Sustainability has been a buzzword for a while now but I was still pleasantly surprised to see how many designers at LFWM were putting their money where their mouths are.
Fast fashion brands have been under the spotlight for a couple of years but as plenty of activists have pointed out - high-end designers shouldn’t be exempt from criticism. Many use the same materials and factories as their cheaper counterparts, and even Vivienne Westwood, who has long spouted the “buy less, choose well” mantra, hasn’t shown any sign of decreasing the number of pieces her brand produces each year.
So it was a real delight to see E Tautz calling this out:
“What big fashion…will never do is tell you to “buy less, keep for longer, cherish, repair, pass on”
For their latest collection, which Patrick Grant was keen to point out doesn’t “change so much from season to season that you will feel you need to buy something new”, E Tautz collaborated with textile recycler Astco. Ransacking their stash for bed linen, white cotton shirts, and denim, A/W’20 is a glorious mash up of Zoot suits, Kevin & Perry and Maria Von Trapp. And I mean that as the highest compliment.
The mix of sharp tailoring and relaxed denim fits the timeless brief. Both are stalwarts of men’s fashion. Even if the recovered pieces aren’t big enough or quite right for making clothes, the use of the textiles in ties and accessories shows that there is a space for everything in the cyclical economy. We just need a little imagination.
The crisp white shirts made from bed linen are sharp as hell, cut with a sporty looseness which makes them feel contemporary. The oversized baggy jeans, which normally I would want to relegate to MTV circa 1995, look tailored and smart paired with Louboutin loafers. And the tailoring is soft and elegant.
When you are trying to change habits you need to be better than the existing offering. If we are trying to convince a generation of consumers who have never repaired a single item in their wardrobe, that it is in their interest to “darn, patch, mend” their clothes, then we have to show them that the result will be worth their time.
Some of the repair work seemed a little more like an A-level textiles project than the best the Royal School of Needlework has to offer. (Sidebar - if you want to see elegant patchwork - check out E.L.V denim - exquisite work showing how effective patching can be). But maybe that’s the point. To show people that anyone can do it, to make it feel accessible.
The patched ties feel like an attainable project for someone first feeling their way with a needle and thread.
Another brand effectively using recycled ties was Munn, a Korean brand, which named its A/W’20 collection “Defamiliarization”.
I assume the title of the collection was in reference to the more subtle use of sustainable elements. Seeing familiar shapes and fabrics only to discover they are not what you think. Were it not for the useful press release given out at the show, I might not have noticed that the leather-looking jacket had actually been “made by using eco-friendly fabrics and materials” (although it doesn’t specify what those might be).
The pairing of tough leather (or something resembling) with lightweight silks and sheer tulle might not be revolutionary but it is effective. Both fragile and tough. Like the planet Munn is hoping to protect by using “leftover scraps of silk…recycled denim, rayon and nylon…old tyres and coffee bean bags”. The coffee bean bags have been turned into soft bouncy bags with a spectacular result, and again had I not been told I would never have known how they began their use.
The colour palette is dark and rich, stark contrast to the greige hues expected of “sustainable fashion”.
This is a cleverly designed, cleverly cut collection of desirable clothing which just happens to “actively contribute to a healthier, green environment for all”.
2019 was a year of awareness, of brands talking about how sustainability is important to them. I very much hope that 2020 will be the year that we all put that into practice.
So far so good.