We know what our clothes are made from, you only have to look at the label, but do we know which materials are the least and most damaging to the environment? Probably not.
The new fashion exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Fashioned From Nature, gets serious about the impact fashion is having on the world. It starts off fairly simply, looking at the raw and natural materials used in clothing and decoration from the 17th century onwards, and quickly charts the growing appetite for the rare and exotic to decorate the wealthy’s clothes.
Left - Historical dress inspired by nature and new discoveries
Right - Fashion protesting against itself
It’s interesting how our love of nature and the beauty we see in it has made people want to wear it and at the same time destroy it. It's very difficult to strike a balance.
This isn’t your standard fluffy fashion exhibition or one dominated by big names, it’s a thought provoking look about what things are, where they come from and their impact on the environment. But, it’s done in a way that isn’t preaching or has a strong agenda.
It’s sponsored by the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp, but I feel they could have done more to highlight the benefits of wearing flax. (I didn't see hemp mentioned at all). Most commonly made into linen, flax is one of the easiest and least damaging forms of materials to grow and is definitely something we should be wearing more of. It would have been nice to see more with regards to how you can use it, different finishes and something more than being the material of a few seasonal summer shirts and suits. There’s a wall you can touch at the very beginning made of flax. It feels like really dry horse hair.
Left - Lace Bark grown from a tree
Right - Toxic Evening Coat, Madame Grès, 1936
Things I learnt from this exhibition: I’d never heard of ‘Vegetable Ivory’ or ‘Lace-Bark’ before. I didn’t know the bones used in corsetry are called ‘Baleen’, after the type of whale.
Upstairs there is a lot going on. Some pieces are simply inspired by nature while others show new materials made from by-products or waste. ‘Vegea’ uses grape waste from the wine industry to form a leather-substitute and their ‘Grape’ gown is on show, as well as a Ferragamo piece made from ‘Orange Fiber’ derived from waste from the Italian citrus industry and an H&M Conscious dress made from recycled shoreline plastic.
I think educating people - cotton uses ridiculous amounts of pesticides and water - about what they are wearing is important and it would have been good to have seen different materials: wool, flax, cotton compared with one another. These are the main choices people have when shopping.
Fashion in its nature is wasteful and destructive. There’s no logic to moving on from perfectly wearable clothes and buying new ones other than to stay ‘fashionable’. But, that’s how it works and it’s also a huge business employing many people.
We need to be realistic, the odd dress made from recycled plastic bottles isn’t even scratching the surface. We need to look at clothing like other recyclables. Take the components and raw materials apart and reuse into new garments. This would require less fresh materials and would also close the loop on the fashion industry.
Left - Vegetable Ivory
Right - The flax wall
I think it’s naive to ask people to buy less. We need to improve environmental practises, push less destructive options and reuse and recycle more.
Fashion is dictated to by money. The minute it becomes more cost effective to do something, then it will happen. Let’s just hope that's sooner rather than later.
Fashioned from Nature - Victoria & Albert Museum - Fashion, Gallery - 21 April 2018 – 27 Jan 2019 #FashionedFromNature - £12
Below - The 'GuppyFriend' which stops micro particles being released from your washing machine into the environment
Bulldog Skincare For Men has added a fragrance-free and gentle face scrub to their ‘Sensitive’ range. The new, skin-smoothing scrub contains sustainably sourced quinoa husk - a by-product of the food industry - sweet almond, baobab and oat oil, and willow herb. It helps to improve skin texture by removing dead skin and leaving a fresh complexion.
Left - Bulldog Skincare For Men - Sensitive Face Scrub - £5
Baobab oil has a high emollient power and is known for its skin smoothing and moisturising properties. Oat oil, grown and harvested in the UK, is known for its effective skin emollience and natural skin softening properties. Canadian willow herb, a unique plant from the Northern Canadian prairies, has developed strong multi-functional phytochemical properties to survive the harsh climate.
TheChicGeek says, “This looks and smells good enough to squirt on your breakfast cereal. The recommended usage is once to twice a week or pre-shave, but I’d say you can use as often as you like.
It’s soft and gentle and being ‘sensitive’, it’s less likely to irritate even the most sensitive of skin. You can feel the ‘beads’, but it’s not coarse at all. If you like your face scrubs like sandpaper then this probably isn't for you.
I also like the fact Bulldog’s new packaging is now made from sugarcane."
News in that Gucci is going “Fur Free” starting from SS18. President and chief executive, Marco Bizzarri, announced the move at a talk at the London College of Fashion, yesterday.
Mr Bizzarri said: “Being socially responsible is one of Gucci’s core values, and we will continue to strive to do better for the environment and animals.” The brand will no longer use any type of animal fur including, coyote, mink, fox, rabbit or karakul - aborted lamb foetuses.
The fashion house’s remaining fur clothing will be sold in an auction with the money donated to the animal rights organisation "Humane Society International” and “LAV”, an organisation that initiates legal actions to assert animal rights.
Left - Gucci Intarsia Mink - £28,340 from Mytheresa
Gucci will also join the Fur-Free alliance. This is a group of international organisations that campaigns for animal welfare and encourages that alternatives to fur are used by the fashion industry.
I respect Gucci’s decision and being the world’s second largest luxury goods company this will make an impact. It will also influence people and other brands. Any company wishing to be more “sustainable” should be encouraged. (Just how sustainable a business selling US$ 4.3 billion (2016) worth of product is debatable BTW).
But, what I never understand is the double standards on animals. You either use animals or you don’t. Gucci will no doubt still be using snakes, alligators, crocodiles, goats, lizards, ostriches, the list goes on, to make accessorises and clothes.
I’ve seen this many times before. I’ve been at Ralph Lauren where they proclaim to be “fur free” yet I’m standing next to a large crocodile “Ricky” bag. If brands really want to minimise their footprint then they should go completely vegan. Department stores stating they don’t sell fur, yet you look into a felt hat and it’s made from rabbit.
The fur industry doesn’t have to be “cruel” in the same way the meat industry doesn’t. Skins such as sable are shot in the wild and don’t live in cruel conditions. Coyotes are shot as pests in North America. You regulate for welfare standards and promote compassion in farming and every animal regardless of the product should be respected and cared for.
The fur industry can be sustainable and faux-fur, usually made from synthetics, is also detrimental to the environment and doesn't negate the desire.
Net-a-Porter group recently announced it was going fur free too. Admittedly, due to the prices, fur is only bought in small quantities and by very wealthy people. It’s interesting that Italian companies - Yoox/Net-a-Porter and Gucci are going “Fur Free” as we know those Italians like their furs, so this is definitely a shift in attitudes.
These things usually go in two ways - fur trims start to sneak in and the thing gets quietly shelved or companies continue to be "environmentally friendly" and really try and do something about the wasteful fashion cycle that currently exists. Banning "fur" isn't really touching on the real environmental impact of the fashion industry.
Read ChicGeek Comment - The Real Reason Brands Are Dropping 'Fur'