- Claire Kalikman
It’s passé at this point to say this was an unusual fashion month - it was the world’s second rendition of digital-first shows. And honestly? We’re not surprised many of the big names chose to sit it out. It’s hard to generate excitement without the fashion cavalcade traipsing from city to city, generating buzz along the way. But an unexpected upside of this more subdued fashion month is that smaller brands got a chance to shine. Although some are speaking with worry about the many major brands opting to sit out NYFW either because of COVID or because they’re rethinking fashion weeks altogether, it left room for newer designers to show their pieces. Here we spotlight the best sustainable shows from each fashion week.
Copenhagen Fashion a week implemented a new system that grades fashion brands on their sustainability, instead of leaving it up to the designers. This is a clever innovation to both take some of the onus off designers and eliminate greenwashing - we wonder if other fashion weeks will follow suit.
CFW presented its Sustainability Award to the Nordic-cool brand House of Dagmar (although we must note that the Sustainability Award was presented by Zalando, a fast-fashion company). Dagmar is committed to using recycled materials in place of virgin ones and using less water and fewer chemicals. The brand showed a fashion video of a Marlene Dietrich lookalike model wearing the brand’s gorgeous pieces around Copenhagen. The collection features wide-leg Pants, gorgeous jackets, and tailored separates - If we ever make a return to the office, we want to be wearing Dagmar.
The classic Finnish brand Marimekko showed a seasonless capsule collection that is part of its mission to make timeless - not trend driven - pieces. If you’ve spent as much time as we have trawling Gem for vintage Marimekko dresses, then you know Marimekko is at its best when it’s making these kinds of pieces.
While usually a fanfare of high-fashion and big-name designers, New York Fashion Week 2021 instead put emerging talent at the forefront. Unlike that of Copenhagen, the event’s sustainability credentials fell to the responsibility of those showcasing with new designers taking the opportunity to create a more socially-conscious fashion narrative. The Black in Fashion Council, created last summer, showed 16 brands, among them Chelsea Paris and Come Back as a Flower.
Ka Wa Key from London presented a gender neutral show inspired by fairy tales. The brand used stories and fairy tales as a way to escape during the pandemic. Their clothes are suitably dreamy. We’d be awfully happy loafing around the house in one of their rainbow sweater-scarf-hat combos.
Gabriela Hearst, a designer with a longtime commitment to sustainability, proved she hasn’t forgotten about her namesake brand since taking over the reins at Chloé. Hearst was inspired this season by Hildegard of Bingen - an unusual style icon, you might think, but Hearst was inspired by the Benedictine abbess’s interest in herbalism. She reported that last year 40% of the materials used in the production of her collections were repurposed and deadstock. Her 2021 goal is 50%. She is also bringing better sustainability practices to Richemont-owned Chloé.
Across the pond in London, Priya Ahluwalia, founder of Ahluwalia, received The Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design. The designer was inspired this season by travel and the Harlem Renaissance, and the colors of Kerry James Marshall’s paintings.
As usual, Vivienne Westwood flexed her sustainability chops with a collection Inspired by several of 18th-century artist François Boucher’s rococo paintings. Vivienne Westwood’s FW21 collection saw upcycling and repurposing materials take centre-stage with 90% of materials used pieces having a reduced environmental impact.
Over in Stockholm, we’re crushing hard on Jennifer Blom’s ethereal dresses (and we’re in good company - they’re a favorite of the Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden). She is a low-waste designer devoted to making long-lasting pieces. We know if we were lucky enough to own one of these glamorous pieces, we’d never part with it.