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Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration

Ruth Styles

24th February, 2011

Wonderful illustrations featuring the work of some of the world’s best and brightest eco-fashion talent show exactly why we need to start taking green fashion designers seriously, says Ruth Styles

As with many issues, the subject of fashion is one that tends to polarise opinion, not just among greenies but  among the population at large. With controversies taking in a diverse range of problems, from sweat shops to fur and frighteningly thin models, it’s not surprising that many environmentalists have thus far been inclined to keep fashion at arm's length and champion second hand clothing instead. But while the idea of sticking to charity shop chic has its merits, it isn’t in step with what the majority want from their wardrobes. Despite the warnings, the waste and the pollution caused by the garment production industry, fast fashion of the Primark variety has a stranglehold over a market that tends to regard clothing as the ultimate, disposable pick-me-up; rather like a Mars bar but with fewer calories. What’s also become crystal clear is that second hand isn’t the definitive answer. The real solution, as author Amelia Gregory points out, is to start taking fashion seriously again and to consume in an ethical way. Ethical and eco-friendly practices, she says, are the future of fashion.

Gregory isn’t the first person to flag up the benefits of ethical fashion and she won’t be the last. That what she says isn’t particularly original, doesn’t, however, make it any less true. The last decade has seen a growing number of designers for whom ethics and the environment are of key import, and they have blazed a trail, proving that sustainability and credible fashion aren’t mutually exclusive. Ada Zanditon, Prophetik, Noir, People Tree, Noki and Lu Flux are just a few of the names making pieces that are both desirable and green in outlook, sourcing and sustainability. So why don’t we ditch the naff old threads from New Look and support them instead? Gregory (and the Ecologist’s Green Living editor) can’t figure it out, even more so because when you take a closer look at what our green designers are doing, it’s generally brilliant and knocks the spots off most of the competition.

Take Sweden’s Camilla Norrback for example. The purveyor of retro-inspired, beautifully wearable clothes created from upcycled luxury materials such as lace, fine cotton and soft jersey, Norrback has turned the old fashioned view that eco-fashion amounts to little more than ugly hemp sack dresses on its head. In accessories, German jeweller, Ute Decker, creates knockout sculptural pieces from ethically sourced Fairtrade gold that are good enough to make De Beers very nervous indeed. Then there's the whimsical daywear created by Finnish designer, Minna Hepburn, which gives leftover lace and cast-off cashmere a new lease of life. That the new generation of green designers are a brilliant bunch is only emphasised by the gorgeous illustrations accompanying them in Gregory’s book. Happily, although the high street remains dominant, green design as a credible fashion-forward clothing option is starting to gain ground thanks in part to the sterling work being put in by the likes of the British Fashion Council’s Esthetica and other high profile champions of eco-fashion such as Colin Firth’s wife, Livia. But the big challenge – taking eco-fashion mainstream – is still ahead.

At the moment, says Gregory, green brands tend to be ‘ghettoised’ and shown only with other green brands. This she argues, needs to change and is the reason why Amelia’s Magazine [Gregory is the editor and founder] shows green brands next to ‘regular’ fashion brands. The point is to show that green brands deserve to be judged on whether or not they create great ready-to-wear, not on their greenness. Of the current crop, the majority score highly on both fronts. The flip side of course, is that mainstream brands need to start augmenting their fabulous fashion with a more environmentally friendly approach to sourcing and production. Encouragingly, some already are, including the wonderful British designer, William Tempest, whose latest collection is largely based on sustainable, natural fabrics. Gregory says in the introduction that it’s her sincerest hope that in a few years Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration will have become outmoded because ethical practice will have become the norm throughout the fashion industry. Beautiful and informative as her tome is, we can only hope that she’s right.

Amelia's Compendium of Fashion Illustration costs £25 and is available at Amazon.co.uk

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