Fashion Icons Who Support Sustainable Style

With London Fashion Week in full flow, it is sometimes hard to believe that an industry that is perceived to be shallow and vanity based can also be doing something good for the planet. But the 21st Century has seen the rise of recycling, re-using and sustainability when it comes to all areas of our shopping lives, and that includes fashion. We re-use out plastic carrier bags, or better style buy an eco bag, we look for organic cottons and fabrics, and there has been a push to buy British to reduce our carbon footprint. Even the most stylish of fashion parties can now be environmentally friendly, with companies like Little Cherry providing biodegradable cutlery and tableware and party supplies in the UK’.

When it comes to fashion Icons, there are a few ladies who lead the way when it comes to caring for the planet. From embracing veganism, to showcasing sustainable design on the red carpet, these ladies show that you can look amazing without it being at a cost to the planet.

Livia Firth

When it comes to sustainable fashion, Liiva Firth is the queen of the Red Carpet. using each event to launch a green carpet assault. This years Met Gala saw her wearing a dress made from pineapple leaves, a by product of the pineapple harvest. She is also one of the founders of Eco Age, which advises big brands on how they can improve their practices to make them more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney is one of fashion’s most eco conscious names. The designer, and brand, are vegetarian, and produce a wide range of vegetarian, non leather bags as a real alternative to luxury designer leather goods. The dress worn above by Livia Firth is a Stella design using organic silk, once again as part of the green carpet challenge. Stella has said about her designs:-

I design clothes that are meant to last. I believe in creating pieces that are not going to get burnt, that are not going to landfills and that are not going to damage the environment.

Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman was one of the first high profile names to show that veganism could also be applied to the red carpet. She helped to bring vegan shoe brand Beyond Skin to the forefront as a beautiful brand that showed that red carpet shoes did not have to be leather or suede, and then created her own line of vegan shoes, explaining that:-

“As a vegan, it’s been challenging finding designer shoes made of alternative materials. This collection offers a great selection without compromising quality or style.”

Even if designer labels and collaborations are out of your price range, it is easier than ever to buy into the sustainable fashion message. Charity shops and vintage fashion allow us to reuse and recycle our wardrobes, whilst there are more brands like Gudrun Sjoden who use organic fabrics and look to supporting projects in the developing world that show fashion can be a force for good.

What are your thoughts on sustainable fashion?

 

Baftas – style highs and lows.

Last night was the most important night on the British film calendar – The Baftas.  As expected, ‘The Kings speech’ dominated the awards winning seven in total, including Best film, best Actor for Colin Firth and Best supporting actor and actress for Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter. Best actress went to Natalie Portman, who was absent due to her pregnancy, but many other Hollywood stars made the trip across the pond and braved the wet London weather for the ceremony. Here is Fashion-mommy’s guide to the best and worst looks on the red carpet last night.

Trend – all shades of blue!

Blue was definitely one of the key colours on the red carpet at the Baftas. Jessica Alba looked totally beautiful in a strapless, draped Versace dress, wearing her hair in Heidi style braids. Julianne Moore was much improved from her Golden Globes Lanvin debacle in a midnight blue gown from Tom Ford, which she accessorised with bright red lips and the delectable Mr Ford himself. Livia Firth was her usual red carpet perfect presence in an eco-chic sustainable Nina Skarra gown. She described it as her ‘Rita Hayworth’ moment, and I couldn’t agree more, she was definitely one of the best dressed on the night. Gemma Arterton split opinions with her YSL black strapless dress that was decorated with a huge blue bow on the front. I personally liked the look, and thought she vamped it up perfectly with flowing hair and red lips. A less successful blue dress was the Stella McCartney gown worn by Jennifer Lawrence. The ‘Winter Bone’ star had been one of the best dressed in hot pink at the SAG awards, but this blue dress just looked ill-fitting and she seemed in danger of loosing it all night.

Trend 2 – Pinks, reds and every shade in between.

As with other awards shows this year, the trend for pinks, reds, orange, corals etc was still in abundance. As with the blue shade though, some looks were more successful than others. Emma Stone continued her strong showing this awards season wearing an amazing Lanvin gown in coral. With her hair still blonde and channelling Marilyn Monroe, she looked perfect. Thandie Newton is always on best dressed lists on occasions like this, and her beautiful Monique Llhullier pink strapless gown was romantic and dramatic, and her simple hair and make up were also flawless. Amy Adams wore a dress from the Elie Saab Spring/Summer 11 collection that perfectly matched her skin tone and hair colouring, and, unlike her SAG dress, this actually fitted properly! Harry Potter star Bonnie Wright was beautiful in her floral dress from Clements Ribeiro. The length was unusual, but suited the dress which had a slight oriental feel to it. Sam Taylor Wood showed that minimal can be oh so flattering in her orange Celine dress, although I wasn’t so sure about her beau Aaron Johnson’s paisley Tom Ford tux, which was slightly cruise ship singer for me. I was not impressed with Sarah Harding’s Georges Chakra red dress, it was a little bit like a Las Vegas showgirl, seemed to age her, and the tattoos just looked tacky.

 

Emma Stone

 

 

Amy Adams

Bonnie Wright

Sam Taylor Wood and Aaron Johnson

Sarah Harding

 

The mavericks

There are some fashionistas who ignore all the trends and style rules when they hit the red carpet. This is a risky venture, but when it pays off, the results can be dazzling. Helena Bonham Carter stayed true to her favourite designer, Vivienne Westwood, for the BAFTAS. She was nursing a cold but sported one of her best and most flattering looks, appearing elegant and glamorous.  On the other hand, the gloriously beautiful Eva Green turned up in a gothic black gown from Tom Ford that made her look like a reject from the Adams Family. It reminded me of a similarly unflattering look sported by Gwyneth Paltrow at The Oscars. Tilda Swinton, who can get it wrong on the red carpet, looked spectacular in a trouser suit by Haider Ackermann which made the statuesque actress look like the heir to Marlene Dietrich’s androgynous glamour crown.

Rosamund Pike divided my opinions in her mustard Alexander McQueen gown. Although I loved the halter neck dress, I feel the same as I felt about the similar Mila Kunis dress from the SAG awards. It was just too Summery, perfect for The Serpentine, or Elton John’s summer ball, bit not to an event in drizzling February. Their was no such split opinion over Tracy Emin’s look. With her wearing a bed sheet Vivienne Westwood dress, and just got out of bed hair, I can only surmise she is relaunching her unmade bed artwork, with herself part of the human exhibit!

 

Young stars

Emma Watson proved yet again why she is a style icon to watch with her ethereal dress from Valentino. Her hair and make up were great too, but she looked a little moody on the night, a smile would’ve improved her look even more. Hailee Steinfeld wore a calf length dress from Mui Mui, that I was torn about. The length was unflattering and needed to be either shorter or longer to really suit the young star. Her hair was also a bit mumsy, with a Queen Victoria style bun. One look I really loved was the gorgeous tulle style prom dress worn by Felicity Jones. This was really an example of a young star dressing age appropriately and having fun with fashion. The vintage Chanel dress was frothy and fabulous, and with her cute bangs and smoky make-up, her whole look was spot on.

Could this be the year that ethical fashion finally becomes mainstream?

It’s been around for a few years now, but for many, ethical fashion is a bit like the gym – you know it’s a good thing, but you don’t necessarily go there! Images of hippies wearing tie dye and smelling of joss – sticks were so prevalent that fashionistas saw ethical fashion as a thanks – but no thanks moment. No amount of moral feeling was worth that amount of hemp.

But things may be changing, and in future years, people may point to February 2011 as the turning point. The month in which ethical fashion made headway, headlines, and with the new fair trade, fair mined hallmark, made history.

Not yet convinced? Then let’s look a little closer at some of the evidence. This month sees the launch of Emma Watson’s final collection for ‘People Tree’. Emma is a much admired style icon by anyones standards, but one who strongly supports ethical fashion. Her collections for People Tree have been important because she fundamentally understands that in order to succeed, ethical fashion needs to be stylish and wearable. Her collection has both style and wearability in spades. A range of cute silk mini dresses in polka dot and check prints are young and fresh, whilst a picture of Emma posing in front of a huge motorbike is sure to appeal to the young audience it is targeting. Of the collection, which goes on sale on February 28th, the actress says ‘    we took care to design a really wearable collection that truly celebrates the traditional skills of People Tree’s fair trade groups around the world.’

 

Emma Watson for People Tree

 

 

 

Silk dress Emma Watson for People Tree

 

Emma Watson is just one of a new breed of fashionistas who genuinely believe that our luxury items shouldn’t come at the detriment of other people, nor should they cost the planet. Livia Firth, the totally gorgeous wife of actor Colin Firth has seen her style profile on the rise due to the acclaim, and numerous award nominations Colin has received for his film ‘The King’s Speech’. This will come to a grand finale this month with the Oscars, where Colin is favourite to pick up the best actor award. But Livia is no ordinary style icon. A talented film producer, Livia is the creative director of ECO AGE, a one stop shop for stylish environmental products. Liv also collaborates with Lucy Siegle for Vogue.co.uk’s Green Carpet Challenge, which showcases ethical red carpet looks. This awards season she has been busier than ever, with her own looks being put forward for scrutiny. She has quite frankly, hit the ball out of the park, looking amazing at all the awards ceremonies. My particular favourite was her look at the Critics Choice awards, where she wore  a black Nina Skarra Peace Silk dress, with a necklace she designed herself for the ethical brand MADE. On the hunt for the perfect Oscar gown, Livia is guaranteed to look stylish, elegant and unique amongst all the froth on the red carpet.

 

Livia Firth at The Critics Choice awards

 

Ethical fashion is benefitting from the support and patronage of such stylish women as Emma Watson and Livia Firth, but it also needs the heavyweights of fashion if it is going to become mainstream. Step forward Vivienne Westwood. The high priestess of style has shown her support of  fair trade and ethical fashion in her support of two major movements. She has designed a range of fabulous tote bags for the Ethical Fashion Africa project. These are limited edition, and have been handcrafted by artisans in Nairobi using recycled materials. In addition to this, Vivienne has designed the official t-shirt for this years Comic Relief – Red Nose Day. This is made in Africa from 100% fair trade cotton, and has the backing of a stylish ad campaign featuring fashion icons like Sienna Miller, Nicola Roberts and Helena Christenson.

 

Dame Vivienne Westwood ethical fashion africa project bags

 

New ethical heroes are emerging too. LIV is a new ethical  fashion/knitwear collection that has been launched by knitwear designer Dawn Foxall. Using knitted organic cotton, this collection is full of soft and luxurious pieces that have the feel of cashmere, but are totally environmentally friendly. I love this tie neck jumper from the collection. Liv is an affordable collection, with prices ranging from £35 to £110. (www.liv-uk.com)

Perhaps the most important move will be the introduction of the Fair trade and Fair mined gold standards that will come into operation on Valentines day. Consumers will now be able to track the origins of any gold items carrying this standard. In order to achieve the standard, safe and responsible practices in recovery of the gold must’ve been adopted, particularly in the use of toxic chemicals. In addition, if you buy gold that has been fair traded and fair mined, you will know that the miners have at least achieved the fair trade guaranteed minimum price for that gold, rather than the exploitative bare minimum paid to many miners who work in what has often been described as one of the dirtiest industries on the planet.

These moves towards ethical fashion are significant. They show that ethical fashion can be stylish and stand on its own merits, that our new style icons can be ethically and environmentally conscious, yet still shine on the red carpet and that we can enjoy shopping without a guilty conscience. February 2011 may yet be the month when fashion found its conscience. To discuss this in further detail, I turned to an expert. Kate Carter is the life and style editor for The Guardian, and is also a total ethical heroine. A highly respected journalist, writer of the Guardian’s witty ‘Fashion Statement’, Kate is talented, irreverent and a total smack in the face to those who believe that strong ethical views can’t be kept company by a sense of humour. I asked Kate a few questions regarding ethical fashion. Her answers make for interesting reading.

 

An ethical interview with Kate Carter (conducted online – no print outs!)

Kate Carter

 

1. How did you become interested in ethical fashion?

I feel I ought to have a story here about visiting a sweatshop in Bangladesh and having a life changing experience, but I actually can’t really remember! I think it was through discovering People Tree and Howies – both ethical fashion companies – and learning more about what they did, and why they did it. It was before I was in journalism, at any rate, so more years ago than I care to remember.

 

2. What would you say to address those who still believe ethical means hemp and tie dye?

I’d tell them they are desperately unfashionable 😉 Seriously, I know that a lot of people do still have that perception, but that they should just look at the amazing companies now producing incredibly luxe and stylish clothes, from red carpet-worthy vegan shoes at Beyond Skin to too-cool-for-school Edun. I’d tell them to go and look at fashion-conscience.com for some trend-led ethical fashion. Then I’d make them go and google Livia Firth (hits the red carpet with husband Colin, wearing only sustainable chic, then blogs about it for Vogue) or Natalie Portman (vegan, so won’t wear animal products) or Summer Rayne Oakes (former model turned eco entrepreneur)

3. Who are your ethical style icons?

Definitely Livia Firth. Glamorous but grown up. To the Paris premiere of The King’s Speech she wore a dress made by Junky Styling, recycled from an old moth-eaten suit of Colins. Fantastic!

 

4. Do you worry that ethical fashion could be a trend, rather like models going naked rather than wearing fur?

I do worry that the recession will bite it harder than other areas, but I don’t think it’s going anywhere. Those models who swore they would rather go naked than wear fur, then a few seasons later were advertising it  … well let’s just say models aren’t paid for what’s in their heads. Fortunately the driving forces behind ethical fashion – in the UK, people like Orsola di Castro (who runs From Somewhere, an upcycling fashion label, and co-curates Estethica at London fashion week) and Safia Minney (founder of People Tree) are committed, intelligent, and not prepared to back down!

 

5. Do you think mainstream fashion magazines could do more to promote ethical fashion and jewellery?

Yes, definitely. But I don’t think they should do it “separately” – ethical fashion and jewellery has to stand on its own merits or it will never really hit the mainstream. It needs to be gorgeous, desirable, well made. The problem for many of these companies is that they are run on a wing and a prayer, and can’t afford to hire big PR companies to get their message and their product on the desk of glossy magazine editors. So unless you are immersed in the world anyway, it’s easy just to overlook them. Personally I think magazines should do more to search out new companies with decent ethics. Even if they don’t pay for big adverts in the magazine 😉

My thanks to Kate for taking the time to answer my questions.