India Flint

Another important early innovator in the contemporary movement of sustainable and ethical fashion is India Flint.

India is an Adelaide artist, living on a property in the Adelaide hills.  While a friend and I were sharing a studio at the JamFactory in the mid 2000’s, India held an exhibition in the main gallery space.  The fragrance of her scattered lemon-scented gum leaves greeted us each day as we entered the building.

Songs from the Wastelands, an installation from Earth Matters http://www.indiaflint.com/page30.htm

Although dyeing with eucalyptus leaves had been done before, India discovered and innovated a technique to transfer the dye and shape of leaves onto silk and wool fabric.  Her experimentation with every type of eucalypt available during her Masters Degree at the University of South Australia, expanded to include wild flowers and found objects such as rusty nails for mark making.

India is respectful of hand made techniques such as hand stitching with the thread in a colour and thickness of yarn that contrasted with the finished fabric.  She used up-cycled clothing and fabrics as a base to decorate and make new clothing.  She ignored minimalist approaches to fashion popular at the time, instead embracing layering and allowing the fabric to dictate the silhouettes.

Jo Roads, Deon Hastie Petroglyphs http://www.lwd.com.au, clothing by India Flint

Her unorthodox approach to the fabric itself, allowing the material to keep the wrinkles and creases from the dye process, created a three dimensional effect.  This added extra texture to the fabric, which was already  uneven in colour and pattern due to the natural dye process.

India has spent subsequent years to date touring the world teaching workshops and showing her beautiful work in galleries.  Many textile artists and designers have been influenced by her work, including myself, and I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate her influence on the future of fashion and textiles.

India Flint website, including images, workshops, exhibitions, books and contact details.

Upcycled Fashion: Junky Styling

Junky Styling are possibly the best known upcyclers of fashion.  Designers Annika Sanders and Kerry Seager, worked from an exposed studio on a shop floor to show transparency in the entire process.  Operating from 1997 to 2012, they started out at the Kensington Markets, then shared a space with a vinyl record store, and finally opened their own shop in East London.

Junky Styling shop in East London, 2012
Junky Styling shop 

I first came across the label in the mid 2000’s.  Westwood and Kawakubo were the innovators of unconventional fit, Kawakubo and Margiela the founders of deconstruction, but Junky Styling were leaders in the modern eco movement of fashion, deliberately using second hand or surplus materials.

Junky Styling Brick Lane, London

With the boring sameness of street wear, it was exciting to see clothing that was surprising.  Junky Styling were unique and inspiring in their approach to redesigning existing clothing without losing the integrity of the original item.  As self taught designers, they approached the remaking of clothing in a clever, unorthodox way,  making good use of the hard work already done in cuffs, collars, pockets, button fronts, tie backs and any tailored detail.

Suit upcycled to hooded bomber jacket, Junky Styling
Suit upcycled to hooded bomber jacket, Junky Styling

Not restricted by the traditional approach to fit, by turning clothing upside down, inside out or sideways, they were able to invent a new silhouette out of an old design.

This video shows a knit cardigan turned upside down, sleeves taken out, and after some refitting via darts and pleats, the sleeves are reinserted the new right way up for a draped neckline shrug; scarf and short top in one.

Upside down cardigan becomes shrug with scarf, Junky Styling
Upside down cardigan becomes shrug with scarf, Junky Styling

Their use of traditional men’s suiting to create unisex street wear was both subversive and intelligent design.  By reusing existing materials and design features, they could transform the message of the ‘suit’  with women taking part, and breaking down the formality of the clothing.  Turning a tailored suit into a halter top for women or a bomber jacket with a hoodie for men, carries on the anarchistic approach of punk.

Junky Styling halter dress from men's suit jacket
Junky Styling halter dress from men’s suit jacket

Their in-house Wardrobe Surgery, offering a made to measure design service from the clients own pre-loved clothing, was the foundation for their book of the same name.

Junky Styling: Wardrobe Surgery
Junky Styling: Wardrobe Surgery

The book details their business, including patterns from some of their well loved designs.  A pattern can be reused, but the fabric is always different, so each item of clothing is unique.

Junky Styling vest and shirt
Junky Styling vest and shirt

The Junky Styling designers emphasise finding your own look, and creating what fits and suits you personally.  They also say to be brave in cutting through fabric and experimenting.  This advice is useful for anyone, including designers!

Suit halter top and recycled men's shirts skirt Junky Styling
Upcycled suit jacket halter top and men’s shirts skirt Junky Styling

Junky Styling were founding members of the Ethical Fashion Forum and the “brand aligned with Oxfam’s reuse, recycle and resell philosophy aiming to combat the 1.4 million tonnes of textile waste sent to landfill each year.”

Junky Styling inside Brick Lane shop, London
Junky Styling inside Brick Lane shop, London

Although the shop has now closed, one half of the partnership, Annika, is running her own business including upcycled custom clothing design and consulting for the re-use of waste or excess materials in the textile/fashion industry.

Sources:

vpostrel.com

oxfam.org.uk

emel.com

notjustalabel.com

bredesigned.wordpress.com

Pinterest.com

annika-n.co.uk

Junky Styling: Wardrobe Surgery

Where to next [fashion, Part Three]

As mentioned previously, the future of fashion has to be based on sustainability or it isn’t relevant.  The same applies to any industry.  So what options are available for sustainable fashion?  The materials are the main concern, followed by ethical production.

Sex Pistols T-shirt, designed by Vivienne Westwood and Jamie Reid, customised by Johnny Rotten, late 1970s. Museum no. S.794-1990
Sex Pistols T-shirt, designed by Vivienne Westwood and Jamie Reid, customised by Johnny Rotten, late 1970s. V & A Museum no. S.794-1990

Sustainable materials include natural such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, silk, linen, wool, etc;  recycled plastic based fabrics; reconstituted fabrics from broken down natural and synthetic materials and reconstructed; whole clothing or factory off cuts or seconds that are surplus or returned; used fabric or clothing that is wearable; used clothing that is falling apart or unwearable due to broken zips, holes, stains, etc.

Viktor & Rolf Fall 2016 Haute Couture Vagabond Collection. Made from clothing and fabrics from previous collections.
Viktor & Rolf Fall 2016 Haute Couture Vagabond Collection. Made from clothing and fabrics from previous collections.

Ethical production follows the trail from fabric production to the finished item of clothing, and can account for every step of the way.  This depends on transparency.  Some of the good fabric suppliers such as Pickering International or Elsegood Fabrics, are happy to assist with information.

Cut and construction can be difficult to follow with contracting and subcontracting if the process isn’t documented.  Choices for local production in Australia are limited, so can be competitive to book in, and also require scrutiny for award wages and working conditions at all levels of production.

Deconstructed and redesigned rain mackintosh by Junky Styling, 2009
Deconstructed and redesigned rain mackintosh by Junky Styling, 2009

Ideally learning how to do everything is the easiest path to ethical production, or team up with people who have complimentary skills.  Digital design through Spoonflower; learning skills in painting, dyeing and printing fabric via Kraftkolour or Dharma Trading; using hand or machine fabric manipulation techniques to customise or create fabric.  Few of my favourite designers trained in fashion design, so lack of orthodox skills leads to new ways of creating, proving great fashion is about art and imagination.

Comme des Garçons Spring 2013, clothing made from what looks like multiple toile pieces
Comme des Garçons Spring 2013, clothing made from what looks like multiple toile pieces.  Headwear by Graham Hudson, made of recycled and upcycled materials and items.

 

Where to next? [fashion, Part Two]

Trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort released an Anti_Fashion Manifesto in 2015.  Edelkoort states “It’s the end of fashion as we know it” and criticises fashion schools and design houses as being stuck in a 20th century model that’s no longer relevant.   Her interest is now in clothes, not fashion, as she believes fashion has set itself outside of society.

According to Edelkoort, clothing is now about “exchange and the new economy and working together in teams and groups.”  Whereas fashion is controlled by marketing and greed, so there is no innovation.  As for textiles, Edelkoort says people don’t know anything anymore about textiles and clothing is made in countries where people get killed.*  She tackles six areas of design, education and production in the manifesto.

The problem with fashion as we know it is the same as any other industry.  A business is expected to grow into a company, list on the stock exchange, to be controlled by Directors who are only interested in delivering profits to shareholders and feathering their own nest.  That’s enough to suck the passion and creativity out of anything.

I started losing interest in fashion a few years ago, when the fashion houses treated designers as disposable, and any designer could head any house.  The fashion house held onto its core “look” and the designer became an interpreter of that look for today, which is a path to nowhere as it depends on copying what others are doing instead of the art of fashion.

The beauty of fashion has always been innovation and invention.  Art has to be at the core of any design industry to move it along to the next era.  The problem with art is that it is experimental, fails a lot, and takes time.  Pushing today’s business models onto art is a recipe for failure.  In fact, I think business models today are a recipe for failure full stop.

I just read a report into ‘productivity’ for a company that is intending to cut jobs in that sector.   How to they propose to do it?  100 pages saying outsource to contractors who don’t have to pay overtime, sick leave, holiday pay, work cover, or any other costs, because that all falls to the sub-contractor who end up on below minimum wage after costs, working punishing hours with no unions.

That, my friend, is the new productivity and how we are running our economy, back to third world wages and working conditions while companies pretend they are making great progress.  And we wonder why fashion has collapsed as we know it.

Where to next? [fashion, Part One]

Looking at international Fashion Week designs for Winter 2017/18, it suddenly stuck me something is wrong with fashion.  It’s out of fashion.

What is supposed to be cutting edge has stagnated.  The biggest movement in the last eight years is preppy hipster wear, which first made an appearance in the 1920’s.

With global awareness of climate change, population growth, fair trade, ethical manufacturing, sustainable and closed loop production, making clothing from new materials suddenly makes no sense.

After this revelation, came another; that clothing for him or her is no longer a thing.  Our next generation is moving away from gender specific branding in every way, and now focuses on being authentic with what they like, who they are and how they identify.  This freeing up of gender specific clothing design goes beyond the unisex or androgynous looks of the 70’s to 90’s.  It’s not a fad based trend but a genuine social upheaval that is influencing how we dress at the grass roots level.

And finally, the old ‘travel the world for inspiration’ resulting in cultural appropriation is over.  Themed parades appropriating First Nation head-dresses, artworks and ceremonial clothing by designers who have nothing to do with that culture, and without the permission of the First Nation peoples, are stealing intellectual property.

I think this uprising social awareness pushes artists and designers further into their own culture(s) to find inspiration.  Now more than ever, we can quickly access global information and images, but are challenged to process them in a visual language that is unique to our own experience.

Maybe the final awareness of the change in society, is the growing acceptance of street art and graffiti.  Art is coming out of the galleries in all forms of expression, and into our faces on the street.  After years of generic paid advertising creating visual pollution, it’s refreshing to see the work of random artists.  People who are willing to pay for their own materials, donate their own time, and at their own risk, make the city a more interesting place.  I’m waiting to see how this influences fashion beyond creating a backdrop for fashion shoots, a hoodie and pair of jeans that accommodates a spray can.

 

Young people are very good at shaking up the status quo, and pushing us into a new way of thinking.