Being in London for more than 24 hours without getting sight of Thames River was a first. And when the Thames is your favourite sight in London that means that something is wrong. Or maybe, something is right instead.
You know how priorities change over time. London used to be all about culture and architecture; it was about enjoying beauty in all its forms. But there came a time when fairness came before beauty. Then came a time when being conscious and raising awareness on sustainability in fashion and beyond became a priority. And the time was now.
That’s why a week ago I flew to London not for pleasure, but for business (sic). Not exactly for business though, because social business is downgraded if we call it business, in my opinion. Making money and making an impact is not the same thing, after all. The plan went like this: I was to attend a full day event on Sustainable Design and then to visit Fashion Revolution events in the heart of London, where the non profit movement that is campaigning for transparency in the fashion industry is based. There is a close connection between the two, if you’re wondering: sustainability in the fashion industry does not come without transparency.
Thanks to the Natural Materials Association in London, the NMA, and the organizational skills of our host Brett Sudell of Bio Based Solutions we had a full day of informative presentations on sustainable design. The event “Design for Sustainability with Natural Materials” had a panel of researchers and innovative companies in the area of construction, interior design, pharmaceutical packaging solutions and textile innovation, and as you may have understood my main interest is with the latter.
The highlight was discovering the story behind the most coveted vegan material right now, ‘the pineapple leather’ as they call it. Piñatex is definitely not leather, not with the negative connotations leather has. What is it, then? Piñatex is a natural and sustainable textile made from pineapple leaf fibres, a by-product from the pineapple harvest. The fabric developed by Dr Carmen Hijosa was hailed as a breakthrough and received the Innovation Award by PETA in 2015, as well as their ‘Vegan Fashion Label’ certification and other awards.
Carmen and her team are based in the Royal College of Art incubator in London. On the other side of the globe the Filipino farmers are extracting the fibres from the pineapple leaves to make the fiber mesh that will be then made into Piñatex. The finishing and transformation from fiber mesh into finished product takes place in Spain. A handful of companies are already working with the material and I hope that it will be soon available to more designers; I am glad I met Carmen, a visionary with a passion for design and that I actually was among the few who have actually touched the samples, as well as some finished products. It is a great material with an elegant feel and oh-so-sustainable!
Next stop in London was a pop-up shop off King’s Cross that was curating ethical fashion designers for Fashion Revolution Week, after happily meeting up with a few of my classmates from the online course “How to Build a Sustainable Fashion Business” on Future Learn, given by the Ethical Fashion Forum. London is big in ethical fashion and sometimes I’m jealous I’m not based there any more.
Last celebratory stop: a university screening of the documentary ‘True Cost’, a doc all fashion revolutionaries and conscious consumers should watch. The event was hosted at the London South Bank University by two student ambassadors pursuing a Masters Degree in Sustainability. Apart from the screening, they had put together a great panel that leaded a discussion on the changes in Bangladesh after the Rana Plaza accident, our role as ethical consumers and the importance of demanding transparency from fashion companies (and all companies, for that sake).
I then had to run to Gatwick airport in high hopes of a changing world; a world where we will all consume consciously, love our planet and preserve it for generations to come. Because, clothes are but a small dot in the bigger picture of conscious living. Be curious, find out, do something! Yes, you can make a difference.
About the Author
Stylianee is an ethical fashion evangelist, among other things. She is passionate about all things sustainable, ethical and conscious and apart from raising awareness and advocating on upcycling, recycling, swapping, mending (not necessarily in this order) these days she is working on the launch of her sustainable fashion brand. Organic cotton, natural fabrics and smart design will do the trick.