When Ethical Fashion Takes Over Dubai: What Can We Learn from Blogger Style Destino?

'Fast and more' culture has been long dominating the world of personal essay, but luckily there are those advocating social change, even as far as in UAE. Fashion blogger Shruti Jain of Style Destino shares her ambition to bring Dubai on the map of ethical blogging world.

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Carin Mansfield: "People do want more, more, more. We want excess. We all have too many things."

As I enter In-Ku on Warren Street, London, I am immediately struck by the simplicity of the store. No huge signs screaming '50% OFF' in your face, no massive heaps of the same clothes surrounding you. It has the feeling of home. We sit down, drink some tea, nibble on some cookies and she starts: "So I guess you want to know what slow fashion means to me?"

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#ShoppingGuide: 14 Ethical Must-Have Pieces for Summer

Warmer days are in full swing - the sun is officially shining past the office yours, which means your summer wardrobe is in desperate need for an ethical makeover. Investing in a few versatile staples that you can wear season after season and dressing them up with some statement pieces is the key to summer chic.

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'The Oscars of Sustainable Fashion': Green Carpet Fashion Awards by Livia Firth are Pairing Ethics with Aesthetics

What kind of an image appears in your mind when someone mentions sustainable fashion? I bet glamorous would not be ranking first in your list. However, the times when clothes made out of recycled plastic and cotton waste were exclusively for spiritual hippies have passed. The global fashion industry is reshaping the image of sustainable fashion - bringing a piece of the glitz and glamour to the eco-friendly clothing industry.

Words: Katrin Kaurov

  Teatro alla Scala. 

Teatro alla Scala. 

Italy announced the Green Carpet Fashion Awards created by Livia Firth’s initiative Eco-Age and the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, which will take place in the famous Milan’s Teatro alla Scala on 24 September 2017, during Fashion Week. The aim is to bring focus to the ethics and sustainability of to the Made in Italy brand, therefore leading the path for other major fashion capitals. The Green Carpet Fashion Awards will feature major brands, including Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Prada and Valentino, whereas each of the haute couture fashion houses will create a unique look according to the strict criteria of the Green Carpet Challenge.

The president of the Camera Nazionale della Moda, Carlo Capasa, describes the event as The Oscars of sustainable fashion. He has the intention to make Milan the cornerstone of eco-friendly fashion, as it pairs well with the Italian conscious lifestyle and biological food production, which are an essential part of the Italian heritage to date.

  Carlo Capasa, Livia Firth and Michele Scannavini.

Carlo Capasa, Livia Firth and Michele Scannavini.

"Italian unique design heritage must be developed and built on the values of environmental protection and social justice in our supply chains, which will uniquely allow Italy to be the added-value designer and manufacturer on the global fashion stage."

Livia Firth, the ambassador of the project, hopes to bring attention to sustainable lifestyle with the Green Carpet Awards, as Italy has always been more about slow, hand-made approach to fashion, with a high focus on quality and uniqueness, in contrast with the general trend of mass-scale fast fashion. She claims that Italian unique design heritage must be developed and built on the values of environmental protection and social justice in our supply chains, which will uniquely allow Italy to be the added-value designer and manufacturer on the global fashion stage.

It is definite that haute couture brands won’t turn back to the 19th-century exclusive, tailor-made ateliers, as a more fast-paced, contemporary mass production is needed to keep up with the global pace of fashion. However, the Green Carpet Awards Challenge lets designers explore new ways of combining the glamour of high-end fashion with environmentally friendly production methods and the large-scale global demand for clothing.
 

From ‘Bottle to Boot’: How Timberland’s New Spring Collection is Helping to Reduce Plastic Waste 

Thread CEO Ian Rosenberger.

Words: Kyra Hanson

Imagine unfolding your towel, spreading your body out in the searing sun, listening to the sea waves lapping against the shoreline, sinking your toes into the silky sand – only to find the grains beneath your feet aren’t silky or the colour of sand, but sharp, angular, brightly coloured bits of plastic. These days, a barefoot walk along a beach such as Newquay’s Tregantle Cove is more like hot-footing it through a football pitch-sized box of Lego. Plastic beaches are a common sight around the world, due to the eight million (at least!) tonnes of plastic, which end up in our oceans every year. But in Haiti and Honduras, Thread International is diverting this waste from the waterways, by turning it into wearable fabric. This spring, the sustainable fabric manufacturer has collaborated with outdoors fashion brand Timberland to launch ThreadX, a menswear collection made from recycled plastic. 

Savant caught up with Ian Rosenberger, founder and CEO of Thread and Margaret Morey-Reuner, Director of strategic partnerships, business development and values marketing with Timberland to trace the origins of the ThreadX collection. 

Photography: Taylor Free Solo

How did the idea for Thread come about? 

IR: I went to Haiti in 2010. My original mission was to document the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. While looking through the 3,000+ photos I took, I noticed they all had two elements in common: piles of trash and poverty in abundance. I remember writing in my journal: “if Haiti could turn trash into money = good.” Once home, I quite literally Googled: “What can you make out of trash?”. I discovered you can make fabric out of plastic waste, and the idea for Thread was born.

 Bales at ECSSA.

Bales at ECSSA.

Collector picking up a bottle of the streets of Les Cayes.

Can you describe your first impressions of Haiti?

IR: I fell in love with Haiti and its people. After talking to Haitians and asking them what they really needed, I found the answer to be what we all fundamentally want – a roof over our heads and a way to give our kids a better life than we had. I was convinced an effective solution would require not just charity, but a money-making enterprise, creating real jobs for the Haitian people, returning the dignity, autonomy and purpose, which the earthquake had stripped away. 

Plastic flakes.

Can you talk us through the manufacturing process of the new Timberland collection?

IR: The process of going from ‘bottle to boot’ begins in Haiti, where more than 1,300 locals collect the plastic bottles that are ultimately developed into Thread fabric. The collectors sell these bottles to 50 Haitian-owned and operated collection centres. The centre owners and individual collectors transport and sell the sorted plastic to Haiti Recycling and Environmental Cleaning Solutions S.A. in Port-au-Prince. At Haiti Recycling, the production line washes and shreds the bottles into a raw material called ‘flake’, which is then sent to US-based factories that melt and shape the flake into a fibre, which is then woven into fabric. 

"Once home, I quite literally Googled: “What can you make out of trash?”"

 Bales of plastic. 

Bales of plastic. 

Timberland purchases the high-quality fabric from us and turns it into durable bags and boots – culminating in the Timberland X Thread collection. Every yard of Thread’s Ground to Good™ fabric supports a network of dignified jobs in the developing world, creating income opportunities, and cleaning up Haiti’s neighbourhoods. It’s one thing to recycle but it’s another to have a lasting impact on people’s lives while you’re creating beautiful products.

 Andre Benoit Dulisson and Marie Josette Alexis. 

Andre Benoit Dulisson and Marie Josette Alexis. 

 Andre Benoit Dulisson.

Andre Benoit Dulisson.

 Kids play soccer at dusk. 

Kids play soccer at dusk. 

Can you describe the thinking behind the design and look of the collection and who would wear it? 

MM: The Timberland X Thread collection utilizes lived-in fabrics for a comfortable look that our consumers enjoy. The city blazer, for example, speaks to a few current trends. Its natural earth tones and deconstructed silhouette are inspired by military uniforms and time-honoured suiting. Our boots are reimagined for year-round appeal and to suit today’s city lifestyle. In this collection the rugged canvas textures, washed leather touches and relaxed tailoring convey the perfect combination of tough-yet-lightweight durability that is unmistakably Timberland. 

Our brand – from classics to newer collections – has gained popularity among a diverse cross-section of men and women. The commonality is that they all appreciate our heritage, style and versatility. Most often, that person is someone who is connected to the outdoors, but in a more casual, everyday way. They care about the outdoors, but they also care about style. In other words, this person is a city dweller who goes for a casual afternoon hike or someone who leaves their house in the morning not knowing if they’re going to spend their afternoon at the park or at the movies. Timberland allows consumers to look and feel their best, from head-to-toe, for any adventure ahead.

Timberland x Thread.

It has been highlighted how plastic fibres (recycled or not) still ultimately end up in our oceans as they break away from our garments when put through a washing machine. What is Thread doing to solve this issue?  

IR: We are keenly aware of the issue of microfibers being released back into our oceans and believe more research and inter-organisational collaboration is needed to develop long-term global solutions. Thread chooses to partner with companies, like Timberland, that are committed to finding sustainable solutions to issues like this.

Uncollected plastic - particularly in coastal areas - is most likely to be washed out to sea. That’s an estimated eight million tons of plastic entering the ocean every year. In Haiti and Honduras, the lack of proper trash disposal and an abundance of waste are the root of many health and environmental problems. In Haiti, most plastics that are collected are eventually burned, releasing harmful toxins into the atmosphere. Thread continues to work to clean the streets of Haiti and Honduras by collecting and recycling trash. And, more importantly, we are creating dignified jobs for the people who live there, enabling them to improve their quality of life and provide for their families.

"I was convinced an effective solution would require not just charity, but a money-making enterprise, creating real jobs for the Haitian people, returning the dignity, autonomy and purpose, which the earthquake had stripped away." 

 Delivery truck with super sacks of plastic. 

Delivery truck with super sacks of plastic. 

Both Will.I.AM’s ‘Ekocycle’ collection at Harrods and Pharrell Williams ‘Raw for the Oceans’ campaign with Adidas are steps in the right direction, but one barrier to the democratisation of sustainable fashion practices always seems to be price. Buying sustainably will never beat Primark prices so can we ever envisage a time when sustainable, transparent fashion is the norm? 

MM: I dream of the day when that becomes the case! But there certainly are some challenges the industry as a whole will need to address, including scalability to help bring pricing down, before it can become a reality. It’s exciting to see so many different companies, brands and organisations coming up with innovative solutions to tackle both environmental and social issues. In fact, since 2009, Timberland has given more than 270 million plastic bottles new life in its footwear. And it’s exciting to see the consumer demanding more transparency and accountability in the products they are buying.

Positive role models, such as the pop singers above are one way of encouraging people, and men in particular, into buying sustainably. When did you personally start thinking about where your clothes came from?

IR: Haha. If you saw my own wardrobe you'd laugh. Since I was a kid, I've taken the ‘less is more’ approach. I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, so clothes were worn for pure function. As an adult, that translates into the things I like: classic lines and patterns. I don't chase trends, but originally this wasn't because I was trying to be responsible, it was because I'd only own maybe six shirts at a time (which is definitely still the case). I really love thinking about how this idea might translate into the next apparel economy. What if we could have access to all the clothes we needed, and all we needed was six shirts?

What has been the most challenging aspect of Thread’s journey so far?

IR: The biggest challenge for Thread right now is making sure that our end-product is cost competitive with the fabrics or yarns that these brands are already using.

"What if we could have access to all the clothes we needed, and all we needed was six shirts?"

How do you envision the future of sustainable fashion and Thread’s place within it? 

IR: Thread aims to be the catalyst for positive change in the fashion industry, improving the economic, social and environmental impacts of making clothes to end poverty. Consumers don’t identify with a bottle, but they do empathise with the people who make the clothes they wear.

When Thread succeeds, it changes the way the apparel industry buys the materials it needs to make clothes. By focusing on goods rather than convenience, brands understand that there’s intrinsic value to the product they are making and the consumer is buying. This is the future of fashion. Thread’s goal is to work with 25 of the largest apparel and footwear brands in the world within the next two years. Timberland has been an excellent inaugural brand partner; stay tuned for future collaborations!

Shop the collection here.

 

Studio August: Embodying Conscious Consonance

Studio August SS17.

I accidentally travelled to Paris one March weekend, only to discover that in addition to the buzz and bravura of another frivolous fashion week prevailing the city the attendance of which I (despite my rigorous attempts) failed to escape, there was an opening event of BMA (Brand Management Agency) showroom in the upbeat Le Marais district one Friday night. Further to my amusement, two dynamic Estonian brands had already been picked up by the new agency! Sustainable, yet immaculately classy Studio August, bringing together GOTS-certified fabrics and blissfully harmonious, symmetrical lines, among them. So, I sat there (with a glass of Savignon Blanc in one hand), carefully caressing and admiring these elegant Nordic designs from Studio August's new mindfully-crafted collection, communicating the very essence of 'Parisian chic'. The pieces that had travelled all the way from Nordic Estonia to our favourite fashion capital, of course. That encounter passionately fueled my genuine interest in Estonian sustainable fashion, let alone, I immediately yearned for an inspiring one-to-one with the head designer, Äli Kargoja, to keep myself on the pulse of the diligent and humble, yet rapidly evolving and incredibly sought-after Nordic sustainable fashion scene.

How did your journey of becoming a designer take shape? 

This journey was a rather natural one for me, I knew for a long time what I wanted and everything I did was shaped towards this vision – creating my own line of clothes. My first experience in the industry started as a model, doing shows, showrooms, photo shoots, fittings etc. I had the opportunity to move to Paris and I didn’t hesitate even once on wanting to study there. I enrolled in Studio Bercot fashion school, and these were the most important years of me becoming a designer. My creativity bloomed incredibly during these 3 years. To this day, I am very grateful to my teachers for all their work and support. Life then took me under the talented hand of Nicolas Andreas Taralis and from there to an internship in sales team at Maison Martin Margiela. I designed my first collection for August in 2014. 

What were the main cornerstones August was based on? What was the main outlook for you since its inception? 

The main outlook was firstly rather selfish - to express myself creatively and do what I love. As an admirer of minimal aesthetic, I definitely saw lack of that style in my home country. That’s one of the many reasons I decided to base myself here [in Estonia] in the beginning. Another reason was lack of mindfully made sustainable clothing lines in the world in general, to this day.

  Studio August SS17.

Studio August SS17.

Also, sustainable fashion is clearly something quite novel in the Estonian market. How did you find your way to sustainable fashion?

I find that it’s a strong value for a clothing brand, definitely something to stand out with. It's also good to have a more meaningful mission, rather than just starting another clothing label – to give people the choice to consume consciously. 

Who is the woman August is meant for? Wrap it up in a sentence.

August’s customer is a confident woman, who expresses her being, choices and way of thinking/consuming also through the way she dresses. A woman who appreciates comfortable everyday classics with an edge and to whom sustainably made clothes and certified organic fabrics make a huge difference. 

Studio August SS17.

How did your brand find its way to be represented by BMA in Paris? What are the larger goals and opportunities being part of this project brings?

We were contacted by BMA agency about 6 months ago. It brought us a lot of useful feedback from the buyers all around the world. It will surely play its role to help August reach more customers eventually. 

What are your prospects on the international marketplace? How does this idea of 'Parisian chic' tie in with your brand and collections?

As I mentioned earlier, the most important growth for me as a designer took place in Paris during my school years, so it must have injected a fair amount of Parisian chic into my designs as well.

What would you like to bring out as a highlight of your journey as a designer? What would you still like to improve?

I'd like to think I am improving every day. The highlight was the decision to stay true to what I love doing the most, to have the courage to take the beautiful challenge of creating my own line. 

"It's also good to have a more meaningful mission, rather than just starting another clothing label – to give people the choice to consume consciously." 

  Studio August SS17.

Studio August SS17.

At BMA opening, many of us went like, 'Oh, this is like COS, but better'. What's your viewpoint on that comparison? 

COS has beautiful designs. I like their pure Scandinavian aesthetics. But I do try to stand out with my selection of fabrics and also with the sustainable idea behind the brand. 

Is there anything you'd like to see changing in the Estonian fashion system? 

I hope to see changes in the behaviour of the consumers, not only in Estonia. To choose well, there has to be willingness to pay more money for quality that lasts, and avoid fast fashion chains that provide shirts for 7€. A change in consumer behaviour will force changes up on producers and, further along, the ways our clothes are created. 

Studio August SS17.

What are your personal tips for consuming less and being a more mindful shopper-consumer? 

Listen to your conscious! Buying a T-shirt for 7€ means that someone in that production chain has suffered one way or another. In some unfortunate cases even passed away because of tragic accidents, like Rana Plaza in 2013. 

Who have been your main influencers in your journey as a designer?

I can’t point out a particular person of influence. All the people dear to me have a part in it one way or another. 

  Studio August SS17.

Studio August SS17.

"A change in consumer behaviour will force changes up on producers and, further along, the ways our clothes are created." 

Share a thought with us about the future of responsible fashion.

I am convinced that responsible fashion is not a passing trend, but something permanent to stay. Consumers have a growing interest not only towards the clothing, but also towards the values and identity behind the brand. It is important that conscious clothing brands put more emphasis on creating clothes that are stylish and pleasing to the eye to change the stereotype of sustainable clothing being something only for yoga lovers.

https://studio-august.com/