Faux for Show: What is Ethical Fashion Really All About?

Fashion is energizing. It is extravagant and engaging and sometimes exclusive. But can it truly be ethical and ecological? If your favorite label decided to start using ecological materials, would you roll your eyes, or applaud? Whilst some designers still believe in using the sprightliest goat for their emblazoned arm candy, or parade models down the catwalk, pelts of various unidentifiable protected species draped across their shoulders, who is making a point of the efficiency and encompassing factors that surround sustainable fashion?

Stella McCartney brought luxury ethical and eco fashion to the mainstream eye. After father Paul, a singer apparently, and mother Linda, the poster girl for eco warriors across the changing landscape of celebrity at the time, decided to focus more on the sustainability of life and the impact we have, it seemed only a natural fit when daughter Stella decided to swing into view with her range of non-leather, 100% polyester bags, made and engineered to feel as supple as possible, and lining made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. The “leather” didn’t stop there, later came shoes and jackets, her subtle nod to eco fashion has been a constant undercurrent from every collection, her natural and simplistic modern aesthetic complements this, but when a 100% Plastic bag is the same price as a leather one from a matching brand, you have to either be truly dedicated to her aesthetic, or truly against the use of skins in design. The only other issue is, when vegetarians shape their food into shapes synonymous with meat products, it surely defeats the point, if you are making the point at using Polyester, why try so hard to make it identical in touch to leather?

In March 2010, Karl Lagerfeld, a man whose motorcycle gloved finger is so on the straddling pulse of life, made Cara and Gisele stage a semi-feminist protest last month, hit the headlines with the presentation of his Fall/Winter 2010 collection in Paris for Chanel. After a 265 tonne iceberg was transported to the Grand Palais, a trio of models emerges, trudging through the pooling ice water that surrounded the berg. Although none of this completely out of the ordinary for a Chanel Show so far, alas, the models were just three of many to be completely covered in fur, apparently sliced from any and every animal that made it onto the ark. Some were intrigued by the brash statement, some were outraged, and as the images spread across the world, outcries of obscene cruelty and unnecessary slaughter for a 15minute spectacle were heard. As the final model, Freja Beja Erichsen dragged her off white, feathered tulle and stripped fur mullet hem through the icy residue and the fash-pack ran for the usual scrum after a Chanel show, Karl let out his secret that he has been playing the media for the entire time. All the fur in the show was faux. Expertly crafted to resemble panoply of animals, he decided to test the consumer and the buyer in one, however the clothes still had the real fur price tag.

As more designers, mainstream and luxury are heading into a new era of consumerism, it will be interesting to see who rides the eco-wave, especially the icy one after Karl’s 2010 extravaganza. If fake fur can now be manufactured to an extreme quality and life-like texture, how long will we need to carry on with pelts and skins? With high-street stores launching eco-collections, H&M’s Conscious being a major player, you have to wonder how “Unconscious’ the manufacture of other clothes are. But will eco-conscious clothing, across the board, ever lose its ‘Hippy, hemp-t-shirt, earth warrior’ label? Well with Stella McCartney following in her mother’s footsteps, the 21st Century Eco Warrior may be swapping Birkenstocks for PU Stilettos sometime in the near future.

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