The Sustainable Angle
by Yasmin Jones-Henry
Fashion has a future.
After the fire and brimstone that 2018 unleashed with heightened levels of press scrutiny into the modern day slavery, pollution and excess of the fashion industry, I am pleased to announce that 2019 brings with it a more conciliatory and positive outlook for the sector. After witnessing the progress at London Fashion Week Mens at the start of this month, it is safe to say, among the New Gen of designers, sustainability is at the very core of their design philosophy. Ethical fashion is more than a passing trend. It is the future of fashion.
The concept of ethical fashion and eco fashion is not new. The UK has a long history of producing ethical entrepreneurs, from Josiah Wedgewood, to Katherine Hamnett and Anita Roddick (founder of the BodyShop). While the rest of the world cottons onto veganism and wellness, in a quiet pocket of UK industry there has always been an agitator, a reformer working for change.
So, it came as no surprise when I sat down with Nina Marenzi, the founder of the Sustainable Angle, that she explained that her journey began with her dissertation project at Imperial College, London. ‘Organic Cotton: Reasons Why the Fashion Industry is Dragging its Heels’ was the title of Marenzi’s dissertation for her MSc in Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. In order to complete this project she was required to interview numerous fashion designers, representatives of the textiles manufacturing industry and NGOs. Her research uncovered a desperate need for a curated sustainable textiles showcase. A lack of awareness, Marenzi explains, was the biggest hinderance to evolution in fashion’s manufacturing processes. Thus, the Future Fabrics Expo was created. In 2010, Marenzi established The Sustainable Angle in order to initiate and support projects aimed at reducing the environmental impact of the industry.
The Sustainable Angle is both a platform for independent manufacturers and a solution provider for designers with a growing conscience in all matters concerning sustainability and conservation. Many stare in wonder at the plummeting share prices of the UK’s fast fashion high street brands, but it is no coincidence. As government legislation begins to flex it’s muscles addressing the plastic problem and pollution, brands who have contributed to the growing problems, find themselves in a PR nightmare. A succession of reports from the Financial Times and the Global Slavery Index 2018, sent ricochets through the industry as the reality of the fashion industry’s involvement in modern day slavery and child labour, has left many unable to return to their previous positions of complacency.
Revolution (not reform) – is the only alternative. So it seems that at the precise moment the industry pivots towards rhetoric around sustainable fashion and conservation, an organisation dedicated to this very cause stands ready, waiting, with open arms.
Apple-leather, recycled wood chips transformed into a cotton substitute, bio-degradable sequins and recycled polyester were just a handful of the sample materials on display at the press preview for the Future Fabrics Expo 2019. Attached to each sample was a label, giving the reader a brief synopsis of the composition, it’s environmental features, and contact details of the factory that manufactures it.
I have always maintained that for fashion to be ‘Fashion’ it must also be functional. Anything else is idle vanity. With the in depth research The Sustainable Angle does, in bringing the latest innovations to the market, designers have an opportunity to create something that is both aesthetically pleasing that does not harm the environment, the farmers or the local economies that support the industry.
Fashion must never again be separated from its manufacturing and agricultural roots. With the fast fashion epidemic, it became detached under a ‘See Now, Buy Now’ frenzy of mass consumption. The end result is landfill waste, micro plastics and polluted water systems. Sustainability is about survival, not just of a particular economic sector, but of life on Earth itself. If the fashion industry is to survive it must first evolve. The key to this evolution? (I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again) People first, profit later.
The Future Fabrics Expo will be held at Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, London 24th-25th January.
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