Last spring, during their first days of shelter at home, Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez realized they were tied. The world’s premium fabric mills, many based in the northern Italian regions hardest hit by the pandemic, are all closed until further notice. How can a luxury fashion label design a new collection without new fabrics? After Zooming countless suppliers, they decided to use bolts from deadstock fabric left over from the previous season. “We have a huge archive of fabric from the last decade, and we really took advantage of it – and in a strange way it forced us to be more creative,” Hernandez recalls. “Ninety percent of the Spring 2021 collection is made of archival fabric that has been reworked differently.” Meeting the challenge with a separate rib-knit crochet collection and oversized sewing in an upbeat earthy color, both of which also achieved their long-standing goal of reducing waste. “This process has taught us a lot of things we plan to carry over to the next season,” McCollough explained. “We kept saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be sad if we got out of this and came back to life like before?’ It has made us think outside the box. “
That spinning capability is needed by nearly every design studio around the world this season, as brands grapple with unprecedented supply chain disruptions caused by Covid-19. That means they have to reconsider conventional beliefs about what high fashion is. Recycling, the process of reusing existing materials, is used to generate cunning and scavenging visions Mad Max, that is, the opposite of luxury. To date, less than 1 percent of the fabric produced by the fashion industry is recycled into new clothing, according to a 2017 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy think-tank, that contributes to $ 500 billion in material losses each year. . It’s an industry defined by a relentless search for new and subsequent ones, with labels yielding four or more collectibles per year, each made from a new and different fabric, the remains of which soon become, you guessed it, dead.
Proenza is not alone in raiding its storage units this season. At Alexander McQueen, eagle-eyed fans may have seen the sweet pea fabric from the Pre-Spring 2016 label collection in the shoulder bag, while many suit and airy lace dresses are produced in deadstock fabric. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana also took a trip down memory lane for their Spring 2021 Dolce & Gabbana Sicilian Patchwork collection. Shiny brocade plaid, striped cotton, and leopard and polka-dotted chiffon sourced from their fabric archive combine many of the brand’s advantages. “The lockdown reminds us that we can creatively reuse what we have by changing it and that everything can last forever,” said Gabbana.
For Chloé’s newly formed creative director, Gabriela Hearst, who has been using deadstock since her first runway collection for her namesake brand in 2017, the crisis has offered a kind of litmus test. “Limitations always show your tastes and points of view,” he said. “Honestly here, reused fabric can look like messy heat. But if done right, you won’t even notice that the fabric doesn’t come straight from the mill. He noted a change in attitude: “When we started reusing material for our first show, it wasn’t talked about in the luxury market, and I got into trouble with one of our factories because they felt it wasn’t the right language. Thankfully, that’s all changing now. “The plant closings also inspired the innovative use of unexpected materials. Pick up a “fur” coat from Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia, made from excess shoelaces, a dress made from used basketball net (reminiscent of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s iconic fishing net dress), and a sculpted moto jacket made of patched boots. embroidery complete with rivets and buckles.
Gvasalia, of course, spent time early in his career at Maison Margiela, where such material innovation was always at the heart of it. During the label’s early days, Martin Margiela used invented materials to create completely new outfits – butcher’s aprons turned into dresses, for example. Creative director John Galliano continues to build on that legacy this season with Recicla’s refurbished vintage items, which include a beautifully restored woven bag, a lace top, and a tango pump. At Coach, executive creative director Stuart Vevers personalizes the archival bag from the 1960s-era Bonnie Cashin brand with moniker stitches, and adds embroidery of butterflies and rhinestones to Levi’s 501 jeans. He named the spring collection “Coach Forever,” to underline that it was is a mixture of the past, present, and future.
Other brands are investing in high-tech recycling methods, such as making fabrics from regenerated fibers. The Re-Nylon Prada project – a collection of label signature nylon bags made from nylon fabric made from recycled textiles and marine plastics – is expanded into ready-to-use bags. Some of the coveted clutch cloaks this season are made of Re-Nylon, which literally turns trash into treasure. “With Re-Nylon, we are able to create products without using new resources, highlighting our ongoing efforts to promote responsible retailing,” said Mrs Prada’s son, Lorenzo Bertelli, who is also the Prada Group’s Head of Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility. “We are on the right track regarding the conversion of all virgin nylon production to regenerated nylon by the end of 2021.”
Another eco-friendly silver lining is that the number of units going into production has been drastically reduced, which will result in less waste. “Post-Covid, those who can afford the ultimate luxury will want something special and close to one-off, and it won’t be about the $ 3,000 dresses available worldwide,” said Hassan Pierre, co-founder of Maison de Fashion, luxury fashion retailer for upscale and environmentally responsible fashion. Green fashion pioneer, Stella McCartney agrees. “Often times we can only make limited or single-use editions because of the little fabric and stock we have left. That said, though, it also means we’re creating rare pieces that can be liked by women, absolutely love wearable artwork. “One of the collectors’ collections, the Gabriela gown, incorporates pieces of fabric from Stella’s nine ready-to-wear collections.” I was the only fashion conscious brand in the room, “McCartney says of the two decades he spent campaigning for more responsibility. big in luxury fashion. “And now I’m excited to see other designers re-evaluate their goals.”
Whether this pandemic-induced wave of environmental responsibility will last is a question that concerns many proponents of conscious design. Anna Brismar, a sustainability consultant who coined the term “circular fashion” in 2014, has her doubts. “Disruption will occur some embracing the need for more sustainable and circular practices, but many companies are likely to return to business as usual, ”he predicts. The problem there, Pierre explains, is that “climate emergency is not a trend, it is not going away. Protecting the future of our environment is fundamental to proving the success of a brand in the future; it’s not just a marketing ploy. ”
For many brands, especially the younger, more environmentally conscious groups, the pandemic has not proven to be a bother. “We make it all at a little atelier in Bulgaria, and our skirts are made in a way that doesn’t slow us down,” says Emma Chopova of the London-based Chopova Lowena label, which is famous for its accordion pleated skirt made of pillowcases and old aprons. In Paris, Lamine Kouyaté of Xuly.Bët knits pieces to make a colorful tassel miniskirt to open the collection, while Kevin Germanier uses the no-waste pattern technique, cutting all of his dresses from simple rectangles. In New York, Hillary Taymour of Collina Strada designed a number of trippy printed shirts, tanks and dresses made from T-shirts sourced from Ghana’s Kantamanto Market, and Eckhaus Latta cut knits and napkins to make her own woven skirts and dresses. And in Rome, Stella Jean saw challenges as a matter of resistance. “On the first day of closure, I called all of my craftsmen, most of whom were women, and said, ‘Will you join me and move on?’ I’m not very good at making cakes or pizza, so for me there was no choice. “The result is a spinoff collection of joggers made from recycled men’s shirts, which are hand-painted and embroidered by hand, while maintaining local techniques.
One thing to take away from studios, both large and small, is the new energy and optimism that new boundaries create. McCartney’s final reflection seems apt. “This time it allows me to refocus on what’s important,” he said. “I can clearly see that there is so much overproduction, overconsumption, and a relentless urge for novelty, and I hope that more circular thinking can show that you can get a sense of newness in other ways that are more welcoming to our planet.” Welcome to the new 2.0: fresh, exclusive and environmentally friendly, and with just a little déjà vu.
This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR, available on newsstands February 2.
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