Roll out the green carpet
Earlier this month we saw the first ever Green Carpet Fashion Awards take place at the La Scala Opera House, as part of Milan fashion week. This event was designed to celebrate the future of fashion and recognise the works of many designers, seamstresses, fabric technologists, etc. This is the first event of its kind to attract such big names in fashion, including the likes of Anna Wintour, Naomi Campbell and Gisele Bundchen (I know right, imagine the girl band??) This is surely a sign that green fashion is becoming more popular and that people are accepting it as the future of the industry. The event is the first awards to honour Made In Italy – one of the most important supply chains in the world. The programme is designed and implemented by Camera Nazionale della Moda (CNMI), in collaboration with Eco Age.
Livia Firth is the Founder and Creative Director of Eco Age, a consultancy company working with brands to create and implement sustainability solutions. She, alongside Lucy Siegle of the BBC, challenged the major fashion houses to a sustainability initiative that highlights a brand’s environmental principles and, if awarded, acts as trademark for guaranteed sustainable excellence. The first fashion house to respond? Giorgio Armani. At the awards ceremony the big four houses; Prada, Armani, Gucci and Valentino won The CNMI Recognition of Sustainability. Gucci has also just announced they will be dropping fur from all their collections going forward and will sell their remaining furs at a charity auction. Gucci follows other Italian companies, like Giorgio Armani and luxury e-commerce platform Net-a-Porter Group, in dropping fur.
While discussing the importance of the awards and the sustainable fashion movement, Livia Firth said “Last night the entire fashion world that uses this Made In Italy supply chain, from the designers to the mills, they all came together to celebrate what fashion should be, not fast, not disposable, not made by invisible people in non-traceable supply chains. I think it was a moment that changed everything.”
A large part of this awards ceremony focussed on showcasing the innovative work of fabric technologists who have created textiles using pineapples, plastic bottles and even apples. The press were avidly taking snaps of the example garments being worn by the models and had probably never seen anything like it before at a high fashion event. However, these garments were just a ‘hyped-up’ version of how these new fabrics can be used, and the designers assured the press that they can just as easily be used for high street fashion – good news for us then!
I also heard some great (but sad) stats from a BBC Radio 4 programme called ‘Costing the Earth, the Future of Fashion’. The two most damaging fabrics to grow and use are cotton and Polyester. Cotton requires huge amounts of water needed to create it – and I mean HUGE amounts of water. To produce 1kg of cotton, roughly the amount needed to create two or three pairs of jeans, just to grow the cotton plants alone requires the same amount of water you would drink in your lifetime. You also have to deforest vast areas to grow the crops, use pesticides to protect the crops and use a large amount of chemicals to treat the fabric during the manufacturing process. Polyester is essentially made from oil, a non-renewable source, and can take anywhere between 20 – 200 years to decompose – ain’t nobody got time for that.
The advice being given by the super-smart sustainability experts seemed to be; find out about the process, not just the source of the textile. For example, everyone has been going crazy over bamboo fabric over recent years but it turns out there is a massive process that goes into extracting the fibre from the plants, and it’s the length and complexity of the process that can turn a sustainable fibre into a not-so-sustainable one. Bi-products of food are a great untapped resource; fruits such as oranges, pineapples and apples have been used to create fabrics and faux-leathers. Trees can also be a good source of textiles, for example Lyocell is a form of rayon, which consists of cellulose fibre made from dissolving pulp (bleached wood pulp) using dry jet-wet spinning.
So, the lessons I took from watching the awards and reading the reviews are as follows:
· Reduce the amount of cotton + polyester we buy/use
· Check the processes that go into extracting fibres from natural sources
· Supporting sustainable brands can make a huge difference in the industry
· It’s not all on the consumer - there should be less pressure from the media and fashion houses on us to not re-wear outfits, which would lead to people keeping their clothes for longer and not buying as much!