Haute Ecouture

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The hub of London’s ethical fashion industry, Estethica, provides a platform for young cutting edge designers committed to sustainability. This season, a total of 14 brands showcased their AW13 collections at Somerset House during London Fashion Week, among which were regular exhibitors GoodOne, Pachacuti, Henrietta Ludgate, The North Circular and Ada Zanditon as well as a range of exciting newcomers such Mich Dulce, Rudá Rings, Katrien Van Hecke and Lost Property of London.

Estethica designers are every year chosen for their design excellence and commitment to working in a sustainable way. They adhere to at least one of the key Estethica principles – fair trade and ethical practice in the production process, the inclusion of organic fibres and the use of upcycled and recycled fabrics and materials. All the labels that presented their collections work sustainably in a different way, all making a valuable contribution to the ever-growing demand for eco-friendly high-end fashion.

From left: Estethica’s curator Orsola de Castro, designer Liora Lassalle, Sublime’s editor Laura SantamariaOne of the highlights of this season’s Estethica was certainly the AW13 collection of Liora Lassalle. After winning last year’s Estethica/Veolia Re-Source competition the Central Saint Martin’s graduate has produced an upcycled capsule collection supported by a mentoring programme focused on sourcing, producing, developing and promoting her collection. Liora received mentoring from Reclaim to Wear founder Orsola de Castro and has also secured her first online stockist at YOOXYGEN, yoox.com’s eco-friendly initiative.

Her final designs feature contrasting characteristics and many decorative elements. All her pieces are made of upcycled and recycled textiles. Liora used, amongst other materials, parts of old jackets and uniforms from Veolia employees and turned them into haute couture. The result is a clash between 18th century romanticism and modern day workman wear.

‘I have always been interested in recycling and the idea of sustainability’, says Liora. ‘You can’t get rid of waste – that’s a fact. So you might just as well reuse it. Every material has a value.’

During the making of Liora’s collection – her first after graduating – she found it was especially fascinating to get to know the production process. ‘Explaining my ideas to others so the designs could be produced was difficult, but also a valuable experience.’

Another eye-catcher at this season’s Estethica was the collection of phannatiq, a London based label by young designer Anna Skodbo. Her AW13 collection is heavily inspired by the forgotten London, industrial decay and street art, and it focuses on texture and abstract prints influenced by the urban scenery. ‘This season we were inspired by the low profile people who hold our cities together: rubbish collectors, lollipop people and construction workers… They exist everywhere but we tend to just walk past them’, says Anna.

All of phannatiq’s mostly unisex pieces – some figure hugging and others loose fitting – are unique and a mix of a variety of materials. This season Anna used fig tree bark instead of leather for the first time – the ‘vegan alternative’ as she declares it. Some garments also feature felted parts, silk and chiffon.

Although fully wearable the collection is very cutting-edge and explores a modern sense of femininity. It is hand produced in the UK and phannatiq has experimented extensively with the print process by using natural food dyes and applying them to fabric.

Another highlight was a collection that celebrates classic femininity. Nicola Woods, Founder and Creative Director of Beautiful Soul, presented a collection of flowery prints and soft, floating materials titled ‘I Love Ladybirds’. ‘Quintessentially English’ as the brand labels itself, Beautiful Soul takes you on a journey through an English country garden. Elegant maxi dresses – classic and simple – are dominant in the collection as well as original bouquets and hydrangeas prints with dainty ladybirds nestled on the flower petals. The materials used – British lace, silk – are produced sustainably and in the UK. Value is primarily placed on British craftsmanship and innovative design.

Founded six years ago by the British Fashion Council, Estethica has become the internationally strongest of its kind. The success of Estethica reflects the growth of awareness of and demand for eco-friendly, sustainable and fair trade high-end fashion.

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