International Women’s Day Edition: Women in sustainability and fashion

by Darina Granik March 04, 2020

International Women’s Day Edition: Women in sustainability and fashion

For this International Women’s Day we wanted to celebrate women’s impact on our planet in terms of sustainability and luxury fashion. It has been discussed in media, and Green Peace has reported that “feminism and environmentalism go hand in hand. Together, they provide a way out of the current global crisis.” [1] Notably, it is mostly female activists, fashion designers, influencers and writers who take on action to carry the message of importance of eco-consciousness to consumers. Below we are going to focus on a few great women, who make their impact on such a hot topic.

Livia Firth. Ex-wife of a brilliant actor, Colin Firth, Livia Firth has built her own name in the industry as an environmental activist and renowned speaker. She helped to shape this issue as part of vocabulary of glamorous fashion and entertainment industry and proved that it is not only a concern of the hippies. Livia is a co-founder and Creative Director of Eco-Age, a consultancy firm that provides tailored sustainability solutions for brands and luxury labels including Erdem, Gucci, Chopard, Stella McCartney, as well as e-tailers Matchesfashion.com and Net-A-Porter. She is also a founder of the Green Carpet Challenge (GCC). In 2020 she was appointed as a Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Vogue Arabia.

Green Carpet Challenge is an initiative that “pairs glamour with ethics, serving to raise the profile of a brand on red carpets around the world, putting sustainability in the spotlight underpinned by digital disruption” [2]. Taking advantage of her privileged position, Livia Firth promoted sustainably created gowns and contributed to the sustainable narrative during the most important and covered entertainment events, like Oscars and MET Gala.

January 15th 2020, marked 10 years since Firth and her friend, the journalist Lucy Siegle, launched their blog, the Green Carpet Challenge, on vogue.co.uk. [3] First it was a real challenge, big fashion designers laughed at her, but in 10 years Livia has persuaded 250 celebrities to train their spotlight on sustainability. In 2017 she established Green Carpet Fashion Awards Italia. On top of that, after 10 years, the impact of GCC was obvious when in 2020 BAFTA awards proposed a sustainable dress code, encouraging the A-list celebrities to either re-wear their previous gown or wear something created according to sustainable and eco-friendly guidelines.

Livia is a recognized UN Leader of Change and has also been awarded with the UN Fashion 4 Development Award and the Rainforest Alliance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sustainability. She spoke at the World Economic Forum and produced a documentary “True Cost” (2014), that opened the eyes of consumers to the poor working conditions in Bangladesh. This documentary was named as one of 10 Best Fashion Documentaries of the Decade by Hollywood Reporter. [4]

Stella McCartney. Acclaimed British fashion designer, Stella McCartney, has made sustainability her signature. Being a strong supporter of animal rights and a lifelong vegetarian, McCartney uses the most sustainable and “animal-free” materials for her creations, she does not use neither leather nor fur. Her supply chains are transparent and traceable, her material are ethically sourced.

Back in 1995, graduating from Central Saint Martins, she became known for her romantic dresses, made of antique silk and lace that she found in flea markets in London, already putting a sustainable stamp on her creations, although it was not a thing back then. In 2001 she founded her namesake brand as a joint venture with luxury conglomerate Gucci Group (now Kering) and in 2018 she bought off their stakes of the company and now fully owns it herself.

Even though she formed a partnership with a leather goods companies (Gucci’s bread and butter are leather handbags and wallets), she proved she can profit off her leather-free products. Stella McCartney’s iconic Falabella bag is made of synthetic leather and lined with recycled fake suede. She uses ECONYL - a regenerated nylon composed of used carpets, old fishing nets, and fabrics scraps. Her Falabella handbags are lined with ECONYL jacquard, and the Falabella Go line (backpacks, overnight duffels, totes) and technical outerwear, like parkas and puffers, are made of ECONYL nylon.

Iconic Falabella bag

In 2016 she switched from virgin cashmere to “regenerated” (or “reclaimed”) cashmere made from post-manufacturing waste, such as cuttings gathered from the factory floor. It is 92% less damaging to the environment. By 2025 she aims to source only organic cotton for denim and jersey. She is a client but also an investor in many sustainable innovative companies and start-ups that are working towards creating new materials and lowering human impact.

Stella McCartney's Winter 2019 Ad Campaign

Stella McCartney has a great influence for the whole Kering group. Her company in 2010 banned all use of PVC, one of the most common plastic, also known as a carcinogen when it decomposes. In 2016 all Kering brands followed.

Stella McCartney's womenswear autumn/winter 2017 advertising campaign, focusing on landfills full of plastic

Stella McCartney is a great advocate of buying less but quality. In an interview with Dana Thomas for the book “Fashionopolis” she said, “At Stella McCartney, we have a lot of entry price points that, for luxury fashion, are not extortionate… and if you can’t afford it the first time around, get it in the sale. Get it in the sale of the sale of the sale. Get it second hand… Instead of buying five hundred things for X amount” -i.e. fast fashion- “buy fewer things that will last longer”- i.e. better made, if costlier, fashion. “You will have more pride attached to them, you will have a better-quality product, and it will save you well for a long period of time”[5, p. 166]. And we, at Lux Second Chance, cannot agree more!

You can shop Stella McCartney's selection here - 

https://luxsecondchance.com/collections/stella-mccartney

Meghan Markle. The Duchess of Sussex doesn’t need any introduction, but rather an explanation why we included her in this list. In 2019 she was named the most powerful dresser of the year by Lyst, global fashion search engine, in its Year in Fashion 2019 report. Shoppers increasingly searched for items similar to the Duchess of Sussex’s wardrobe, who famously supports slow fashion and ethical brands, including Stella McCartney who designed her wedding reception gown. Unlike Instagram stars and “fashion influencers” who promote throwaway culture by posting a photo in a new outfit every day and seemingly discarding it afterwards, the duchess famously re-wears many of her designer dresses.

Meghan Markle in custom made Stella McCartney wedding reception gown

For her African Royal tour with Prince Harry, it was noted by media, how sustainable and ecological Markle’s wardrobe was. On her tour she was wearing dresses made of recycled materials, from small local indie and ethical brands, as well as she re-wore some dresses, previously worn on another Royal tours in Morocco, Australia and Fiji.

According to People Magazine, “The sustainable theme [of African tour] was apparent right from the start of the tour, when Meghan wore a black and white print dress from local label Mayamiko. The ethical, zero-waste fashion brand uses reclaimed and up-cycled materials alongside locally sourced artisanal fabrics from Malawi. Training disadvantaged women in their workshop, many of whom are affected by the HIV pandemic, their collections are produced in limited numbers and of course, Meghan’s Dalitso Dress instantly sold out”.[6] She also wears jeans from the brand Outland Denim, that also trains and employs exploited and abused women in Cambodia. Exposure of the brand, worn by Markle on several occasions, increased the demand for their product and allowed Outland Denim to employ more women and provide them with a better life. [7]

The ethical, zero-waste fashion brand uses reclaimed and upcycled materials alongside locally sourced artisanal fabrics from Malawi

Meghan Markle wears the 'Harriet' jeans by Outland Denim to different occasions during her royal tour

Not only on that tour, but also on numerous occasions in London, Meghan Markle recycles her outfits, which contributes to the narrative of normalization of famous women (thus regular people too) to be seen and photographed in the same outfit. This reinforces Livia Firth’s idea, that items should be cherished, bought for many years and reworn at least (but better beyond) #30wears. Markle is also a devoted customer of William Vintage and contributes to extending the lifespan of garment for more years.

It was reported and proven in numbers how influential Meghan Markle’s fashion choices are for consumers, so it was important to include her here as a real fashion influencer, who brings eco-conscious fashion to the mainstream and helps reshape the perception.

Meghan Markle with Stella McCartney Falabella bag

Dana Thomas. Dana Thomas is a fashion journalist and writer. She contributes to many important magazines and newspapers, from The New York Times to The Wall Street Journal and Vogue. She is famous for her previously written books “Gods and Kings” (about Alexander McQueen and John Galliano) and “Deluxe: How luxury lost its luster”, which is highly recommended to read to anybody interested in fashion and luxury. We wouldn’t have included her in the list if in 2019 she hadn’t published a book, titled “Fashionopolis. The price of fast fashion and the future of clothes”. This book has been highly acclaimed by critics, fashion-insiders and eco-activists.

Dana Thomas

This book is “an investigation into the damage wrought by the colossal clothing industry and the grassroots high-tech international movement fighting to reform it”. Thomas provides the deepest and the most insightful research on the impact of fast fashion on the planet, people, environment and local economies.

Dana Thomas, the author of Fashionopolis

For this book she crossed the globe and interviewed everyone who might be included in this topic of sustainability - from the victims of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, to farmers who grow organic cotton, create sustainable and non-toxic indigo dye, technicians who create new recycled materials, to creators of fashion companies that have “direct to consumer” supply chains, companies like Reformation and Rent the Runway, to high end designers and their teams, like Stella McCartney, Iris Van Herpen and Mary Katranzou.

Cover of Fashionopolis

As mentioned in one of the reviews, this book should be read by anyone who wears clothes. It is a real eye-opener and hopefully it will influence more people to invest in better quality, long-lasting sustainably made garments. It is really a high time to care where the clothes we put on our body is coming from and the environmental footprint of one T-shirt and one pair of jeans on the whole planet.

The disaster of collapsing of the garment factory Rana Plaza in Bangladesh

 

 

Sources: 

1. https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/19954/feminism-and-environmentalism-go-hand-in-hand-its-gender-day-at-the-global-climate-talks/

2. https://eco-age.com/news/green-carpet-challenge

3. https://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/article/livia-firth-10-years-green-carpet-challenge

4. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/10-best-fashion-documentaries-decade-1262902

5. Dana Thomas, “Fashionopolis”, Penguin Press, 2019

6. https://people.com/royals/meghan-markle-meaningful-message-africa-tour-wardrobe/

7. https://eco-age.com/news/lyst-year-in-fashion-2019-report-sustainability



Darina Granik
Darina Granik

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1 Response

Adrian Ruiz
Adrian Ruiz

June 19, 2020

Brilliant article, loved it

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