• Eco Fashion Week | Image by Jason Hargrove
    April 10, 2016

    Eco Fashion Week and the rise of sustainable fashion

    With Lily Cole and Sophie Turner making a statement in ‘green’ red carpet dresses at this year’s Oscars, and collections from sustainable brands like Reformation frequently selling out, eco fashion’s style credentials are on the rise.

    And this week, Eco Fashion Week kicks off its 10th year of shows in Vancouver.

    With five days of runways, style challenges and talks, Eco Fashion Week aims to encourage the industry to find better ways to design and market clothes, and inspire us to shop better and move away from fast fashion.

    Vee Pho, PR Manager of the event, says:

    “We want to make [the move towards sustainable fashion] easier, and not this daunting task that seems impossible…There are many small steps we can all take to better the industry, because at this rate it is not sustainable.”

    The average North American now throws away 81 lbs of textiles every year – an increase of 400% on 20 years ago – so the need to change shopping habits and promote sustainable fashion is becoming more urgent.

    And despite the historically bad image of green fashion, the collections at Eco Fashion Week don’t match the stereotypical perceptions that many hold.

    “From what we have been seeing on our runway, [eco fashion] is far from being a granola style. Eco Fashion includes vintage or handmade and it can be extremely stylish” says Vee.

    Among the designers showing on the runway will be Jeff Garner of Prophetik, and Mishel Bouillet, designer of Models Own debut mini line, ‘Control’.

    Locally produced in Vancouver, the ‘Control’ collection aims to reduce textile waste generated through the process, from eliminating back stock to making savings in production. It’s a step away from harmful fast fashion, and part of the slow fashion movement.

    But as Vee explains, this is just one approach to making fashion more sustainable.

    “Each brand or individual has to find their own “Eco Recipe” based on their financial, human and material resources as well as their beliefs.

    “It could be locally-made clothing or locally-sourced materials, low water consumption or natural dyes. There is more than one way to be ‘eco’.”

    Having shown in Vancouver and Seattle, Vee says there are plans to expand Eco Fashion Week further. And we could see more eco fashion at major fashion weeks in future too –  although sustainable fashion initiative Estethica has been part of London Fashion Week since 2006, there is still a lot more that can be done.

    Vee explains:

    “The word ‘eco’ has been scary for a while. We think that it is all or nothing…so to focus on eco components for fashion weeks is a major step, a scary one. Are we going to see more of green and eco in major fashion week? Yes, but it will be more like a mix of Orsola De Castro’s ‘four Ts’ (transparency, traceability, toxicity, textile waste), as well as the story behind, purpose and happiness.”

    But eco fashion is not just in the hands of brands and designers. Individual shoppers can make the difference too – and it doesn’t have to mean a boycott of your favourite shops.

    “Every time we shop, the first question we should ask ourselves is: “Do I really need it”? “Do I really want it”?”, says Vee.

    By addressing the real reason behind the buying impulse (“It’s on sale!” , “I might need it someday”) we can start to shop more responsibly. And, Vee adds, that can even be as simple as taking your own bag when you shop and being open to the idea of second-hand clothing. She says:

    “The movement starts with the individual, so start checking yourself, your consumption habits and how you can contribute to a healthy earth.”

    Eco Fashion Week runs until 14th April in Vancouver. The Collective Conversation will be live streamed across Canada, otherwise you can join the conversation online, at @EcoFashionWeek on Twitter or through the website www.ecofashion-week.com.


    Image cc courtesy of Jason Hargrove


    By Natalie Littlewood



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