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Rethinking the aesthetic of sustainable fashion

The sustainable fashion industry has come a long way, but has the stereotype of predictable, unflattering clothing stuck?

For our alternative fashion week takeover, The Gallyry is spotlighting sustainability in the fashion industry, from inspiring creatives and designers, to innovative organisations and brands.

A few years ago, I might have scoffed at the mention of sustainable fashion. Itchy utility fabrics and smock dresses that looked more like potato sacks? No thank you! If I asked my friends, they too would have conjured up images of bamboo, jersey, and linen. Or they would have pictured minimalist basics in every shade of beige known to man.

The sustainable fashion industry has come a long way since then, but the stereotype of predictable, unflattering clothing has stuck. Even fashion designer Darcy Fowkes knows that “hemp pants and granny dresses are not going to attract necessary eyeballs. Our jobs are to produce fashion that convinces people to jump ship!” I spoke to five amazing female designers who are doing just that.

Alisa Ruzavina

Alisa Ruzavina is an artisan collaborator, fashion designer, activist, and researcher who creates “clothing and textiles [that] can serve as catalysts for positive social change and increased care for the environment.” Instantly recognisable by her upbeat, flamboyant style, Alisa “wouldn’t be able to be [herself] without the use of bold colours and shapes in [her] work”. Alisa believes that “for us to be able to really spread sustainability in design as the new normal we cannot all stick to only one type of aesthetic. For me, the clothes I make or co-design are powerful mediums for raising awareness about the multiple issues of climate change, presenting these heavy topics with a more positive, colourful, and proactive attitude, with hope that the wearers of these pieces can be inspired to feel the same.”

Alisa greatly values the craft of female garment workers who make up approximately 80% of the fashion industry. Aware of the oppression many of these women face, Alisa dreams of “an interconnected global web of female makers, designers, and artisans, where through knowledge exchange and appreciation of traditional techniques in the craft of making textiles and clothes, we can grow and prosper towards a more equal world.”

Blub x Lucy and Yak

Sophie Molyneux is the creator of Blub, which makes squishy, colourful, and abstract solutions to transform any room into one Dr. Seuss would be proud of. Sophie designs spaces filled with these blubbed up items and tours them around festivals and events in the summer to create immersive spaces.

Sophie has been a fan of Lucy and Yak for the past two years. Admiring their joyful products and company ethics, she felt “it was something that was really missing in the fashion industry.” Since working in their Brighton store last April, Sophie was encouraged to design a print with no boundaries, “which was mighty fun!”

Sophie loves to channel her inner Spice Girl, “but there was never a way to do it that didn't cost the earth other than vintage shopping. It is nice to be able to buy an item that was carefully designed and was made by people who you know are fairly paid and treated well but that is also incredibly colourful and makes you look spicy as hell!”

Ellie Misner

Ellie Misner is a fashion graduate who designed a sustainable collection for her BA showcase. Inspired by her dad, Objection, your Honour is a dark, provocative collection utilising asymmetrical shapes and hidden elements. Conscious of her fashion footprint, Ellie sustainably sourced her materials from Vanners Silk Weavers and developed pattern cuts to utilise the fabric in the most ecological way. She also reused her toils wherever she could to save on waste and upcycled fabrics from the likes of curtains. For her, ”stereotypical sustainable fashion brands tend to be quite bland in terms of design whereas my collection was super over the top couture.”

Lucid Seams

Lucid Seams is a handmade fashion, accessories, and homeware shop designed by Nelle. Starting with her wardrobe, Nelle “began using paint, embroidery, and alteration, to transform pre-loved second hand garms into colourful statement pieces.” She now offers this service to those looking to add some fun to their wardrobe, rethink their fashion habits and reduce their textile waste. By adding colour and creative design, Nelle transforms the discarded into "new" items of clothing to be loved all over again. Nelle hopes to inspire others, through her designs, “to think of upcycling and sustainable fashion as a tool for expression and creative exploration, beyond the raw materials and neutral colour palettes.”

Vino Supraja

Vino Supraja is an online premium womenswear fashion brand with sustainability and ethics at its core. Architect turned fashion designer, Vino Supraja, uses vibrant colours and textile prints at the heart of her designs.

She explained that, “all the fabrics are all hand-loomed in traditional methods by a group of mostly female weavers from an ancient weaving village that is adopted by an organisation in Tamil Nadu, South India. We have GOTS certification starting from the cotton fibre, to the final fabrics. The same community also makes the garments.”

Vino also believes that sustainable fashion is not just a trend; it should become the future of fashion. “If we want everyone to wear sustainable clothing, but the options that are available in the market are mostly loosely fitted garments in earthy colours, how do we expect the new generation to go towards eco-friendly fashion? Who will cater to the joyful, colourful, fun-loving fashionistas? This thought is kept in mind while designing every piece of our collection.”

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