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The New Eco-friendship Of Fashion




The story of fashion used to be different. Fashion meant something else something that definitely wasn’t about a truck-load of textile waste per second. As we are going through a global crisis which is embedded in daily life, it’s time to redefine many concepts such as economics, finance, environmental awareness, personal hygiene, and an entire industry in light of these contexts.



We talked about one thing and one thing only in 2020. As we’re counting down the days to 2021, we hope to be able to talk about new things. Yes, we will discuss, as usual, new season trends, the strategies of giants that stand the test of the pandemic, and the changing consumer behavior, but there’s no doubt that the macro trend of sustainability will come under the spotlight and, in the coming years, it will claim its rightful place.


The oldest members of the Gen Z, which globally comprises 40% of consumers, are still young but they are definitely more direct, open to communication, realistic, and have higher ethical values. Therefore, trying to win the loyalty of this generation, as they are gradually becoming more financially independent, will be the post-pandemic strategy of many ready-to-wear brands. It has never been harder to address a younger generation before because the “technology” we deem as “new” has turned into a market into which they are born, creating sub-platforms where they can make themselves seen or heard and demand more on every level. Now, winning requires taking a minute to listen and developing strategies that celebrate their values and creating personal stories instead of imposing your own truth on them.


 

THE SPIRIT OF THE TIME


The habit of second-hand shopping is as old as the fashion itself due to equally valid different reasons such as saving, bargaining, nostalgia, and individuality. As we were starting to forget about Sophia Amoruso, who created the entrepreneurial tale of “Nasty Gal” by salvaging clothes from thrift shops, giving them a new life, and selling them on her eBay store; Depop (which has 21 million active users around the world under the age of 26) has given us a social second-hand shopping experience by embedding certain features of Instagram. They smartly used the interactive communication wave and transformed second-hand shopping into an exchange of “values” in the greater scheme of things by enabling followers to discover and like each other’s wardrobe, to sell in their own stores, and to keep in touch with one another to develop new aesthetics, styles, and trends. Depop, which magnificently caters to the sense of discovery, democracy, transparency, inspiration, and achievement sought by this generation, has timely adapted to the spirit of times that prioritize ethical and environmental values.




Other brands such as COS, Zalando, H&M, and Selfridges have begun to take responsibility and initiated their “resale” platforms. Levi’s opened its website second-hand.levi.com exclusively for vintage 501, 505, and 550 enthusiasts. Another “trickle up” story, one of the most exciting cases in our fashion management class, emerged when Gucci asked itself, “If I’m a luxury fashion brand and I witness the growth of ‘resale’ clothes market 21 times faster than the general fashion industry, how can I get a piece of it?” Gucci, as one of the giants of luxury, combined forces with The RealReal and announced its partnership with Burberry and Stella McCartney. When it launched a capsule collection comprising its used products, a great taboo was torn down in the minds of the premier league players. “Second hand market” invites the current market into the game instead of damaging it and enables added value as a genius marketing strategy. Simultaneously, we will continue to wonder if they’re going to decrease their environmental damage with their ongoing production.




CONSIDERATE TOUCH


The nobility to love clothes that have been used and loved, and the sense of nostalgia and uniqueness it accompanies, may have been elegantly instilled in our hearts when Princess Beatrice preferred to have her wedding ceremony on July 17 in the middle of the pandemic and wore the wedding dress by Normal Hartnell, in which her grandmother Queen Elizabeth said “yes” to Prince Philip when she was ruling a nation that was trying to heal the wounds of World War II. This considerate choice on behalf of the Princess attached “vintage” an unprecedented significance as a non-verbal expression of how she understood and respected the psyche of her nation and the world, in a climate that repeats history. One year ago, Burberry, the most “British” of brands in a country where celebrating traditional heritage has long been a lifestyle, brought back its ironic beige, black, white, and red plaid pattern, which has had a bumpy journey since the 1960s. Zara released a collection in October, the vintage quality of which can be questioned by certain fashion enthusiasts, who think of Mary Quant’s miniskirts when they’re thinking vintage. The brand reinterpreted 14 favorite pieces from the seasons between 1996 and 2012, and presented the sustainability movement with a “timeless” and equally “ironic” capsule collection as if to repent for the sins of feeding the consumption cycle by delivering new products in its stores every two weeks. That was what Michael Kors had in mind when he reinterpreted a cape he made 21 years ago with wrap pleats, brayed metal sequins, organic denim, and wool: to reintroduce investment pieces.




The pioneer that carried this momentum one step further was Patagonia’s Recrafted program. The collection included colorful jackets, vests, T-shirts, and bags made with pieces of clothing that cannot be mended and would otherwise be waste; however, each piece is designed in a unique way in terms of color and texture. Inspired by this movement, Maison Margiela put “retransformation” at the heart of its creative process last February, and initiated “Recicla line” (Recycle line) by rebuilding clothing salvaged from thrift stores. Miuccia Prada has been doing her part as the longtime queen of sustainable fashion systems. In late November, Mrs. Prada launched her “Upcycled by Miu Miu” collection including 80 dresses, which she discovered at the stores and markets between 1930s to 1970s, and reinterpreted their vintage design. She recreated these designs with the brand’s signature embroidery and embellishment -from stripes and sequins to crystals, beads to bowties- and a bit of Miu Miu’s character. That’s why each of these pieces, handmade in the last process, is unique.



This movement, which thrills design students dwelling in thrift shops and flea markets, made it more valuable when fabric manufacturers reused to create products with the fabrics they found in their storehouse or were deemed as waste by the factories after production. One example would be Bode receiving this year’s LVMH award. New York-based designer Emily Adams Bode created a unique menswear brand by using the fabrics she has collected from all across the world including centennial quilts, Victorian linens, and vintage French bed linens. While Bode says she’s still regularly wandering the stalls of flea markets to find ancient lacework or duvet embroidery, Christoph Rumpf, the winner of the 2019 Hy res Festival, also refers to flea markets for inspiration. However, the designer believes he could present a very limited offer by just visiting the flea markets and also chooses to use the waste from fabric manufacturers in small details. He designed a gold-detailed midnight blue jacket by assembling a scarf from the flea market, an excess stock of jacquard and cotton, and a collar filled with foam extracted from an old car seat. Rumpf used fabric waste from excess stocks to create 90% of his Hyeres capsule collection of seven pieces.




The ugly truth about fashion starts to reveal itself while organizing this very creative yet also quite calculated supply chain. The challenge begins when buyers don’t place an order for the pieces created with resources that are too scarce even for a single runway show. This is because the pieces are not mass produced with rolls of fabric; you may find the terry cloth of the 1960s but they could be gone in the next season. Eventually, it leads to a substantial nuisance when the industry cannot catch up with the production volume and price range that keep big fashion houses afloat. In terms of retail, the problem is the inability to provide continuity with the products on the shelves. The good news is that stores can now offer this flexibility as they can tolerate a variety of products by claiming their share in the new order.


Then, where did the change start? Long before the coronavirus outbreak, the climate and environmental activists of the fashion world had started to make themselves heard. In a time when we realized we don’t need party dresses, we noticed a lot more of what we don’t really need. The nonrotating cogs of the fabric factories led designers to work with excess stocks. The fashion world, which dreaded the words “previous season,” saw the necessity of changing its attitude when customers started to lean towards sustainability. The greatest change occurred when consumers, not brands, started taking responsibility. In this new economic order shaped by the pandemic, our ability to protect and preserve those we love, created a new aesthetic reality both in design and production.


Having revived an ancient rug she found in Turkish markets with a wool coat made with excess stock pieces for the 2020 Fall-Winter season, Gabriela Hearst also agrees with Michael Kors. “When you design something that women really love and that has a signature, it means you’ve created a sustainable product, because you form a lasting connection.” Who can disagree with this?


Gabriela Hearst, 2020 Fall-Winter Season

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