Bryony Moore reports on the ethics at London Fashion Week.
For the first time the British Fashion Council this year included a catwalk slot showcasing ethical brands (more and less) under the umbrella of London Fashion Week (LFW).
Normally this is a fringe event, but not this year, reflecting that ethical fashion has been considered a more significant part of LFW this year than previously. Taking place at St. James’s Palace last Friday, the first day of LFW, it included garments by lesser known designers (amongst mainstream circles) such as From Somewhere, Junky Styling and People Tree, as well as big names Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood. Erin O’Connor modelled, and was presenting her own range of t-shirts and bags made with Fairtrade cotton under the label She Died of Beauty.
On Sunday, I wandered around the Estethica designers showcase, and met some designers making beautiful clothes, most of whom had a palpable dedication to the various causes they championed. All had an ethical aspect to their production, and some undertook a holistic approach to sustainability throughout their whole supply chains.
But there was something about Estethica, and the catwalk show, which bothered me. Firstly the catwalk show seemed a bit of an afterthought - with workers applying the British Fashion Council vinyl lettering to the stage just minutes before the show started.
But more importantly, the inclusion of ethical brands in LFW suggests that in order to be seen as “successful” they must achieve recognition through the traditional fashion channels (how many times in the last week have we read the line that ethical fashion is “standing up to” or “proving itself as stylish as” mainstream fashion?).
But the basis of the fashion industry is fundamentally unsustainable, relying as it does on dictating patterns of consumption and creating false ‘needs’ among consumers - persuading them to buy and keep buying.
Many of the ethical brands at Estethica have built their businesses on an entirely opposed ideology, and intentionally produce fewer collections, or design garments that resist the fickle ‘trends’ of mainstream fashion.
By putting ethical fashion forward (amongst a smattering of celebrities and champagne) at an event dedicated to the latest short-lived trend, it does seem that the British Fashion Council just doesn’t quite get it (or doesn’t quite want to).
Rather than try to clean up its own image, LFW points to Estethica as a shining beacon of sustainability in fashion, and therefore craftily avoids addressing the deeply ingrained unethical practices of its industry.