This September London Fashion Week entered its sixty-fourth edition, with 83 designers showcasing collections and over 150 in the showrooms. Global interest in these exhibitions shows no signs of slowing down – figures recently released (Oxford Economics 2016) show that the British fashion industry has increased in value by 8% to £28 billion, actually exceeding GPD of 5%.
Whilst fast-fashion culture – one which global fashion weeks with their relentless thrust of trends, directives and must-buy lists are often (quite unfairly) blamed for – is indeed a contributor to the speed of our throwaway attitude to clothing, design obsolescence is too. The industry practise of intentionally creating fashion with a short life cycle from cheap inputs means that garments fall apart easily, and need to be thrown away sooner than is sustainable – darning and mending only delays the inevitable (according to the International Fabricare Institute, most shirts are designed to last just 30 washes). Ripped seams, popped buttons and clothing which loses shape after a few wears all contribute to a lack of attachment – as does fabric that loses colour after a few washes or feels abrasive on the skin, or items shy of a good overstitch (a preventative anti-fraying measure) that fall open with one tug of a seam.
One way the fashion industry can create an environment which actively combats waste is by providing quality, durable garments made from the best inputs. Instead of joining the race to the bottom, brands need to take the financial hit and invest in quality, whilst consumers need to be prepared to pay the true cost of their garments. Here heritage and craft-focused brands occupy a truly unique space, and this is true whether looking at the hand craftsmanship exhibited at Temperley or the impeccable fabric selections of heritage brand Mulberry, a fashion house respected for its consistent and poreless quality. In short, creating collections of collectibles is one way to counteract consumer waste.
Established in 1971, Mulberry has a longstanding reputation for supporting and nurturing British craftsmen and women (600 specialists work from its two British factories alone). This season the design house, led by Johnny Coca, showcased a daring contemporary collection without compromising those quality mainstays – beautiful detailing, impeccable fabric selections and heritage textiles.
Dating back a century, authentic blazer wools in patterns and colours were used in jackets, trousers and shorts. Mulberry’s strong Spring/Summer 2017 collection was full of transformational fashion pieces, day to evening utilitarian fashion designed to go that extra mile for the wearer. Functional – not purely decorative – sturdy oak and khaki separates, crisp resistant knits walked the runway; fabrics included twill, the most hard wearing of silk fabrics, gabardine cotton – a tough, tightly woven fabric known for its ability to resist wear and tear – and velvets. Now let’s be honest, heritage brands are simply not price-point accessible for all, but for many of us, the clothing we tend to hold on to for longer is usually our most expensive, and with that price tag often comes better quality and higher retention. The latter is environmentally significant when extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use can lead to a 5% to 10% reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints.
Heritage brands aren’t the only ones with skin in the game when it comes to the quality focus, for many independent brands in a competitive field, quality is what determines reputation and growth. With their Spring/Summer 2017 collection, independent Georgian design duo Tata Naka showed they were no exception. Inspired by the spirit of Italian Capri, the Georgian-born identical twins, Tamara and Natasha Surguladze, tell intricate stories through their creations – in the case of this most recent collection clever mosaic featuring the Villa St. Michele and marine life – both biological and mythical – was spell-binding. Let’ put it this way, Tata Naka design to create keepsakes and conversation starters.
Always featuring some handy (no doubt time-consuming) thread work, intricate beading or superior cut, and always made from one ‘don’t fail me’ fabric or another – in this case traditional linens, crushed cottons and choice silks – Tata Naka is the perfect of example of how through story-telling and a lack of compromise on quality, designers can create clothing which takes on an identity, becoming more than merely a backdrop to be discarded after a few wears.