Eco Fashion Week, now in its sixth season, hosted designers and brands from around the world in Vancouver. The event was livestreamed in a series of eco fashion seminars featuring experts such as Shannon Whitehead from Revolution Apparel and Carly Stojsic from World Global Style Network, and runway shows featuring designers including the charming Evan Ducharme and Swedish knitwear brand Svensk. EFW06 opened with informative seminars on the issues facing the industry and the trends we can count on for 2014 and beyond. Here is my synopsis of three key themes from Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week 06 seminars.
Textile Tricks: Wes Baker from Debrand consultancy painted a picture of the nature of the global textiles industry and the challenges the it will face to create more effective and equitable solutions to the problems of overconsumption and waste. Up to 95% of clothing donated to second-hand and charity shops ends up abroad, most often in Africa, subsumed into the textile industry to be reworked (10-15% turned into rags) or flooded into the local clothing markets (resold). Only 5% of donated clothing is resold where it is donated. With fast fashion markets driving down production costs, the economic model of western second-hand goods sold to other markets is destabilizing, as a growing group of middle class consumers in emerging economies are turning directly to manufacturers to buy new instead of used clothing. As Jason Neve, from Eco Apparel Boardroom explained, there is a gap in innovation and technology that is preventing better closed loop systems, whereby complicated and blended fibres can be broken down and recycled, rather than discarded. We need a better understanding of the limitations of back-end waste management from the design side to support the reuse and recycling of fibres such as polyester, but many manufacturers continue to use fibre blends. Neve suggests that market incentives (reducing costs, inputs and reliance on raw materials) will ultimately promote closed-loop recycling in the apparel sector.
Minimalist Modularity: The theme of less is more was predominant in the seminars and on the runway. Mary Hanlon, from the Canadian initiative Social Alterations “an education lab for socially responsible fashion”, shared that she and co-founder Nadira Lamrad took the six items challenge for four weeks. They limited their personal style to just six items of clothing to raise awareness and show support for the world’s garment workers and push for action on labour rights. She encouraged individual action on the issues facing fashion and supported the diverse values emerging in the responsible fashion industry, including human rights, labour rights, and cultural diversity. Shannon Whitehead, co-founder of brand Revolution Apparel is an expert in sustainable textiles and believes that modular, repurposed and versatile fashions will transform the industry as consumers seek minimalist solutions to overconsumption. She called on designers to integrate more customized, interchangeable and transseasonal pieces that are high quality, designed to last and work for multi-use styles.
Irreverent Idealists: A younger generation is taking a postmodern stance on flower power that will be ironic, without being quite as worthy as the environmentalists who have gone before them. Carly Stojsic from World Global Style Network outlined the trend forecasting S/S14 and explored the role digitization has in the lives of creatives and influencers, who are transforming our conceptions of nature, ecology and sustainability through design with the seeing eye of the machine. Our screens and cameras create the new ‘avant garde’. One unofficial concept that will soon permeate our consciousness is ‘anthropocene’: the word for the first geologic layer where manmade materials will be left in the earth’s record, proof of the importance of plastics in the history of humanity. Stojsic explained there will be a growing desire to return to slowness and ritual, simplicity and the local, in “… humorous design nods to our pre-historic roots” reminiscent of a pre-technology era, unplugged. Prepare to poach elements of the virtual and bring them into the real world. The new idealists are irreverent, nature is entertaining, biodiversity is digitized and sustainability is sensual.
To watch the Eco Fashion Week seminars and runway shows, please click here. (image)
To read more about eco fashion weeks, please click here.