Eco-fashion has never been more chic: VIN + OMI at London Fashion Week
A decade ago, the words ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘fashion’ were as likely to be put together as women’s football being the most watched programme on British TV. And yet, happily, some things really do change for the better.
London Fashion Week darlings packing the pavements outside The Savoy this week waiting for the VIN + OMI show, making it clear that there’s been a real sea-change (quite literally, in terms of plastic awareness) and eco has never been more chic.
Fri 20 Sept 2019
VIN + OMI, who have been working together since 2004, are truly dedicated to ending fast fashion (and actually staged their show outside of the official LFW) and have always looked to planet-friendly resources.
In their own words: “We are world leaders in contemporary eco fashion. Our message is education, innovation and to push the boundaries of what we can do to save the planet while making fashion fun, environmentally and socially responsible.”
This year’s show, Sting, was named because of a particularly unlikely material – Prince Charles’ nettles.
Yes, as strange as that sounds, the pair turned to The HRH Prince of Wales earlier this year to discuss all things environmental and ended up collecting thousands of nettles from the Highgrove estate.
It was actually Charles’ idea: he strims a huge volume of the plants back each year and suggested that the designers might want to take the off-cuts to experiment. And experiment they did.
Watching Jo Wood and the other models glide down the catwalk in statement fluffy jackets, you might assume the downy texture was cotton, but in fact, they were un-dyed nettle fibres.
Following ancient practices, VIN + OMI strip the nettle leaves, rot them on grass (a process known as rhetting) and then follow new ways of processing the fibre that has no environmental impact and results in a cream colour. They then either leave this in its natural state, felt and appliqué them, or dye them with natural plant dyes woad (blue) and maddow (red).
A total of 10 pieces in VIN + OMI SS20 collection were nettle-based. And it’s this sort of innovation that could well be the solution to our current clothing crisis.
Instead of acres of cotton fields in undeveloped countries, imagine if one day’s foraging in the countryside could result in tomorrow’s statement outfit.
While we may be a way from that, the show was a reminder that there are smaller steps we can all be taking immediately to reduce our impact.
Great care was taken over the sponsorship for the event, with a goodie bag packed with ethical brands. One was PATCH Bamboo Plasters – an entirely compostable product (including the packaging) that’s also hypoallergenic and made from natural materials – that many of the models, and Vim himself, were seen wearing on their hands and faces.
“On each of our press releases we stuck wildflower seeds behind a PATCH strip, so people could plant their press release afterwards and watch it grow, knowing the strip is biodegradable,” said VIN + OMI.
“Leading eco brands need to stick together to create a strong global eco network.”
As well as nettles, the designers were given Highgrove hazel and willow which were used as handles for shopping bags, and even some chicken wire that found its way into clothing to add structure – one man’s trash truly is another’s treasure.
And that’s just one element of the show’s sustainability – they also used plastic waste from an art company, vinyl posters to make bags, and even used plastic from The Savoy to make scarves, currently on sale in the hotel’s gift shop.
But ultimately, none of these efforts are going to convince people to buy ethically unless the clothes look good – not a problem here.
There was a fantastic mixture of daring catwalk looks (latex-style pants covered in cheeky arrows; anarchy-printed red vests) and instantly wearable jeans and dresses – my favourite, a cream smock printed with delicate eyes. Not all of it – skin-tight bodysuits aside – is made for models alone either, with pretty, structured slips made from nettle felt and draped maxi dresses designed to flatter.
The future of fashion is looking inclusive, low-impact and we’re here for it.