Can Couture collections lead the way in sustainability?

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PARIS – For all the pandemic discussions about changing the fashion calendar and reducing shows, Paris Sewing The week was back in full force with 30 shows on the schedule and dozens more parades, presentations and parties. Nothing seemed “slow fashion” in the four-day frenzy.

However, some designers not only challenged the pace, as fashion again ramps up production, but set out to advance the idea that high sewingwith its custom designs meant to elevate craftsmanship and stay above the trending fray of fast fashion and ready-to-wear, can lead the conversation on sustainability. After all, what’s more durable than clothing designed to last a lifetime (or two)? They decided to bolster that argument this season with methods and materials.

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The always playful Viktor & Rolf displayed this philosophy on the runway with their convertible coatswhich changed shape and feel entirely with the pull of a few strategic strings, giving each piece more than one use, while Iris Van Herpen presented another collection of his otherworldly designs all made with its technologically advanced sustainable textiles.

The new house ArdAzAei launched its first collection using certified materials, the Dutch designer Ronald van der Kemp returned to the catwalk with his recycled creations and Aelis made his debut with textiles created in collaboration with the University of Siena.

Swedish Iranian designer Bahareh Ardakani launched ArdAzAei with a parade at the Museum of Arts and Crafts, using the Global Organic Textile Standard for certification. An engineer by training, Ardakani came to sewing with a technical view of the supply chain combined with French know-how from the past.

“I’m coming in with new eyes, so it’s a challenge for me – and it’s a challenge for them. Sustainability is about having a network of people working together. And for us, when we really got into the certification process, we learned a lot. Like how do we do this? How can we do things better? So I think it’s really about challenging each other and combining different techniques and experiences,” said she said of working with artisans.

Although she has plans for rtw, Ardakani says this line will “avoid trend-based consumption” – tackle the problem of over-consumption of several “must-have” collections per year – and will be released in small drops over the course of season. “It’s just the best way to choose,” she said. “When it comes to organic textiles, etc., it goes without saying for us. It is not only having the dresses certified, but also the manufacturing process and the French know-how. For me, the combination is synonymous with quality.

She is working across the supply chain to get more textiles certified, while building a network of fiber-based suppliers. Its target clientele is the young and conscious customer who wishes to integrate environmental principles transparently into their purchases.

Yet the price of couture can make it inaccessible to the average consumer. Van der Kemp said couture has intrinsic value and can lead the industry and inspire. The long date sustainability The lawyer released a manifesto in 2017 and took his message to social media and university conferences to show how to recreate looks or explain how something was built.

This season, he has not only used dead animals and found fabrics he likes best, but also recycled her own old pieces, including a dress that was previously worn by Naomi Campbell. It’s all about perspective, he says.

“If you present clothes in a different context, they become new again. I think that’s the lesson for everyone: we don’t always have to do a trench coat every season,” he said. “It’s so much about spending, so much business and growing, but this growth is really killing our world.”

For all their whimsy with flowery collars, pointed shoulders and sculpted hips, Van der Kemp is clear that his designs are made with a message. “It’s not about metaphors, where you create your own reality. Now it’s time to face reality. I think it’s very important right now to see what’s happening in the world,” he said. “New stuff is a problem, and I think we all have to realize that we just need to wake up. That’s the reality.”

To fight against overproduction, he built a network of suppliers, in particular by using the leftovers of local knitwear brands to avoid textile waste. Van der Kemp said a new wave of young clients are seeking out his collections because of his singular focus – a sentiment echoed by Aelis designer Sofia Crociani.

“More and more people are coming to see us because they like the whole idea. They’re very interested in something that doesn’t pollute the planet,” she said. This season, Crociani has expanded the range of its signature floaty dresses to include long-sleeved dresses, an almost Elizabethan full cover in response to customer requests. They want more durable and versatile looks with lasting credentials.

Aelis has used recycled cashmere as a lining on down jackets and this season has worked with Italian factories to blend silk yarns to create a shimmering, fluorescent effect without using additional dyes. Crociani is also working with the University of Siena in Tuscany to create a soft, hemp-based French terry cloth that can work as a water-efficient substitute for cotton.

“We’re trying to find something that’s technologically advanced, that uses less land and less water, and that evolves in the way people dress,” she said. The first sweatshirt in the line was offered this season, embroidered with vintage beads and charms.

“Our principle is always to give a contribution that can serve to become something accessible to other people who interact with us. So if we can come to that kind of achievement then we are happy,” she said. The new textiles will be made available to other brands.

“With couture, we don’t have the input that we have to be commercial, we just focus on beauty, on taking the time to try new things,” Crociani said. “I’m very, very convinced that couture can really get the message across – the most positive message.”

— With contributions from Alex Wynne

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