One of the most common preconceptions we come up against is the idea that ethical and sustainably produced fashion just isn’t cool. For too many people it still conjures up images of bland and itchy hemp numbers or hippy inspired prints (and I’m not talking the chic Isabel Marant boho kind). This assumption is so frustrating because it couldn’t be further from the truth. We hope that having visited Gather&See, you feel the same. In fact in the past couple of years a plethora of brands built on genuinely impressive style credentials as well as deep rooted ethical values have emerged, and finally fashion insiders are lapping them up.
Take cult trainer brand Veja, a French brand whose eco-friendly sneakers are produced in Brazil using fair trade rubber and organic cotton. Veja has been going for 10 years and fashionistas including superstar Emma Watson have been seen sporting them a long with every other hipster in London. In fact, tracking down the most popular styles such as the V-10 Nautico in the most popular sizes can be a struggle. The success of the brand is truly exciting, not just because we stock the brand at G&S but because we are seeing how an interest in Veja is often just the start of a customer’s interest in sustainable fashion. The recognition of that V logo gets them through the door, so to speak, but once they’ve delved in they are finding that there is so much more to ethical fashion that they previously thought.
Another such brand is one that many of you know and love, the brilliant Kowtow. Produced in India using 100% GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) organic and fair trade certified cotton, Kowtow is all about directional shapes and teamed with purity of fabric. When we launched the brand on Gather&See back in 2014 we found the brand attracted a niche but very loyal set of customers but in three years its notoriety and appeal has sky rocketed. Now many key pieces are sold out within days of coming in store, such is the demand for their particular brand of cool and we can see why.
As buyers we are starting to see more and more young designers choosing to produce sustainably. A recent discovery of ours is OFKT, a British footwear brand that uses leather offcuts to produce a collection of picture perfect brogues from a small family owned factory in Yorkshire. The results are exquisite and have already been picked up by several fashion blogs. At the other end of style spectrum are London based Carolina Wong’s amazing metallic bags woven by hand in Morocco with thread made from recycled seat belts. Meanwhile Berlin based Kemp Gadegaard, in their first season have produced and ethereal collection of cosmic and planetary inspired silk separates of impressive quality.
It is encouraging and heartening that these talented designers have chosen to go down the ethical route from an environmental and social point of view. But it could also prove a shrewd business decision. Recent studies from Nielsen and Deloitte show that millennials are most willing to pay more for products and services seen as sustainable or coming from socially and environmentally responsible companies.
So what next? Could - and should - ethical fashion ever fit with the fashion industry’s need for seasonal trends and see it, want it mentality? Does it want to be the in thing right now if this means it just becomes another of fashion’s fads that comes and goes? I’m optimistic that this is far bigger than just a passing trend. More and more fashion schools are including sustainability in their syllabuses and before we know it, this Millenial generation for whom sustainability is a non negotiable will be at the helm of the worlds biggest fashion houses. In truth only time will tell but in the meantime let’s celebrate a more responsible approach to fashion. For now at least it seems it really is cool to care.