The fight for closet space is hotting up. These days, conscious consumers have zero tolerance of badly made pieces of uncertain provenance. Instead, they’re on the lookout for clothes and accessories that offer ethics, endurance, style, and innovation (order according to taste). So how do four new kids on the block stand up and who deserves house room?
The 30-Year Sweatshirt
Backstory: From menswear designer Tom Cridland – and appealing for hearts, minds and wallets on Kickstarter right now – is the 30-Year Sweatshirt. It is designed to last for – yes – 30 years. In 2014 he launched a trouser collection (also under his own brand name) where he produced high quality trousers sourcing the best cotton and working with seamstresses in Portugal. High-spec material and production seem to be his thing. I approve.
Aesthetics: To all intents and purposes, this is just a crewneck sweatshirt but, if it’s to hold together for 30 years, it needs to be a classic design. Cridland is uncompromising on quality so he has gone for organic cotton (which he informs us with admirable nerdish relish weighs 360g/sq m. Cheap cotton by contrast would be much lighter, as it’s bulked out with chemcial fillers). The double reinforced stitching comes from the hands of seamstresses in rural Portugal, some with 50 years’ experience and using the finest quality yarns.
Ethical credentials: Organic cotton, traceable ethical production line – but the big sell is the 30-Year Guarantee, as Tom Cridland offers a wardrobe buffer that cocks a snook at fast fashion and disposability. He insists it’s not a gimmick.
Verdict: Even if it was [a gimmick] I rather like it. Cridland has created a simple, playful concept that actually takes the pain out of making a load of ethical decisions. It’s a great distillation of lots of ethical principles and ideas about clothing into one product, folding in concepts like price per wear and quality translating into endurance. It remains to be seen whether the murphy’s law that applies to all warranties will apply to his sweatshirt: ie it will break one day after its 30th birthday – but it’s well worth the risk to find out.
Kitty Ferreira’s autumn/winter collection
Backstory: Designer Valerie Goode took to sustainability when she trained at London College of Fashion. But it was a year spent a year working in mainstream fashion, designing evening gowns in China where she witnessed “horrendous pollution” that proved decisive. She returned to the UK, determined to make wearable, commercial fashion without a deadly footprint. The result? Kitty Ferreira, named after her beloved grandmother who had strong principles and a great sense of style.
Ethical credentials: Here’s a designer that wants to take control of her production and is determined to seek out the best. She works with a sewing room in London and is – as previously mentioned – very serious about low impact dyes and fabrics. Her spring/summer collection utilised upcycled cottons and chiffons but for the next collection – out September – Goode has opted for peace (or so-called cruelty free) silk. This is a balance between her strong principles and her recognition that she needs a uniform supply of fabric to produce a commercial collection rather than upcycled offcuts for one off pieces. She was also uncomfortable that there was so little awareness of sericulture (silk farming) and the fact that between 40,000 and 50,000 silkworms are killed in the process of making enough silk for one blouse. By interrogating the supply chain, she found a supplier of peace silk where the pupae isn’t killed.
Aesthetic: Goode a) works brilliantly in silk and b) knows how to dress women of all shapes – Kitty Feirra sizes run from six to 26. Begone any lingering sustainable-equals-hairy-hippie connotations, because this is sleek, commercial and often very sexy. Goode has particularly won fans through her wide-legged (diaphanous) trouser shapes – but the sheer blazer also works a treat.
Verdict: Goode makes clothes that are for boardroom activists rather than penniless heroes that climb up cooling towers, but she’s a real talent and ethical fashion obsesses about people who can mainstream. The test will be how she stays true to her principles and keeps control as her collections, reach and production grows.
Rights of Massive Alex Noble for Traidremade
Backstory: Alex Noble has worked with Lady Gaga, Florence Welch and Kylie Minogue, producing couture pieces for stage and music videos. But it seems to have left a void. This tie up with Traidremade (Textile Recycling and International Development charity, a familiar fixture in diverting textiles from waste) comes “after a long period of questioning and searching for meaning and worth with in my commercial practice”.
Ethical credentials: I’m a big fan of Traidremade, founded in 2002 and which has dealt with the onslaught of “fashion waste” from spiralling levels of consumerism with ingenuity and a deep commitment to sorting out the mayhem underneath. Originally, Traid picked pieces off the conveyor belt, and majored in customisation. With this collection the label has moved into luxury upcycling territory. Alex Nobel confesses to being similarly enamoured: “I am continually educated, enthused and inspired by Traid’s ethos, team, structure and projects.”
Aesthetic: This is heart-on-sleeve-wearing stuff, or a reworked jumper with “rights” emblazoned on. Noble describes his 14 piece capsule collection as “a departure from the avant-garde stage costumes people know me for but a return to my roots of street wear, tomboys and culture clash”. And he has really enjoyed himself and given do-gooding design a turbo-charged boost too.
Verdict: You can’t really argue with the focus of this collection. All profits go to the Traid fund in Bangladesh, specifically in this case to register and get hold of birth certificates for 140 garment worker’s children which in turn will enable them to access education (garment workers in the mainstream supply chain wouldn’t ordinarily earn enough to afford to do this). The Rights of Massive styling is hardly stealth sustainable style but it perfectly matches the designers philosophy, “creative input, positive output” and isn’t that what designer fashion hook ups should do?
Available online www.traidremade.com or at pop up star: 2 Berwick Street, London, W1F 0DR.
Solid Denim sunglasses Mosevic, Cornwall
Backstory: Mosevic is a new Cornish brand with a lot of swagger. With admirable aplomb, the founders, Jack and Alex (who met when they studied 3D Design for Sustainability at Falmouth University) claim their range of accessories to be the most exciting development in denim since Jacob Davis’ idea of blue jeans was bankrolled by Levi Strauss.
The product: They hope their concept – solid denim, an actual material developed by Mosevic from denim pieces and resin and handmade into sunglasses – will be partially bankrolled by Kickstarter (less than two weeks to go but doing rather well).
Ethical credentials: Startup companies in Cornwall seem to think they are inherently at one with the environment, and I’ve no cause to doubt this. But in this case, a strong background in sustainability adds weight. “We are very aware of the impact that irresponsible manufacturing can have on the environment and that effects the design process at every stage,” says Jack. The aim is to find a consistent supply of overstock and offcuts to produce from by summer 2016 which would give Solid Denim a greater ethical kick as then it will be made from waste.
Aesthetic: The founders claim Solid Denim is extremely strong and durable, designs are purposefully simple with no excessive branding and Mosevic reminds customers that their inspiration is Levi’s at the Forefront of fashion yet unchanged over decades (we’ll ignore that Twisted Seams episode). In short, no 30 year guarantee (above) but customers are warned “to expect them to look as good in 20 years as they do today”.
Verdict: In truth today’s mainstream denim industry isn’t very innovative, so it’s extremely exciting to see a new denim idea, particularly with sustainable ambitions. Get it right and the brand will have developed not just a sustainable product, but a sustainable manufacturing and production process, in Cornwall. I wouldn’t call them an eco brand just yet, as there is a lot to be done but that won’t bother Mosevic who don’t want to brand themselves as “eco friendly” in any case. They’re too cool for that.
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