Fashion-conscious used to mean caring about how you looked. But cast your mind back to this time last year and the fight for sustainability was only just beginning. It would be another 11 months before Bethany Williams would win the award for Emerging Menswear Talent at the Fashion Awards and we could look back on 2019 as being the year of sustainability, officially. Suddenly being fashion conscious meant something else entirely.
Big or small, designers and luxury brands in their swathes signed up to pledge and manifest ways to exist in fashion consciously. And the effects were felt at the London menswear collections.
At the Charles Jeffrey Loverboy show, one full of drama, spectacle and live performance, the designer issued his own Manifesto For Conscious Practice, noting that while his brand has always been about excess, there are ways to create that without, er, being quite so excessive. Nine points covered his intentions, while another five explained how this collection in particular reflected and fulfilled these aims – GOT standard cotton, tartan made in Scotland, made-to-order fabric, visits to factories to ensure worker conditions.
“This time we’ve put menswear into thinking about sustainability and conscious fashion because that’s very important in the industry,” said the creative director of Munn, Hyun-Min Han, backstage at his show this week. The designer, not unfamiliar with its design possibilities, had previously used feedstock sacks in collections. This time, he incorporated neckties and scarves made from leftover fabric; bags made from old tyres and coffee bean bags; and recycled denim, rayon and nylon. “We’ve given an Oriental Korean twist to it,” he explained – which, in his hands, continues to retain the signature elegance of the brand.
Something that Priya Ahluwalia, too, is keen to preserve. “It starts with the research. I don’t want it to be like ‘Oh this is recycled.’ I try really hard to elevate the materials along with everything else. You want people to really love it and see that it can be fresh,” she said at her presentation, noting how recycling and re-using is all part of her working practise, yes, but not the only defining characteristic of it.
This season she was inspired by the year 1965. “I wanted to look at a cross-section of culture, not just through a fashion lens.” Which is likely why the pieces were so strong, full of finesse and believable – because they operated in the real world, with the added bonus that fabric, in some cases, had already had a former life.
And ultimately, as being “conscious” or “sustainable” (whatever you want to call it) becomes the default, this desirability factor is going to play an increasing role.