Photo by Emanuele D’Angelo
We didn’t sneak into the tents at London Fashion Week this season but that didn’t stop us from ogling the incredible lineup of U.K. eco-designers who presented their wares on and off the runway. From the rebel English countryside-inspired looks of Vivienne Westwood’s Red Label to Beautiful Soul’s crisp, origami-like pieces, here are seven of our all-time favorites from across the pond.
Photo by Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
WHAT A DAME
Framed by a lush Amazonian tableau, Dame Vivienne Westwood’s Spring/Summer 2010 show kept in step with her support of Prince Charles’s Rainforests Project—even as she squired visions of an Anglo Arcadia down the runway. Wide-brimmed straw hats were the order of the day, paired with deconstructed pinstriped shirt-dresses, bloomers festooned with harlequin diamonds, and dainty gingham frocks.
Fusing fashion with activism, the “Godmother of Punk” has become one of the environment’s most vociferous advocates of late. “Governments just treat [climate change] like it’s one on a list of things to do, but it’s really a matter of life and death,” Westwood tells The Telegraph. “We already may be too late, but the terrible irony is that we probably are in time if we act.”
Mark Liu must be part sculptor, considering the architectural grace that inhabits his designs, which comprise both organic textiles and pre-consumer waste. For the zero-waste designer, who feted his Spring/Summer 2010 collection (“Unicorn”) at London Fashion Week, the mythical beast proved to be not only a metaphor, but also a touchstone. “A brighter future,” he says, is in the grasp of those who have “the imagination, courage, and will to chase these seemingly impossible ‘unicorn’ ideas.”
Nina Dolcetti’s eponymous shoe collection is barely a year old but you wouldn’t know it from the bold and confident footwear that fills its ranks. Made in a small, family-run factory in London, Dolcetti’s blocky wedges and edgy, architectural pumps comprise off-cuts and discarded pre-consumer waste, including upcycled leather.
Her Autumn/Winter 2009 collection, inspired by raincoats, galoshes, and New York by night, is based on “abstraction and conceptualism.” “It is a triumph of urban design for our modern environmental needs,” Dolcetti notes.
EAST MEETS WEST
Marrying organic textiles with upcycled fabrics, Beautiful Soul’s avant-garde, textural forms are designed for longevity by adapting to the wearer’s changing physical contours. Nicola Woods, who graduated from The London College of Fashion in 2008, mined vintage Japanese kimonos and bamboo satin to create her debut collection, which reinterprets ’40s construction into modern silhouettes.
Fashion, according to Woods, is an influential tool when used wisely and respectfully, and she hopes that Beautiful Soul will bolster awareness of environmental issues. Like Liu, Woods is a proponent of the concept of zero-waste in fashion: Fabric remnants are quickly repurposed into trims and fastenings.
A FINE ROMANCE
Unabashedly feminine and hopelessly romantic, Minna flounces directly out of a Merchant-Ivory film. Finnish designer Minna Hepburn couples antique Scottish lace with a magpie’s nest of vintage buttons, brooches, and other flea-market finds to create an unapologetically sweet range of dresses, blouses, and coats. Cropped jackets made from British wool are thrown over sumptuous frocks sewn from recycled fabrics, while hand-embellished details imbue these reconstructed garments with a timeless Old World charm.
The first thing—and perhaps the only thing—you need to know about Makepiece is that it raises its own sheep. The British label spins the wool into yarn, then knits it locally to produce dramatically ruched winter dresses, gauzy scalloped-edged cardigans, and winsomely ruffled scarves.
Founded in 2004 by Nicola Sherlock and Beate Kubitz, Makepiece recently started experimenting with low-impact wovens, including hemp silk and vintage fabrics, to create slinky camisoles and pintucked blouses.
One glance at Rachael Cassar’s glamorous, semi-couture constructions and we were scraping our jaws off the floor. The 2007 winner of Mittelmoda, an Italian fashion competition for emerging designers, Cassar creates her pieces from reclaimed clothing, which she then upcycles into her extraordinary designs.
Her philosophy can be summed up thus: To replace cheaply made fashion with equally appealing but sustainable pieces. “Designers no longer have an excuse,” she says, “for not using alternative materials as technology is constantly improving.”