t Is This the Future of Fashion? Sustainable, Sexy and Hot! - Ethical Hedonist

Is This the Future of Fashion? Sustainable, Sexy and Hot!

February 24, 2010 in Slow Luxury Fashion

For the past decade Ethical Fashion has been worthy, but rarely heart-stoppingly beautiful.It was the unloved Cinderella to fashion’s glittering mainstream; tolerated, but deeply misunderstood. Now a new generation of brilliant young designers are taking sustainability all the way to the couture atelier and Oscar night. It’s the hottest topic from the boardroom to the catwalk. So what is going on?
It started when the smart and determined eco champion, Livia Firth, wife of Oscar nominee, Colin Firth, made a declaration on vogue.com. From now on she would only wear the crème de la crème of recycled and organic couture on the red carpet. The haute couture industry must be shivering in its gladiator heels.

Earlier this week, Stella McCartney, an early convert to sustainability, gave an interview for London Fashion Week and archly suggested that mainstream fashion is ignoring the sustainability issue, and could do so much more to clean up their act.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one LFW, the whole world turned out to see rising star and diminutive Ethical Fashion Princess, Ada Zanditon, show her most confident and alluring collection yet. Ada took us on a mysterious and utterly beguiling odyssey into the secret, nocturnal world of bats. Models stalked the catwalk like beautiful winged creatures in fluttering inky, sinuous gowns from the colour of midnight to magenta and back to cobalt. While the star of the show was a divinely glamorous and opulent batwing car coat in palest dove grey – a cinematic homage to one of Ada’s favourite film heroines, Kim Novak, Hitchcock’s ice maiden and muse in the film Vertigo.

Crucially, the show was glamorous, confident, beautifully executed, and packed to the rafters with the fashion glitterati. And you couldn’t tell that the silk was organic or that Ada strives for ethical principles in business every step of the creative process, and that was rather the point.

So has Ethical Fashion finally thrown off its frumpy mantle, grown up and become truly,madly, deeply alluring and unmissable? It was time to head for the Estethica Exhibition at Somerset House and find out.

Now in its eighth season at London Fashion Week, Estethica is becoming an influential platform for emerging new fashion talent, with sustainability at the core of their creative thinking.

This year I detected a much more polished buzz about the exhibition, with some exciting newcomers, and at last a feeling that sensuality, womanliness and razzmatazz are firmly on the agenda. Here are my predictions for the Ethical Fashion Superstars of tomorrow… and images of the clothes I would love to own.


Minna Hepburn has long been the delight of Estethica for her impossibly demure, darling day dresses, painstakingly constructed from magpie vintage scraps and organic silks embellished with delicate Scottish lace and homespun corsages. Minna is an excellent example of how the discarded and throwaway can become beautiful again.

Now she confides that she has been staying up late and watching old French movies. Wow! The results are revelation, and quite stunning. This is a designer who has really gained in confidence, since her first season at LFW. For winter, Minna has discovered a dark and dangerous sensuality in a predominantly black collection with accents of grey. At last ethical fashion has a designer who understands the timeless allure and power of the perfect column dress in organic silk georgette; or the iconic appeal of a Little Black Dress (LBD) in the softest organic wool with a pretty contrast collar. I wonder if she has been watching Catherine Deneuve in the film Belle de Jour? In Minna’s sensuous nightscape, dresses come in seductive swathes of tulle and wil o wisp organic silk with lace detail, sassy above the knee hemlines and adorable, unexpected details. I particularly loved the detachable brooches and pendant necklaces.

Minna – Ethical Credentials
Local and Community production in the UK
Organic and natural fibres used
Man-made biodegradable and eco friendly fibres used
Recycling and upcycling
Ethical Hedonist Rating ♥♥♥♥♥

Ada Zanditon
Five years ago, in the early naughties, influential PR Cecile Simon and I were working on an exciting campaign for one of her clients, and we contacted the London College of Fashion to find a student with the ability and potential to be a future fashion star. That person was Ada Zanditon: She designed a startling dress made out of recycled banknotes. I have been following her progress ever since.
I am thrilled to see her ideas come alive on the catwalk; but more than this, it is about taking ethical fashion to the next stage. Her clothes are beautiful, desirable, and wearable. Inspired by nature, from Bees to Bats – Ada Zanditon is the thinking woman’s designer and this time she entices us to fall in love with the twilight world of the bat. (see report above.)

Ada Zandition – Ethical Credentials
Local and community production in the UK
Organic and natural fibres used
Ethical Hedonist Rating ♥♥♥♥♥

Beate Kubitz, a girl who looks like a pixie-faced Snow Queen, with hair the colour of milk and ice, ran away from the big city to become a shepherdess. Being an enterprising girl, she then persuaded her talented designer friend Nicola Sherlock- Windle to dream up a sensuous, beautiful knitwear collection using the wonderfully distinctive wool from her own flock of sheep.

I love knitwear. For me it is not just about practicality and cocooning. Knitwear can and should be as romantic and theatrical as any womenswear collection. Makepiece is all of those things and more. This is a label that celebrates all the right things: sexiness, femininity, ruffles, sustainability (the sheep virtually live in the house, so it doesn’t get more local than that) and roses galore – strewn luxuriantly along a hemline, a cuff or perhaps a pretty corsage. The highlight of the collection is a dress to delight the senses. Strewn luxuriantly with roses, this is a sweater dress fit for a siren or goddess – more La Dolce Vita than winter cover-up, and thus utterly feminine and covetable. Un-dyed it comes in the most flattering colour of Cornish clotted cream, or you can have your garment made to order in a palette of intoxicating jewel colours including ruby and sapphire. For next winter they come carefully sculpted with pleats that bring detail, interest and movement to knitwear. Accomplices to this lovely collection include: gossamer fairy cardigans, shrugs and gorgeous little capes to team with a pair of ruffled gauntlets to add a final flourish. This is knitwear to treasure, swathe and adorn the body. Oh and keep you warm as toast!

Makepiece – Ethical Credentials
Local and community production in the UK
Organic and natural fibres only
Untreated, undyed wool and azo free dyes
Ethical Hedonist Rating ♥♥♥♥♥

Izzy Lane
Izzy Lane has done much to champion faltering British traditions and to reconnect us to the countryside, to animals and nature. Through her scheme to rescue the Wensleydale from slaughter, she had done much to renew interest in our once great British wool industry. Izzy was one of the first people to offer an organic box scheme in London and now she is based in Richmond in Yorkshire, where she still runs a local box scheme and fleeces from her beloved Wensleydales are transformed by a local spinner into the most sought after, luxuriant wool. While we and the sheep can be very grateful to Ms Lane, what I really love about her altruism is that it translates into clothes of impeccable quality that I would love to own and treasure.

Her collection for winter is unashamedly classical in interpretation, and of the finest quality. Lane champions hand knitting techniques and British mills all the way. The collection is small but perfectly conceived, with wonderful flourishes and the kind of quality that is hard to find. If you are looking for Quintessential British Tailoring with an English Eccentric twist this is where you will find it. Delightful highlights include: the perfect tailored coat, jacket and a long, lean Bloomsbury skirt. The colour palette is muted, inspired by the natural beauty of the sheep – all greys, cinder toffee, sage and ecru. There are also wonderful bursts of ruby and emerald. This is the collection to gravitate to for the hard to find deep v cashmere sweater and the slouchy cardigan to absolutely live in through the winter.

Izzy Lane – Ethical Credentials
Local and community production in the UK
All within a 100 mile radius
Organic and natural fibres only
100% wool made from own flock of sheep
Ethical Hedonist Rating ♥♥♥♥

Have you noticed there is a new language in the world of fashion? Everyone is talking about sustainable values. The buzzwords are: local and community production, upcycling, recycling, organic and natural fibres and post consumer waste. But what does it all mean I hear you ask?

As I admire designer Nin Castle’s hypnotic, body-conscious, spider’s web dress – it is hard to believe that it is made from old garments someone, somewhere was happy to throw away.

Nin and her label Goodone are part of the recycling revolution that is sending ripples of opportunity and excitement through the fashion world. If recycling is the starting point for Nin’s confident, sexy, sportswear inspired clothing; she is keen to stress that she never allows it to limit her horizons or her creativity. Nin and her team of clever, resourceful magpies are now confidently mixing surplus high end fabrics including cashmere to bring a new luxury aesthetic to worn again style.
The winter collection is reminiscent of the eighties cult label Bodymap. Contrast fabrics and a striking monochrome palette translate into a bold, extrovert story that celebrates and accentuates the curves and contours of the body. This is state of the art sustainable fashion for every compartment of your life. To flaunt, cocoon and flirt in and celebrate the extraordinary ingenuity of British made design. My favourite pieces are deeply sexy, practical and wearable – what more can you ask of fashion than this? Highlights include: the hip dress – a figure hugging panelled dress with exaggerated hips, and a luxuriant bomber jacket made from a clever tapestry of Aran knits with contrast side body and rib detailing.

Goodone – Ethical Credentials
Recyling and upcycling
Ethical Hedonist Sex Appeal Rating ♥♥♥♥

More highlights from London Fashion Week next time with reports on: Beautiful Soul, and the allure of the kimono; siren knits from grannies at The North Circular and day into night with Emesha.


about the author

Alison Jane Reid

Alison Jane Reid - Journalist, Editor & Emerald Princess of Slow, Sustainable Luxury Living - 18 year track record interviewing real icons for: The Times, The Lady, You, The Mirror and Country Life. Now leading her alluring fairtrade, emerald revolution - Don’t Miss Out - Have you joined The Ethical Hedonist set?

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