The very idea of 'eco-chic' conjures up images of hemp, hessian and, to borrow the words of Colin McDowell, "do-gooders having a go at fashion". But the London College of Fashion went a long way to countering these accusations last night in a catwalk show dedicated to 'Fashioning the Future.' Opening a summit of the same name in association with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion and held today at LCF, the show presented the work of 26 designers, including fifteen finalists of a global student project sponsored by Adili.com to create directional fashion with a distinct ecological conscience.
Attempts to counterbalance the built-in obsolescence of fashion often come to the fore during times of financial strife - the distinct difference between many past stabs and these offerings, it seemed, was the fact that aesthetics were not relegated to second-place in favour of hemp-wrapped go-green proselytising. Not to say that hemp wasn't there - Susanne Johnson's rivetted, pleated and sharply-tailored organic cotton and hemp were proof positive that fair trade doesn't have to mean vilage fete. As with much fashion, recycling was key - although in this instance, recycled fabric was as important as revived ideas. Rie Munthe Rasmussen crafted found fabrics and accessories into new clothing (including a show-stopping opera-coat appliqued with dozens of hand-me-down purses), Sandra Rojo Picon reworked clothing and household textiles into sharp Liberty-patterned dresses, and Jessica Beyers adorned her dresses with reclaimed scrap copper.
Judged by head of LCF Dr Frances Corner, adili.com creative director Sim Scavazza, Caryn Franklin and Colin McDowell, the show's clear stand-outs were also, happily, the winners: 'Material' winner Nimish Shah used textiles created in his native India for crisply-cut shapes reminiscent of chic late-seventies separates, while 'Innovation' winner Manon Flener's 'modular' collection had opened proceedings on a strong note with sharp, angular and sophisticated shapes. Offering a solution both to fabric consumption and the waning UK textile industry, Flener's garments could be adjusted and reassembled at whim to provide endless permutations, while both the fabrics and striking gold hardware used to construct the collection were sourced from independent UK manufacturers therefore supporting cottage industry - quietly but decidedly green. By and large this was the story: reinterpreting conventional views of sustainability, the collections were glamorous, polished and often unabashedly sexy - something even a do-gooder can do with every now and again.