FALL 2014 BEST ETHICAL + SUSTAINABLE COLLECTIONS

MIA, not the band… Me! And with good reason! I have a number of exciting projects underway. Never the less it’s left little time to post here and in my absence there has been so much I’ve wanted to share. My blog-to-do list is lonnnng…!!!

Fashion month may be over, however I think it’s the perfect time to reflect back at the month that was and review next seasons traceable trends…

Let’s start with the most luxurious ethical, sustainable conscientious designer collections this season on the runway.

maiyetf14

Continue reading

ANGORA, LET’S THINK THIS THROUGH

bb4cf6cc3917681003f54a4b33b49378

How many of us think twice when we see Angora labeled in the fabric contents of an item we plan to purchase? Do you stop and wonder, “was the angora farmed ethically?” Or like many, do you consider Angora a natural fibre like wool and skim past with approval or… perhaps you may not even think to look at the fabric contents and purchase it all the more blissful.

Admittedly I was guilty of the second infraction. I needed a few toques (beanies to my US friends) for the cold winter weather and I picked up a few H&M toques prior to Christmas.  This soft black Angora toque caught my eye. Although I always look at the fabric content and construction quality of everything… it’s instinctual! I ignorantly thought, “it’s not that different than wool” and so proceeded to purchase. Perhaps shamefully, I like the look of those soft angora toques and selfishly wanted one of my own… mind you the H&M one lacked the cache of designer styles I’d seen elsewhere, but I thought it would do. It wasn’t long after my beautifully ethical friend brought to my attention that H&M among other fast fashion companies (Zara, Forever 21, Asos…) have been linked with the unethical treatment of angora rabbits in China.

Unsettling to say the least; I quickly began seeing articles about this subject popping up online and did the research for myself.  In all reports (Telegraph, Refinery 29, The Guardian etc…) the rabbit’s fur was plucked, leaving the rabbit raw, many left with open wounds. They are kept in poor unlivable conditions where the animals suffered from shock and a string of unacceptable ailments caused by the mistreatment of the breeders.

Peta, which is known for their raw tug on our heartstrings, broadcasting horrific videos and photos of the mistreatment of animals, leaves us feeling devastated and ashamed.  I almost avoid the site because despite the truth in their message, I find their approach aggressive and at times spin-doctored. Having said that, ignorance is bliss but knowledge is more powerful. The footage taken from the Chinese Angora farm is heartbreaking and simply this practice is unacceptable.

Needless to say, 90% of Angora is from China… Regardless whether the recent viral videos and images of “plucking” is not normal practice versus shearing (which in theory should be faster), there are no standardized and legal ethics in China for the humane treatment of animals.

angora peta rabbit

As much as I liked my fast and fashionable find, I was unable to wear it without reminders that this was wrong. I returned the toque for a full refund without question. However I left the store irked by the cashier, who in short said the store never carried angora items to begin with. I looked at her with confusion and pointed out this wasn’t the case because this is where I purchased the item. Her reply that they didn’t sell many…  (in her efforts to defend the store), demonstrated a lack of cohesion and prepared response from H&M corporate to the retail store employees.

More so than anything, the state of consumerism in fast fashion/ mass production and this sense of entitlement we as consumers have been taught and now demand is destructive at a level that feels beyond repair. Or is it?

Let’s take a quick moment to understand the “Sense of Entitlement Syndrome” cycle, (as the topic generates huge discussions, which I plan to further research and share in a future post). Essentially, the industry has engrained a sense of desire among mass consumers that they were missing out on something that the “wealthy” coveted. Cashmere, Angora, Leather, Fur, (even Silks & and yes Wool, sequins & embellishment to a certain degree)… formally used in high-end design due to expensive development costs to produce. The efficacy involved wasn’t possible at a mass-market scale. Something would have to change. And that it did. The fast fashion industry found cost cutting solutions to deliver ’faux’ luxury to meet the average consumer desires- “You can and deserve “luxury” too!” was in so many words marketed.

Wait what? I can own a cashmere sweater or a leather jacket for a fraction of the designer price, no longer wandering aimlessly in my peasants clothes? Today you may walk into Zara, Uniqulo, H&M, Forever 21, Joe Fresh, Target and The Gap etc… to find such items and leave feeling like the luxury world is more equally balanced.

However at what sacrifice? Not necessarily any to you or I directly in our own lives… however what about the environmental, ethical or sustainable impact on the resources, albeit the animal, factory worker or plant…

In short there is a reason why it was a luxury item to begin with. The gratification and satisfaction of owning such an item comes with knowing you earned it and that it was produced in a positive way. This is the realization I’ve come to terms with in my own life. Understanding there is not anything luxurious or positive about owning an item or product that came at the sacrifice and impact of another.

Change is possible. Individually, this requires each of us to look at the fabric content, conscientiously consider the sacrifice and impact associated and make the choice not to support unethical manufacturers.  This is no different than the choices we make in health and food. Consequently, a decline in sales, paired with consumers vocalizing concern will bring positive change and integrity to this industry.

Ethical and sustainable resources such as angora and other fibres alike are possible. After writing this post, I found this article posted by Starre Vartan from Eco-Chick. By seeking and supporting designers who work with ethical farmers “who are raising animals for their wool (sheep, alpaca), goats (cashmere), or rabbits (angora) and who are doing it in a sustainable way [thus in tern giving] artisans incredible raw materials, results in high-quality, long-lasting—and incredibly warm—pieces, and preserves open space for farmlands”.

Starre, has also discovered such ethical designers as Ambika Conroy, the designer and creator of Ambika Friendly Furs.

“She cares for her flock of angora bunnies herself on her upstate New York farm, harvests their fur when they molt (which only happens on the bunnies own internal schedule, not on ours), spins the thread into fiber, and knits it by hand into hats, scarves, jackets, legwarmers and ear muffs.”

Ambika shares her careful and humane process “From Bunny to Fur” on her website and as I’ve shared the video on Eco-Chick, you can see how she gathers the angora safely.

For me at least, I’d rather put my “want” for an angora toque aside until I can happily afford one with the knowledge and integrity that this item was ethically produced.

from the dinner plate to your handbag… it’s not what you think it is

from the dinner plate to your handbag

I should start by saying, I am going through a bit of a personal surrealistic art phase right now, so I hope you can enjoy the comedic humour of the image above.

After reading BOF yesterday, this particular article “Chanel Acquires First Tannery to secure Luxury Bag Supplies” captured my attention and raised many questions for me. One of which I have considered before however hadn’t quite addressed with any conclusions or further investigation.

Chanel is among the luxury conglomerates (Kering, LVMH, Hermes) that are acquiring tanneries under their namesake, to which they’ve had long-standing relationships; all in efforts to secure long-term control of supplies and quality. More than ever, vertical integration from the raw goods to the retail shelf is prevalent and according to the article posted by BOF sited from Reuters, Chanel has this control right down to the plant growers for their No. 5 perfume (as stated in the article). This makes sense, since the company represents the utmost in quality & luxury. Now bear with me as I discuss a few different topics, correlating fashion to animal food consumption.

I was particularly intrigued when the article spoke to the importance of securing leather tanneries as the prices of lamb and cow hides are increasing as the population is eating less meat, while the demand for leather goods continues to grow. According to the article, Bruno Pavlovsky, chairman of Chanel’s Fashion Business “estimated the price of lamb skin had risen by about 25-30 percent in the past three to five years, about the same for calf leather”… “We are eating less meat yet there is more demand and production is not rising, Pavlovsky said”

This article doesn’t dive into this topic heavily, so there is no mention as to where these luxury companies and their tanneries source their hides. After reviewing Bodin-Joyeux’s website (the tannery acquired by Chanel) it doesn’t state their leather source either. Assumingly, these tanneries work directly with the European/ North American farmers. It is not surprising as there is a western movement to consume less meat as the population (particularly the middle to upper class) becomes better educated about food choices, quality, ethics and standards. I can certainly say, I see this happening all around. People are no longer fooled, they want to know what exactly is going into their food, shifting back to natural & organic products and thus demanding this information in order to have a choice to make an informed decision. However without side tracking down the entire food debate, which I could talk days about… I will attempt to stay on topic.

Meanwhile, in fast rising developing countries such as China, India, Russia and Brazil, animal consumption is on a sharp increase, according to numerous articles, and specifically discussed here in Voice of America “VOA”. There is a growing middle class and as income increases, their discretionary money is going towards “better” food quality and in many cases a Westernized diet, including however not limited to more meat, dairy and cheese…. Which in many countries meat, dairy and cheese were not a prominent part of their diet (i.e. China and dairy)  [errr, again trying stay on topic…]

All this said and it makes me wonder about the future of luxury leather goods. An obvious conclusion would be further price increases in leather goods from shoes, handbags, belts and beyond. Or will these particular luxury companies and their tanneries begin to source their hides outside of Europe & America to these fast rising nations where animal consumption is steadily increasing? Seems unlikely, as Bodin-Joyeux (for example) is acclaimed for their environmental and sustainable practices.

I can’t see Alexander Wang, Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Coach or any of the former faced with leather shortages as many of them source & produce a good percentage of their leather products overseas, primarily China. We may safely assume that the learning curve about food knowledge and potential decrease in animal products in these developing countries is a distant number of years away when compared to the current Western movement of reducing consumption of animals. Secondly, the population in these countries is significantly greater than Western countries, so consumption is far greater regardless, resulting in ample supply of animal hides.

Another alternative would be an increased use of synthetics. Which isn’t such a farfetched idea. Many high-end & luxury designers are already deliberately using faux furs, plastics & synthetics throughout apparel & accessories, whether for ethical, sustainable reasons (not wanting to use animals) or purely for innovative & aesthetic preference. Which albeit, is an alternative to animal products, however not surprisingly, this has an adverse effect on the environment due to the production process at every level to produce synthetics, as well as the end-of-life of these products that don’t degrade for hundreds of years… And don’t get me wrong either, I wear nylon, spandex, polyester… too!

We could just say, ‘Hey lets revert back to a more basic way of life’, a lifestyle that is not so demanding and wanting… of everything… however I don’t see this settling well with the bottom line nor the appetite of consumers, myself included.

There’s just no winning, so it seems…

I don’t have a solution per say, sorry to disappoint. Other than a few thoughts: I recently read there are too many designers, too many collections and seasons which require new designs. Really, there is just too much of everything, that I believe we are being over stimulated and teetering on boredom. We simply are no longer surprised, shocked, or at least very seldom. This begs the question how a designer aims to stay inspired each season with a new concept and story, without fatiguing by the sheer volume which they are to design into.

Ultimately, I won’t be surprised if we see designers start to pull back from four to two collections a year (Spring/Summer & Fall/ Winter, except couture) focusing on a clear concept & fewer products without over designing. Because, as we all know, trends don’t change that much every three months, season or year for that matter. At the very least, this may allow designers to safely secure a steady future in their resources, leather & beyond.

Thoughts anyone?

MY AHA’ MOMENT

Unknown

Last year I discovered the beautiful luxury brand Maiyet upon reading an article by the BoF, “Business of Fashion” (articles which I share often). Upon further researching the company, I instantly fell in love with Maiyets brand, their story, philosophy, and vision of the future. It is not surprising that they are quickly rising to fame with a desirable appeal to the global fashion community & beyond with tons of loyal fans.

It was around the same time I discovered Maiyet, that I was establishing my short-term and long-term goals for my career and life as a whole. I have always had a strong interest in the environment, ethical practices and have a desire to include this interest in my own career initiatives.

Working in the fashion industry makes this challenging to incorporate, as there is so much frivolous excess in production, consumption and not enough effort understanding the global impact of the process. I am faced with these moral challenges as I work and seek employment within the industry. Faced with a cross road in my young career, as I require and desire more industry experience but ultimately would love to work for a company that shares similar ethical and environmental beliefs and practices as myself. It is a compromising position to be in, you need the job, so do you compromise yourself for it or take a stand for your own moral beliefs? There are consequences and sacrifices to both sides and I only hope that in either case, the opportunity allows me to work towards achieving my long term goals.

So when I discovered Maiyet, it was like an affirmation in my life and confirmed that my idea is possible. There are companies who share similar values to myself and ultimately this provided a quick flash into my future. I knew where I wanted to take it and began to see the steps on how to achieve this, one of which being to re-launch my blog!

What I love about Maiyet is:

  • the founders of the company, Paul Van Zyl, Kristy Caylor, Daniel Lubetzky all have a backgrounds in either human rights, sustainable, environmental and/ or ethical practices.  Paul Van Zyl, the founder and CEO has worked around the world to facilitate transitions of human rights protection, specifically in South Africa.
  • I am attracted to this form of leadership or initiative because in turn it resonates with another one of my design beliefs & motivations individuals whose strength and courage [break]/ broke societal norms of their day”. This is exactly what the leaders of Maiyet are doing.
  • They are pioneering the industry without blatantly branding themselves based solely on these initiatives, thus attracting the luxury market as a whole in a relevant and contemporary way-  inspiring!
  • I love that they celebrate rare artisanal skills from communities around the world, particularly in developing countries, such as Columbia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mongolia, Peru and in established countries like Italy. Fostering global economic prosperity, sustainably and ethically.
  • They are partnered with Nest, a not-for-profit organization established to train and develop artisan business. By doing so they are working to revive the ancient tradition of weaving in Varanasi India.
  • Through these practices I love the truly unique pieces designed and created not only for ready-to-wear styles but accessories, handbags, shoes and jewelry. The products are innovative & luxurious.
  • From a purely visual perspective I adore the numerous ad campaigns featuring Canadian Model Daria Werbowy.
  • And in closing, I believe they represent all the ingredients required to set the standard among the fashion industry, turning the page to a new chapter and era within the future of fashion.

Here you have it. This is the first but certainty not the last I will be confessing my love for Maiyet. There is so much more to share!

Check out their website to learn more about the company & view their collections!

X