The proverbial ground underneath the fashion industry is shifting, the vaunted halls of the world’s most established fashion empires are shaking. After decades of dominance and the creation of storied brands with enough clout to develop the very definition of style, the walls are starting to crumble. That’s because a new era of avant-garde fashion enterprises are moving in and seeking to redefine what it means to be fashionable – and today we will look at what a few of these companies are doing and why it’s working.
While the majority of world’s biggest luxury fashion brands continue to embarrass themselves and jeopardize their future in the name of ‘haute couture,’ a new breed of brands are emerging to make style sustainable. In other words, they are not plundering precious ecosystems, driving mammalian species to extinction or filling sweatshops in Asia with malnourished workers to get to the top of the fashion food chain. Instead these brands are using natural materials, faux furs and the labour of professional seamstresses to create garments of haut qualité.
Performance metrics based on environmental destruction and use of toxic chemicals for top luxury brands as reported on the Fashion Duel.
Moving into their place is a new set of leaders in the fashion revolution, as they make the transition from competing only on ‘eco and ethical’ characteristics to going head-to-head on style. While ‘La Mode Ethique’ (ethical fashion) is certainly a growing and respectable market, we think it is the brands that are taking the ‘sustainable fashion’ fight to the mainstream who are the true leaders of the charge. After a (brief : ) blog on ‘The New Era of Fashion’ back in December, we are coming back to look at three companies who are moving fashion forward on a few different levels:
Target : high-end fashion market in Brazil and the US
Osklen is a raw and rugged luxury brand that takes its inspiration from the beautiful beaches and lush rainforests of Brazil. Originally started by designer Oskar Metsavaht in the ‘80s, the Osklen line is inspired by nature and uses a range of natural and exotic materials to create collections of great quality and durability. What makes Osklen special is that it competes at the highest level of fashion, in the luxury market, but plays within nature’s rules. That’s because Mr. Metsavaht understands that design is, and always will be, the most important part of the clothes; however, he also knows that a brand does not need to break every ethical boundary to get there.
The company has gone far beyond creating a line of sustainable clothes in order to break the design-ethics paradigm in the industry. They have partnered with the Italian government on the Traces Project to advance the research and development of renewable materials that can be produced in a sustainable way. They have also setup Instituto E to share information related to next-gen fashion principles and build a network of partners to help turn Brazil into a global leader in sustainable development.
Early last year the company did a fashion show in honour of A21 (embedded below) and then followed that up with a first-time appearance in the New York Fashion Week with its Spring/Summer ’13 collection.
Target : global luxury market
The name says it all. Nueluxe is bringing a stable of new luxe brands to a network of luxury-loving professionals who want it all : style, sustainability and substance.
While not strictly limited to fashion, Nueluxe has been going about its business of adding to its already impressive network of avant-garde ateliers from all over the world. Luxury brands are bar-none the worst when it comes to social, environmental and ethical performance, as they seem to stop at nothing to meet their uber-rich clienteles’ sophisticated tastes. That’s why Nueluxe is the seeing the opportunity to bring in a new wave of luxe brands, the ones who can create unmatched experiences without compromising the species that surround it.
After all, that’s what sustainability is all about. Instead of allowing a few of the world’s wealthiest to consume a resource to extinction, the future of luxury is about creating experiences that future generations will be able to enjoy as well.
Members of the Nueluxe community can use the platform to learn and connect with the brands at the forefront of this change, and gain access to exclusive discounts and product offers. Check it out!
Target : everyday fashion buyers who are conscious about their purchases
Derived from the Italian words ‘moda’ and ‘avanti,’ Modavanti is an online boutique that sells fully sustainable clothing lines. One of the major factors that separates Modavanti from other similar online retailers is the site’s design and branding. The site does not scream green, or sell clothes that are heavy on sustainability but light on style; instead it has created a store that looks like a real fashion store.
Modavanti makes sure there is real substance behind the brands you are buying. Beyond just selecting and stocking the brands, they have created a clean and colourful system to show the specific ‘sustainable charareristics’ of each brand. What’s even better is that they actually educate you about each characteristic on their Sustainability page.
Modavanti is showing what being fashion forward is all about. Unlike bloggers and industry insiders who write and tweet mindlessly about the hot colour for 2014 (pink, purple, yellow …), these guys have a vision for what the future of fashion will really look like … bellissimo!
What are the common threads that connect these brands?
None of the aforementioned companies incorporate eco or ethical into their name, or brand heavily around these themes. Rather they try and come out with a strong brand image that resonates with traditional consumers while at the same time educating their market about what they need to know.
The whole ‘eco and ethical’ category is very niche and represents 5% (at most 10%) of the market. For those brands that want to really make an impact on the mainstream market they need to embed sustainable principles into their collections and not try and win consumers over on strictly ‘ethical’ branding arguments.
People who are purchasing clothes are primarily interested in the style and price. If the clothes don’t look good, the average person is not going to buy them, even if they were made using organic materials from a poor rural village in India. If you want them to pay more because they were made using sustainable practices (research suggests they would pay a 10% premium, verus 25% for tailor made#), you need to educate them as to why and develop a premium brand image. It doesn’t conjure up images of sexiness and style to talk about ‘eco trousers’ or an ‘ethical short sleeve.’
This is especially important if you want to target generation Y. People in our generation expect things to have certain qualities and are not willing to sacrifice quality just to fit a certain ethical profile. The new breed of ‘sustainable brands,’ those whose end products are in-sync with their social and environmental surroundings, will find Gen Y to be a very big and receptive market. But to hit that market, brands need to still provide the emotional benefits that the ‘unsustainable alternatives’ would provide. When it comes to fashion, people just want to look good and rep brands that match their lifestyle.
Just like the food market has made the move to everything organic, fashion is in transition to become its own version of ‘sustainable.’ There has been a lot of recent movement at the top levels, thanks to campaigns like Detox fashion, despite the fact that many of the traditional luxury players seem to hobbled by their heritage. But the movement at the bottom is exploding, and by the time many major labels reach fully sustainable levels (by 2020 according many Detox responses), a new crop will be arising. So suit up and lace ‘em on, because the fashion revolution has begun.