small production centres based around the needs and desires of local communities. “We need to find a role for industry scattered across communities,” says Fletcher, with multiple local hubs for people to be educated, to make and repair their clothes.

Patriarchy and growth logic are inextricably intertwined, says Tham. The same sorts of people are making the same sorts of decisions. According to Earth Logic, there would be respect for “fashion in non-western geographies. We can train the focus of fashion on supporting race and gender equality. Each perspective offers new models and practices for relating with fashion as well as broadening and diversifying the base of fashion expertise.”

These are all points the next generation coming into the industry is demanding, too. “The questions students are asking are very different now,” says Tham, who teaches fashion and economics students at the Linnaeus University, Sweden. How we design clothes must connect with the needs of society and the environment and work with them, not against them. We are seeing this happening with designers looking for ways to help make protective equipment and gowns for medical teams. These new positive role models must be allowed to lead the way forward.

We have uncertain and painful times ahead. But Fletcher says: “It’s about trying not to look away when the going gets hard.” We are seeing that in times of real emergency, people’s behaviour has to change. Even pressing pause on fashion’s relentless cycle for a season (possibly two) will have a profound effect. Already, so much has changed. The cycle of fashion for fashion’s sake has been broken. We must use this time to rethink how this industry can be redesigned with respect for the planet and the health of the people who work in it

“It’s like turning a kaleidoscope and seeing new patterns emerge,” says Tham. “There are so many possible patterns. Things can change very quickly when we have a new perspective. It is not impossible.”

Friday, April 3, 2020

The DIY Lockdown Fashion Trend That’s Taking Over Instagram

With the news that the upcoming couture season has been cancelled, those who delight in seeing fashion’s most breathtaking (and often wackiest) creations grace the runways twice yearly may be feeling a little glum. Thankfully, there’s now a solution for anyone itching to indulge in the haute couture fantasy, and you can even do it within the comfort of your own home: #HomeCouture. “The idea is that quarantine queens across the world can doll themselves up, Cinderella-style, with scouring-pad ball gowns, toilet-roll palazzo pants, and saucepan fascinators,” says the hashtag’s creator George Serventi, a London-based fashion writer (and occasional meme-maker) who has been posting the looks under his Instagram handle @skipdin. “In the words of Fifth Harmony, we can work from home!”

So far, Serventi and his friends have been re-creating looks from the runways of some of fashion’s most forward-thinking talents, using what they’ve found lying around in their apartments or family homes. The resulting creations have included bulbous, sculptural dresses by Comme des Garçons, pleated tulle from John Galliano’s Maison Margiela couture collections (here re-created with torn-up cardboard boxes), and even the Marilyn Manson makeup and soda-can hair rollers crafted by Peter Philips and Guido Palau for Alexander McQueen’s iconic 2009 Horn of Plenty show. “Materials we all have at home like tin foil, bin bags, newspaper, and cellophane work surprisingly well,” Serventi explains, “but so do Pot Noodles and broken plates.”

If you’re impressed by the ingenuity of some of these homages, it’s worth noting that Serventi and his participating friends are mostly recent graduates of Central Saint Martins, many of whom bonded over a shared willingness to affectionately poke fun at the fashion industry’s more overblown moments. “The fashion industry is definitely guilty of taking itself too seriously, but what’s great about #HomeCouture is we’re all in it together—taking the piss out of ourselves, each other, and fashion at large. The more you root around the Vogue Runway archive the more bizarre, unwearable, and amazing looks you find.”

All jokes aside, for Serventi, the current lockdown has been an opportunity to look at fashion through a sillier, more playful lens, as we all look for a little escapism. “I just thought I might provide some fashion-inspired comic relief during this stressful period when everyone is bored and stuck at home,” says Serventi. “The challenge is all about bringing people together online seeing as we can’t physically hang out. It’s an opportunity to get creative and celebrate our fave fashions while connecting through humour. If we can’t laugh, we’ll cry.”

And now the #HomeCouture train has started running, it’s showing no signs of stopping. “It started off small with my mates, but yesterday we went international and had some New York submissions,” says Serventi. “It’s a global movement!”

Lyst Sees ‘Slow Fashion’ On The Rise In Sustainable Fashion Report

Shopping search platform Lyst has unveiled its sustainable fashion report for 2020, delving into the sustainable brands, products and keywords shifting consumer culture. Over the past year, “slow fashion” has generated 90 million social impressions “suggesting the beginning of a shift in shopping behaviors,” as the report said. The company garnered insights from more than 100 million shoppers that used its platform over the past year, while also tapping fashion rating organization Good on You and Google for data.

While its February index for the fourth quarter catalogued the “hottest brands” like Off-White and Moncler, this report focused only on sustainable fashion, which the platform defines as “protecting the future of our planet and its people when we design, create and wear our clothes,” also taking into account welfare of animals.

Topping the list for most sneaker searches was French brand Veja, up 115 percent year-over-year with brands like Stella McCartney up for vegan sneaker shoppers. On an individual item level, Girlfriend Collective’s leggings, which are made from recycled plastic bottles and Reformation’s “Juliette dress” fared well with shoppers, with hunts for lesser-known brands such as Nudie Jeans and Bassike clothing, both proponents for organic cotton, increasing.

“Vegan leather” saw searches increase 69 percent year-over-year. And over the past three months, searches for “upcycled fashion” has grown 42 percent. Independent labels such as Mother of Pearl, Ecoalf, Maggie Marilyn and others came up as ones to watch.

What are the cultural moments that catalyzed interest among global consumers? The report found moments such as last spring’s Econyl (regenerated nylon) capsule collections from Prada and Burberry as well as Taylor Swift’s vintage Chanel jacket for British Vogue’s January cover story as compelling. Last year, Lyst’s “Year in Fashion” report showed an uptick in sustainability-related terms, which increased 75 percent year-on-year. The beginning of 2020 is showing a continuation of that momentum, despite shoppers being sequestered at home riding out the pandemic.

Legendary Shoe Designer Sergio Rossi Has Died

Sergio Rossi, the celebrated shoe designer, has died at the age of 84. The cause of death for the master cordwainer, who founded one of Italy’s most illustrious footwear brands in 1968, is not known. He was hospitalised in Cesena for a few days, leading sources to speculate he had contracted coronavirus. The brand’s chief executive officer, Riccardo Sciutto – who has been at the company since April 2016 – announced the news on the morning of 3 April, according to WWD. “It was a great pleasure to have met him,” said Sciutto. “He was our spiritual guide and he is today more than ever.”

Sciutto went on to praise Rossi’s business nous, but also his ability to tap into female sensibilities. “[The designer] loved women and was able to capture a woman’s femininity in a unique way,” he explained. “He was never over-the-top, always in good taste. The shoes were always wearable and he was never satisfied until they were perfect. They were not accessories for him. He told me once that he wanted to create the perfect extension of a woman’s leg.”

Rossi’s cutting-edge footwear, including the famous Opanca sandal, inspired generations of shoe designers, including his son, Gianvito Rossi, who worked with his father until the business was sold to Gucci Group (now Kering) in 1999. Gianvito continued the family legacy by launching his own eponymous brand in 2007.

Since Kering sold Sergio Rossi to Investindustrial in 2015 – which subsequently relaunched it to acclaim in 2019 – Sciutto and the team’s mission has been to “bring back the right DNA, the right products and the spirit of the Sergio Rossi woman”. This messaging is testament to the authenticity of the brand’s founder, who Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Azzedine Alaïa all enlisted to pepper their own collections with his shoe-making magic over the years.

The British Vogue team are big fans of the rebrand. “I have a black pair of square-toed SR1 sandals which are absolute staples in my wardrobe: the perfect patent, the perfect heel height, the perfect blend of ’90s minimalism with a modern edge,” says news director, Olivia Singer. “Over the past few years, seeing the brand return to its roots has been brilliant and, in the office, Naomi Smart [shopping director] and I have formed something of a Sergio Rossi fan club (she loves the jewel-encrusted incarnations; I prefer the pared-back alternatives). If anyone ever needs advice on a shoe for an event, which they often do, we dispatch them towards the Mayfair store simply because the shoes are a rare blend of being both entirely wearable and exceptionally chic; there’s something for everyone.”

Smart concurs: “Sergio Rossi’s SR1s have been my secret footwear weapon for the last four years. Part of the permanent collection, they can sometimes be missed by even the biggest footwear fans among the noise of the latest drops. With a square open-toe, ankle-strap and varying heel heights – a mini for the office and a high option for an event – I’ve been hard pressed to find another designer who nails the ’90s shoe shape so perfectly. Every time I wear them, I get asked where they are from. Their timelessness is testament to the talent of Sergio Rossi, the original shoe designer.”

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Alexander McQueen & Bottega Veneta Are Offering Virtual Distractions

It seems everyone is using quarantine to perfect an array of hobbies or tune into HouseParty to catch up with friends over a solo wine. Meanwhile, fashion houses have taken to social media to present their offerings of the ultimate self-isolation activities.

From cosy Bottega Veneta movie nights, to an ongoing series of artistic projects from Alexander McQueen, there’s something for everyone. And, while your old school friend has suddenly emerged as an avid baker on Instagram, your distant relative is a poetry enthusiast and your neighbour is a TikTok dance routine superstar, why not take inspiration from fashion industry leaders and try something new?

Bottega Veneta

The multifaceted “Bottega Residency” will see talent take over the Bottega Veneta social channels (YouTube, Spotify & Instagram) to present a variety of interactive content. As creative director Daniel Lee says: “Creativity and strength lie at the heart of Bottega Veneta. In this highly distressing time, we feel a responsibility to celebrate those values and ignite a sense of joy and hope in our community and beyond.” Live music, recipes and movie nights are all on the agenda for the brand’s latest endeavour. Clear your schedules.

Alexander McQueen

If you’re a fan of McQueen archive imagery (and who isn’t) then now is your moment. “McQueen Creators” is a new project conceived by the brand that encourages followers to engage artistically with their favourite Alexander McQueen pieces, to be shared across their social media channels – from 3-D creation to home-embroidery, the brand has your weekend plans sorted. The creative concept will change each week and will include digital tutorials from the brand’s teams and collaborators. Up first: a project inspired by the current Roses installation at its New Bond Street store. “Together we will be sketching the finale Rose dress from autumn/winter 2019.”


The #StayAtHome period means that art gallery and museum visits aren’t currently possible. Not to worry: let Loewe’s “En Casa” initiative satiate your art cravings. Its series of online workshops, tours and events will be streamed through Instagram Live on weeknights and weekends, bringing together previous artistic collaborators of the brand and finalists of the Loewe Craft Prize to celebrate “craft, innovation and artistic expression”.

JW Anderson

JW Anderson has instigated an online Q&A series and encouraged its followers to choose who they’d love to ask questions. “We’re making videos from home with some of our favourite people and we need YOU (included in those favourite people) to participate,” read a statement on the brand’s Instagram feed. Though the full guest line-up is yet to be announced, Tyler Mitchell has been revealed as the first in the hot seat. JW’s audience were instructed to send a DM or a video with their questions for the renowned photographer and filmmaker.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Kate Moss Is Selling Her Favourite Vintage Leopard Print Jacket To Help Covid-19 Efforts

When Vestiaire Collective co-founder and president, Fanny Moizant, reached out to friends of the pre-loved fashion platform for help to launch a Covid-19 charity initiative, she was overwhelmed by the response. What began as virtual discussions on the importance of community in times of crisis turned into a mammoth archive sale, as the fashion pack dug deep into their wardrobes for a good cause. All proceeds, including Vestiaire Collective’s commission, will go to nonprofit organisations working to fight coronavirus, including the World Health Organisation, the Italian Lombardia Region Fundraising, the France/Paris Hospitals Foundation and Madrid’s La Paz Hospital.

Now for the inventory. Kate Moss, Rachel Weisz and Thandie Newton are among the headline acts who have donated. Anna Dello Russo, Laura Bailey, Clare Waight Keller, Bella Freud, Caroline Issa, Carine Roitfeld, Robert Pires, Margherita Missoni, Farida Khelfa, Charlotte Tilbury, Olivier Giroud, Géraldine Nakache, Pernille Teisbaek, Camille Charrière, Veronika Heilbrunner and Gala Gordon have also generously contributed numerous pieces each.

While Newton’s Jimmy Choo collection is quite something, Bailey’s delectable dresses, including a ditsy Prada number, will surely get people clicking. The item that will spark a bidding war, however, is Moss’s vintage faux fur leopard print jacket. “Her fashion influence goes without saying!” Moizant enthuses of the star lot. “She has such a recognisable style and this jacket epitomises that.”

Moizant is personally taken by a rare antique pink Christian Dior dressing gown that Margherita Missoni gave to Vestiaire Collective. “It’s such a beautifully unique piece,” she muses, apparently tempted to join the bidding herself. “Loungewear is proving to be popular with everyone spending more time at home.”

Having her call-out met with such overwhelming support has been inspiring for Moizant. “It’s great to see so many parts of the fashion industry act in such a resourceful way to support the effort,” she says. “I’m really happy that we can use our platform and community to play a part.”

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Michel Gaubert’s Lockdown Playlist

The sound designer for Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Loewe, and Raf Simons, among many others, Michel Gaubert is an unmissable figure at the fashion shows. If you don’t recognize him by his omnipresent sunglasses, cheery shirts, and impressive sneaker collection, you’ll recognize his mixes. Gaubert likes to mash up unlikely genres, and make the familiar seem new.

He sent us this playlist from Paris under lockdown. On Friday, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode announced that the spring 2021 menswear shows and fall 2020 haute couture collections, typically presented in June and July, have been canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. “The crisis is definitely changing my habits,” Gaubert says. “I go deeper into research and information and take the time to listen to albums without skipping, which can be both satisfying and disconcerting. A lot of musicians are home making music and what comes out of it will be very significant.”

Gaubert’s Vogue playlist is 30-songs long. “I built it like a rollercoaster of emotions featuring tracks that mean something to me or remind me of shows and moments.” The opener, the Pet Shop Boys’s “It’s Alright,” he explains, is “the song I listened to in September 2001 when I came back from New York, it’s hopeful. It also closed the Chanel demonstration show” for spring 2015.

Isaac Hayes’s “Walk on By” made the cut because it soundtracked Phoebe Philo’s fall 2013 show for Céline—“I still cherish that moment,” he says—while Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s version of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” is dedicated to Raf Simons. “It’s one of his favorite songs ever.” The Soul II Soul classic “Back to Life” is the optimistic closer. “It will happen, eventually,” Gaubert says, referencing the famous lyrics, “back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now, yeah.” To listen to the full playlist on Spotify, click here.