Last month’s London Fashion Week saw big plans unveiled for the future of ethical fashion. I chatted to designer and fashion week curator Orsola de Castro about why the future’s green.
London Fashion Week’s Estethica stage is dedicated to putting the glam into green. Now in its sixth season, it showcases labels using organic, fairtrade and recycled materials who have cutting-edge style as well as ethics. From the acid-bright block-coloured dresses of Good One to Nina Dolcetti’s fantastical, gravity-defying ‘upcycled’ footwear, there were no hemp cardies in sight as a riot of models sashayed down the catwalk in striking attires, big hair blazing and skirts billowing. Supermodels and fashion editors flocked en masse to the front row while photographers frantically snapped away. But the main draw of this year’s shows wasn’t the clothes. In a rare mix of politics and fashion Estethica had been chosen to host the unveiling of the Department for Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) radical new Sustainable Clothing Action Plan.
The Defra scheme aims to transform clothes adhering to Estethica’s principles from sideline attractions to the main event. It will see the industry and the government working together to make fashion more sustainable, ensuring a better deal for workers and reducing the amount that ends up in landfill sites. Already high street brands such as M&S and Tesco have pledged to increase their ranges of Fair Trade and organic clothing, install processes to aid the recovery of unwanted clothing and work with fibres that enable garment recycling.
I caught up with Orsola de Castro, designer for luxury recycled label From Somewhere and the founder of Estethica, to chat about this year’s shows and the effect she expects the Defra initiative to have on the fashion world
Hi, Orsola. So how did you get into Eco Fashion?
My background is actually in print design. I used to customise clothes myself, and then in about 1997 a London boutique picked up on my designs and placed an order for a collection, so that was how my label started.
How did Estethica come about?
Paris Fashion Week has an eco stage, and the British Fashion Council wanted to create something similar in London. They approached us and asked for our vision, as they were interested in putting on a high-end luxury eco fashion show.
Which labels were you particularly impressed with this year?
This year was an absolute triumph for recycled fashion. The labels I was particularly impressed with were Nina Dolcetti, Good One, Raeburn and Minna
What direction do you see the fashion industry going in terms of its approach to ethical and environmental issues?
I definitely think that the whole of the industry is changing. Many labels are experimenting and trying to find their own green approach. We’ve got designers like Stella Mccartney brining out eco ranges and they’re having a lot of influence over others
What kind of effect do you think the DEFA action will have on the industry?
I think it will have a huge influence on the industry, especially on the way high street retailers operate. There’s definitely a huge curiosity around ethical fashion now. I think the UK is way ahead in realising that eco is also profitable.
And finally, what effect do you think the recession is having on ethical fashion?
At the moment it is negative, but I think it will be positive after a while. Eco labels are having really a hard time now, just like everyone else – they do not have the cash behind them that major labels have so they are really suffering. I know some people who have been very deeply traumatised by what is happening economically. But I believe the tide is really turning in terms of how we produce fashion, and when this period is over I believe a lot of people will want to invest in eco brands. We really are leaps and bounds ahead in the UK in terms of ethical clothing
A version of this article appears in substance magazine