Fashion Week Insiders Call For Sustainability Clarity, Citing Confusing Brand Marketing and “Green-Washing”

Fashion month has come to a close and this season, more than ever, the industry has been under pressure to address its environmental responsibility. There are some steps being taken, whether it is the launch of the British Fashion Council’s Positive Fashion Initiative in London or Dior‘s zero-waste, plastic-free, fully recyclable set and tree replanting scheme at their Paris show, but what does that mean on the ground? What do the people attending the shows, working in the industry, buying the products and living their day-to-day lives think and feel about the role of sustainability in fashion? We took to the streets at London Fashion Week (LFW) to find out.

To delve deeper, Techstyler gathered a crew to find out exactly what people know about sustainability in fashion and how they integrate it into their daily lives, if at all. Continuing from our pilot research project back in February, this season we partnered with The British School of Fashion to develop a questionnaire that would capture individuals’ attitudes towards sustainability in fashion, consumer behaviours and personal views on the topic. We then interviewed hundreds of attendees of LFW, both inside and outside the official venues, over the five days. 

Image: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

This season saw pressure groups including Extinction Rebellion (XR) and PETA protesting against the environmental and ethical impacts of fashion, culminating in a “funeral” march by XR featuring a coffin inscribed with “RIP LFW 1983-2019” sending a clear message to the BFC and wider industry. While these groups were protesting outside the official LFW venue of 180 The Strand, Techstyler and “parent” company BRIA were inside presenting solutions, seeking to understand the current climate and calling for change, amongst other innovators. There are solutions and designers doing “good”, some of which were showcased in the BFC’s Positive Fashion space including Patrick McDowell, RE;CODE and the global movement supporting the UN sustainable development goals #TOGETHERBAND; but there is also huge consumer confusion which needs to be addressed before we can expect widespread change in sustainable consumption. We wanted to find out what’s actually going on on the ground, and this starts with you (yes, you).

Patrick McDowell at LFW. Image: Techstyler

The study found that the overarching sentiment when it came to sustainability in fashion was a resounding, and slightly concerning, “I don’t know”. When asked “which brands do you see as the most sustainable”, one respondent replied, “Tricky question. How do you define sustainability?”, and that, ladies and gentlemen, sums it up in a neat bow. This commentary could probably end right there, but there’s a lot at stake here. If we are out on the streets fighting for our future, we should probably understand what we are fighting for and our roles in the battle beyond the placards.

Image: Techstyler

After combining this past month’s data with our research from February, it is evident that there is a lot of miscommunication and confusion, and, let’s not forget, that the respondents are not regular consumers on the high street; they are buyers, designers, stylists, journalists and fashion students. In other words, they are those at the forefront of the industry. The answers were incredibly varied, showing a large gap in knowledge, but ultimately a desire to do better. Many simply don’t know how because the messaging is highly confusing; brands can say what they want around sustainability as key terms like “organic” and “natural” aren’t even regulated, never mind the word “sustainability”, which, to be honest, is anyone’s guess at this point. One respondent even said that the term “sustainability” is itself off-putting.

“There is too much negativity arising around the term “sustainable” and a huge part of it comes from the misunderstandings created when communicating it.”

Questionnaire respondent
Image: Techstyler

Respondents were asked to list the brands they see as the most sustainable, at which many reeled off those who are shouting the loudest but are not necessarily backing up their efforts up with facts. When telling us which brands they are wearing, high street fast fashion was ever-present, despite the interviewees claims to be concerned about the issues involved with fast fashion manufacturing and consumption. H&M was one brand that regularly appeared on both the “most sustainable” and “least sustainable” brand lists, thanks to their Conscious Collection campaigns. Eight respondents who said they were wearing Zara at the time of the interview then went on to list it as a least sustainable brand, which is sufficiently revealing alone. Five out of the eight claimed that sustainability was important to them, so there is a clear disconnect here which needs to be addressed. Overall many simply didn’t know what to believe. “I think there is too much green-washing going on with brands and the marketing teams confuse the sustainability message. They make it harder for consumers to understand sustainability,” said one respondent. 

BFC’s Positive Fashion Panel. Image: Instagram

Alongside the confusion there was also positivity around the growth of the sustainability movement and a recognition of our individual responsibility, with one respondent saying “I think [sustainable fashion] has a potential to be huge in the future” and another recognising that, “it is so important to think of your wardrobe and how to make it last longer than a season.”

Many are calling for industry change: for designers to implement sustainable strategies, brands to be truthful and transparent, and fellow consumers to make the “right” choices.  And this sentiment has grown slightly since last season’s research, showing a steady change in attitudes in just a short time; short, but impactful, with the rise of Greta Thunberg and her Global Climate Strikes, XR mobilising groups across the world to call for action, and 150 brands signing up to the G7 fashion pact after a highly publicised 45th Summit in Biarritz. 

“Is there really a place for fashion week anymore? Seems out-dated and pretty distasteful given the current climate crisis… It seems like a parade of excess that isn’t needed”

Questionnaire Respondent
Image: Techstyler

In response to London Fashion Week being well and truly under the microscope this season, the British Fashion Council hosted a panel to discuss the climate crisis and fashion’s role in both causing and, hopefully, reversing it. Panellists including Bel Jacobs representing Extinction Rebellion, Tamsin Lejeune founder of Common Objective, Cameron Saul of Bottletop, and model and activist Arizona Muse were moderated by journalist Tamsin Blanchard on the final day of LFW to debate the best way forward. In an open and honest discussion, Bel Jacobs reiterated XR’s warning that we are “in the middle of the 6th mass extinction”, going on to say “we called for fashion week to be cancelled to use this as a platform to broadcast the climate emergency. Everyone will stop and recognise (the emergency) if the BFC does that. It’s too late for incremental change.” Arizona Muse proposed that “fashion week could be harnessed for good [so that it] reflects a more humane approach.” Fashion Week’s role in this change was agreed to be pivotal and the time is now.

Image: Techstyler

Reflecting on our time at LFW, there was a palpable air of eco-anxiety both inside and outside the venue. Although there was consumer confusion surrounding exactly how they can be part of the solution, there was an encouraging desire to understand and do more. The public are looking to brands and the wider industry for clear indicators and evidence of widespread change, with one saying, “The industry is on the right track [it] just needs to gather momentum”. Experts joining the discussion are calling for major change for the sake of our survival as a species, nevermind the survival of Fashion Week as we know it. Following this initial research, Techstyler and The British School of Fashion will be releasing more detailed reports in the coming months and replicating the study internationally in 2020. The need for change has never been so urgent, and to make these changes sustainable we must understand the issues at a grassroots level. There is still a long way to go, but change is in the air and how these changes manifest next fashion month will be key, as, this time, the world is watching. 

Image: Techstyler

We would like to thank the research crew for volunteering their time over the last two seasons. Keep an eye out for more results from our recent study, and news of the international research on Techstyler’s Instagram, Techstyler.fashion and by signing up to our newsletter.

Edda Gimnes Makes Fantastical Fashion

“I wasn’t exactly top of my class, my techniques were a bit out there.”  Edda Gimnes confirmed what I feared when lecturing recently – that in some institutions, students were being moulded, polished and judged according to a narrow set of guidelines where a certain ‘aesthetic’ prevails and is thought of as ‘good design’ and all else is less than acceptable.  Want to design shiny ballgowns?  Tacky!  Want to scribble on blank canvases then slash and top-stitch them together a la’ paper doll dress?  No way!  Fashion design is almost entirely subjective, but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise if you listen to some schools of thought in fashion education (no pun intended).


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Edda Gimes AW16 collection and inspiration

What makes a good design?  What makes a great designer?  Does it have anything to do with taste?  Does it matter?  The question I prefer to ask is how does the designer’s work make me feel?  What does it inspire in me?  If the answer is nothing, then subjectively, it’s not for me.  In the case of Edda Gimnes collection it filled me with happiness, excitement and wonder.  I think fashion is largely about magic… and clothes.  Edda’s clothes are sprinkled with a childlike fun that came from her abandon and wit in scrawling across vast sections of cloth with her non-dominant hand in an effort to return to a time when she was learning to draw – to return to being a kid.  The charming naivety leaps off the fabrics which are stiff cotton ‘canvases’ that showcase her monochrome illustrations to great effect.  The jagged seams and raw edges suggest an immediacy of design realisation – it’s like she created the pieces with fervour before their essence could be lost.  She admits to struggling with pattern cutting and finding a way around that limitation by creating cutouts roughly in the shape of a dress sketched flat on a piece of paper.  Rather than being held back by her limitation, it fed into the quick, naive mood of the illustrations and brought them to life in an honest and ‘fitting’ way.

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The slow and at times laborious nature of refinement and re-working in clothing design and creation can mean that all that is human about the design is smoothed away, leaving a perfect but impersonal result.  The ‘hand’ in the creation – the personality – is lost.  Edda’s clothes are theatrical and honest – not unlike her.  Edda’s personality shines boldly throughout the collection and I want to wear it all.  I was in and out of tops and skirts and shoes and lived for a little while in her world.  It was fun, personal and compelling.

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To hear Edda talk about receiving a warm and positive response to her work was a joy.   She was still beaming from meeting Jimmy Choo earlier that day.  He took a huge shine to her and her collection.  He adored her mis-matched and customised high street shoes.  I can’t help but think of Quentin Blake‘s illustrations when I look at her black scribbles atop the pointy toed shoes.  She beams with the recollection of reading Roald Dahl‘s books as a child and initially couldn’t remember where her inspiration for this illustration style came from, until she dug deep into her memories and saw the connection.


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I’m delighted to bring the passion and energy of Edda’s designs to the ‘pages’ of Techstyler.  Her garments are digitally printed and cut and sewn in London and when I spoke to her at Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week she was taking private orders.  Sara Maino from Vogue Italia stopped by and Edda had interest from boutiques in Japan while I was chatting to her, so get your orders in fast, before everyone’s chasing a piece of Edda Gimnes magic.

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Edda Gimnes AW16 Lookbook

When rounding off this post I read a completely unrelated (but brilliant) article and realised that the success of Edda’s collection lies in its authenticity.  It offered this:

“When you’re not trying to hide away the real version of yourself, people will respond’.  When you’re demonstrating authenticity, not some contrived personality, that’s when you find a way to reach out and connect with other human beings”

Onwards and upwards, authentically.

Header Image: Edda Gimnes AW16 Lookbook

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London Fashion Week Serves up Films, Fraying and Fizz

Today’s London Fashion Week opener was a screening at the Curzon Soho by recently launched luxury accessories brand Hill & Friends and it was friends by both name and nature with a gaggle of family and familiar faces flooding in as people caught up and chatted intimately pre-show.  I felt I may have been gatecrashing slightly and sidled over to take dozens of pic’s of the pink popcorn and teaser film playing in the foyer, pre-screening.


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It was all fun, cheeky and very English.  The swag was cute too, with a bag choc (wink) full of pink sweets (aka lunch) thrown in to the (sadly cloth, not the Hill & Friends leather kind made lovingly by hand in Somerset) bag alongside the stickers and look book, which was a vast catalogue of the Autumn Winter Collection of including bag details and prices.  The event served as a brilliant piece of branding and a great sales pitch.  I fizzed on out of there to Brewer Street Carpark contemplating the fashion film format versus the live installation presentation format.  The film was fun, witty and polished.  It had a strong air of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel about it (the show notes cited The Italian Job – hence the Mini – as an influence) and its charm makes it very watchable.  The hand bags replace look in Hill & Friends take on The Italian Job’s bullion. It’s worth noting this is the second direct reference to a Wes Anderson film in the past two days, following Gabriel Vielma’s inspiration from The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou mentioned in yesterday’s post, confirming his already ardent fashion following.

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Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Peter Collinson’s The Italian Job, 1969

Bags don’t necessarily demand a live show or presentation, I guess, and a presenting a film is a chance to carefully control the branding of the erm, brand.  Already stocked at Net-a-porter, Harrods, Selfridges amongst others, I bet they’ll sell bags of bags!

At the Brewer Street Carpark I revisited Susana Bettencourt’s knitwear collection.  Today she presented the collection on a handful of models atop plinths at the Designer Showrooms, which brought her knits to life and showcased the textures. I caught Susana and her team as they were setting up.  Susana is involved in the ‘Rebirth’ of the knitting industry in Portugal, having accepted a lead lecturing role in Knitwear design at two Universities in the Porto area, facilitating the reinstatement of knitwear design courses which had not been offered to students since the mid-nineties.  Portugal is a European hub of knitwear manufacturing (jersey fabrics and knitwear) and supplies some of the luxury fashion houses in Paris.  The Portuguese just aren’t as prone to self-promotion as, say, the Italian knitwear manufacturers are.  It’s an exciting time for knitwear manufacturers who are working directly with the two Universities to support the knitwear design students and provide practical hands-on experience – a must for a design discipline as technical as knitwear.  An in depth interview with Susana will follow this piece, so look out for major knitwear geekery.


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Next stop was the Chelsea College of Arts for Danielle Romeril‘s sixteenth century futuristic sportswear mash-up with graphic tape sets and a killer soundtrack – she had me at Tame Impala.  The show notes were accompanied by a playlist, serving as a reminder that our perception of visual artistry is effected by the sound experienced alongside it.   The presentation format delivered yet again with brilliant access to clothing details and engagement with Danielle’s team.

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I met Susie, Danielle’s pattern cutter; Sarah, Casting Director and Nobuko, Stylist.  We chatted about the presentation briefly and the benefit to the designer of getting instant feedback before Nobuko had to run-off to check on an outfit change.  The models work on rotation and take a five minute break at regular intervals.  Ever tried to stand still(ish) for two hours?  It’s difficult, and sometimes it shows.

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I got totally absorbed in Danielle’s presentation, visiting each of the three rooms twice and finding new clothing details and angles to shoot each time.  It was a relaxed journey of discovery through the collection, picking out details from the show notes and seeking them out in the finished articles.

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Stylist: Nobuko Tannawa at Webber Represents – Set Design: Meriel Hunt at Undercranked – Casting Director: Sarah Bunter at Bunter Casting – Lighting Designer: Jim Agnew – Makeup: Niamh Quinn at LGA Management and the MAC Pro Team – Hair: Mari Ohashi at LGA Management using Bumble and Bumble – PR: Justine Fairgrieve at The Wolves – Graphic Design: Sophie Demay – Music: DJ Tuki

On to Phoebe English‘s desperate and gloomy waiting room.  Housed in a basement theatre at the ICA, the presentation was a sombre affair of models appearing anaesthetised by the boredom of the waiting room scene.  Here, the sound played a hypnotic and maddening part of the presentation in the form of a recorded voice in the vein of ‘hold the line, your call will be answered shortly…’ on a loop.

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An at-arms-length presentation, it was the most theatrical of those I’ve seen with a strongly dark narrative that carried through from the models entering the set and taking a ticket before waiting their turn to be called to a check point before being visually assessed, preened and dispatched by a clip-board wielding quality controller (my summation).

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This presentation saw the models contributing personally to the creation of the piece, like actresses.  The show notes describe Phoebe’s strong focus on textiles, incorporating shredded sequins, knotting, knitting with elastic and a variety of string and silk weaving.  She collaborated with John Smedley on knits and Hereu on shoes.  The sound was by Gabriel Bruce.   I can’t wait to see the collection up close in the Designer Showrooms as the textile and construction details were difficult to capture during the presentation.


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Phoebe English – AW16

Stylist: Ellie Grace Cumming at Streeters  – Make Up: Inge Grognard at Jedroot and using MAC – Hair: Cyndia Harvey at Streeters using Phyto – Manicure: Ama Quashie at CLM Hair – Casting Director: Philip Ellis – Creative Collaborator: Rose Easton – Production: Megan Sharkey – Music: Gabriel Bruce – Set Design: Philip Cooper – Set Realisation: Sam Edkins – Shoes: Phoebe English and Hereu – Press: Spenser Therry at Purple PR

The brilliant presentations I’ve reported on so far show the depth of talent, creativity and skill amongst the teams creating these dynamic installations.  I’ve included a role call of all credited contributors so you can check out their individual work in more detail.

Stand by for the second instalment of Sunday’s shows on Techstyler, but for now I’ll leave you with this anatomical-inspired gem from Phoebe English’s set-making collaborator Sam Edkin‘s homepage.  Go explore:

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Header image: Danielle Romeril AW16

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