Category Archives: International Fashion

The Boldest Fashion Statements in Protest History: PETA

Whether we accept it or not, what we choose to buy and wear speaks a lot about who we are on the inside. As many of you hopefully know, the fashion industry has become more involved in activism throughout recent runways and shows. For lots of us, it is easier to buy cheap new garments without thinking of any downside. Through these purchases, we are sending a message of support to big fast-fashion, unsustainable, money orientated companies.

Image: Timur Emek / Getty Images

Well, praise the politics and open opinions of this society. Some designers and labels are out there, taking a stand against the irresponsible fashion industry model and reminding us why it’s so important to put our hard-earned money towards the positive side of the industry. Companies like PETA are not afraid to have tough conversations and extreme campaigns to highlight what they believe in. They tend to tackle the big world issues and launch the controversial ads, lines and collaborations that are not even in their best interests. It is becoming clearer that statements on and off the runways are getting the most attention, so to the brands who are doing it to get their name out there, not cool. But to those who have been supporting the good for years and truly believe in what they’re creating is for the greater good, I absolutely appreciate your work and bravery.

Compiling the most influential, extreme and boldest fashion protest statements in history has been a challenge but here are some of the best. I hope this written series changes the way you think of fast, cheap, cruel impulse buys.

Image: Huffington Post

PETA’S ANTI-FUR MODELS 1994

Sometimes, to make a statement, you need to recruit a few of the era’s top models and pose in no clothes at all. PETA revolutionized the 90s protest when the organization began to release their anti-fur campaigns full of completely naked models. The ad wrote ‘We’d rather go naked than wear fur’. Supermodels like Naomi Campbell, Chrissy Turlington, Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford and Elle McPherson were all photographed under the slogan stripped down to take a stand alongside PETA. This became one of the most iconic and influential advertisement of the 90s.

Image: PETA

This was all coming off a fur epidemic, where all through the past decades, most notably the 80s, fur was the ‘it’ item and the statement piece of women’s wardrobes. PETA’s anti-fur campaigns weren’t the first of their efforts to stop humanity and the fashion industry to stop the use of fur. PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and was founded in the 80s where the founders would organize small protests starting in the US. Before their clever campaigns, PETA and its affiliates worldwide gained a reputation for controversially bizarre street theatre. In 1992, activists for PETA were known to throw paint at people who were wearing fur and at one stage a giant ‘sheep’ followed the Australian Prime Minister at the time around to protest the cruelty in our wool industry.

Image: PETA

PETA’s ‘We’d rather go naked than wear fur’ campaign was incredibly powerful, whilst still many ladies sadly continued to strip the lives of animals to remain in the fashion game, many high-profile brands like Armani committed to going fur-free and have continued doing so to this day. Shortly after, a survey went out around America and it was said that after only one in five women still owned a fur coat.

 

Written by Darcey Weaven

References:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/nov/03/peta-cruelty-to-animals
https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1994/04/01/the-year-the-fur-flew/3b8ff4a7-b665-419b-882f-6e103b4fe04c/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0d01bfb8258d

Balmain Bringing ‘Beychella’ To Our Wardrobes for UNCF

After Beyoncé herself provided the world with one of the greatest performances Coachella has ever seen this year, the valley festival was (unofficially) renamed ‘Beychella’. Dressed in custom Balmain garments, the French brand then teamed up with Beyoncé for a once in a lifetime collection, pledging to donate 100% of the proceeds to the United Negro College Fund.

Image: Vogue France

The charitable range all started while Beyoncé and her back-up dancers were rehearsing their Coachella performance in their Balmain-made looks which were originally inspired by the marching band uniforms of America’s historically black colleges and universities. Oliver Rousteing, the creative director for Balmain stated, “When she saw all the dancers loving the outfit — and she was loving her own outfit — she realised that what we were creating on stage for her, for all the dancers, was something really impactful. It then clicked for the two creatives, why not create a Beyoncé X Balmain collaboration range that could start a movement of its own for all Beyoncé’s fans buzzing for a piece of history? Not only was her performance inspirational for the audience, it was inspirational for the world. She was the first ever black female to headline the California festival, where she used her opportunity to not only celebrate the culture of black colleges, but also feminism, activism and her family.

Image: Oliver Rousteing

Oliver Rousteing, head of the Balmain label shared the strong opinions Beyoncé was expressing during her performance.  After people in the industry doubted his ability to make any success out of the French house, he pointed out the serious lack of inclusion and acceptance of people of colour in the fashion industry. Rousteing has openly spoken about his disapproval of ads such as perfume posters. “You never see black girls, and if you do, they use Photoshop so much that they almost look white. It’s just wrong. People post on my Instagram that they are so happy to see black boys and girls. I’m happy that they see to and don’t think that fashion belongs to white people”.

Image: Beyoncé

Their unique collection dropped on July 13th at Balmain’s flagship store in Paris and sold online from the 14th for those not in the area. It consists of the yellow and pink hoodies Bey wore onstage during her set at Coachella in addition to a black tee with the same graphic print. The prints featured on all the pieces include the singer’s initials written in Greek letters, highlighting the theme of black fraternity/ sorority life.

While it is stated in various headlines that the historical collaboration clothing profits are being donated to UNCF, the prices are super steep. The intention was to share the pieces with Beyoncé’s fans and to give back to the colleges and universities, the t-shirt let alone will be setting you back a hefty $290, where the hoodies are ranging from $550-$1790. For the intensely dedicated fans, the price tag is worth it in the end to get their hands on a piece of history that is going towards something bigger than a new piece of clothing to take space in their wardrobe.

Not only did Beyoncé bring the collaboration to life, but she has already donated $100,000 to four historically black colleges after her set.

The UNCF is an American organization that is known to fund scholarships for black students and general scholarship funds for 37 private historical black colleges and universities. For more than seven decades, they’ve raised more than $4.8 billion and helped more than 45,000 students attend college, thrive, graduate and become the leaders.

Image: Beyoncé

Beyoncé is one of the biggest influencers to ever exist and with her platform she has the ability to make any difference she sees necessary. This is just another way that proves not only can she communicate with people through her music but communicate through clothing and culture.

 

Written by Darcey Weaven

References:
https://www.vogue.com/article/beyonce-x-balmain-coachella-collaboration
https://www.uncf.org/about
https://www.thecut.com/2018/07/beyonce-coachella-balmain-collection.html
https://www.bustle.com/p/when-does-the-beyonce-x-balmain-clothing-collaboration-come-out-you-can-buy-the-hbcu-sweatshirts-from-beys-coachella-set-9716345

Good On You: Fashion Assistant

It’s time to make feeling guilty about your fashion choices a thing of the past. Discover brands that do good by the planet and its inhabitants with Good On You.

Image: Instagram

Good On You is a free app that rates fashion brands on how ethically they make their clothes. With a 4.8 out of 5 rating on the Apple App Store, being ethically conscious in your fashion decisions has never been easier. Over 1,000 brands have been rated since its launch in 2015, including household names like Nike and Zara.

The app began with the realisation that consumers wanted to make better choices when purchasing but didn’t have the information on hand to make those better choices. It was established by non-profit organisation Ethical Consumers Australia and rates companies on a scale of one to five, with five being the most ethically conscious.

Image: Good On You

Good On You generates its ratings by analysing all public information from over 50 certification schemes in order to bring transparency from brands to their consumers. Users of the app can browse by names of brands, product categories, even by ethical issue (e.g. vegan, fair trade, country made, etc). When a brand is searched, Good On You will recommend alternative brands that are similar in style and price but carry a higher ethical rating.

Information doesn’t just flow from app to user either; suggestions and questions are encouraged to be sent in so that improvements can be made to make ethical shopping an easier experience. Users can recommend brands for Good On You to rate, too.

Image: Instagram

Good On You empowers brands that are committed to creating a sustainable fashion industry. If you want to start buying smarter and greener, look no further. Download the app now, available on iOS and Android.

 

Written by: Celina Foong

Find Good On You here.

 

Cultural Appropriation: The Do’s, Dont’s and Definitions

If you’ve been keeping up with all the fashion madness over the last few years you’re bound to have heard the term ‘cultural appropriation’. You might have seen pictures from Coachella with influencers sporting dreadlocks and cornrows, liked and commented on their posts, and not realised the consequences. Wherever you look, it’s basically a topic that has everyone split which is hard to ignore. No one really seems to fully understand it—big time fashion designers, celebrities and even us average Joes.

Cultural appropriation is defined as ‘the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect their culture’. And while that seems simple enough, in our social media globalised society, the lines between trying to be ‘on trend’ and something that is obviously offensive can be blurry.

Image: Joel Ryan/ Invision/ AP

In recent years, there have been numerous high-profile cases of well-known and respected brands in the industry getting it, well, wrong. Early this year, Gucci was criticised for styling turbans on their models who were not Seik. Many ethnicities declared the move as a huge sign of disrespect, stating that the turban is a symbol of faith and not an accessory. A similar controversy came about back in 2016 after Marc Jacobs used dreadlocks on mainly white models, where the designer stated: “To all who cry cultural appropriation or whatever nonsense about any race or skin colour wearing their hair in any particular style or manner- funny how you don’t criticise women of colour for straightening their hair”. He did later apologise for the debacle and statement he issued realising just how big the issue actually was in the world.

Image: Backgrid

In terms of trends, costumes and fashion, cultural appropriation makes certain styles seem cool and edgy for some, but too ethnic for people for others. Standards of professionalism in many business places actually ban African American women from wearing their natural hair in cornrows, dreadlocks or an afro, making them chose between appearing as they naturally would (as people suggest), or succeeding in their workplace. But influencers such as Kylie Jenner, are somehow praised when they choose to wear cornrows or dreadlocks. This doesn’t sound so fair does it?

The world shared a collective gasp when it was revealed what exactly Chanel’s newest item was a $2000 boomerang featuring their signature logo. People immediately saw the issue with the disgusting appropriation of Aboriginal culture. An Indigenous project officer, Nathan Sentence, of the Australian Museum spoke out about the issue, pointing out that the $2000 boomerang cost almost 10% of the average annual income of Indigenous Australians. Regardless, what can be described as worldwide outrage, the boomerang remained on their website listed under ‘Other Accessories’ amongst Chanel tennis racquets and surfboards.

Image: Twitter

Celebrities have the fan base and influence to really make a change with this growing issue. Some who rely heavily on their fanbases, often do apologise for ignorantly flashing dreadlocks or native headdresses as fashion, and some do the opposite of the right thing. One of them being Jeffree Star, who proudly shared on Instagram him playing, holding, throwing and hoping his ‘other accessory’ would return to him as advertised. As Chanel went on and operated their brand unaffected by the backlash, designers often do go on unscathed, seemingly existing above this level of scrutiny, to only later issuing a simple, sentence, eyeroll apology over social media.

It’s important to pay homage to artistry and ideas, and ultimately acknowledge their origins. Cultural appropriation was at the heart of Met Gala in 2015 when the announced theme was “China: Through the Looking Glass”. This extravagant event for the fashion industry where many expected to be a bombarding overflow for accidental racism. Instead the red carpet showcased some of the most admirable examples of cultural appropriation done right. Rihanna navigated the theme with her bold robe by Guo Pei, a Beijing-based Chinese couturier. The ‘imperial yellow’ worn was a shade reserved for the emperors of ancient Chinese dynasties.

Image: Getty

It’s a minefield out there on whether you are respecting or ripping off a culture but just know that it would be wrong to say that engaging with other people’s cultures is always out of line. There is always a time and a place. Henna has been problematic but getting it done at a special event where you are surrounded by people of the culture, you’re using it as a means to relate them in that environment where nobody can make profit off you wearing or flaunting it. This is appreciating someone’s culture, not mimicking it at Coachella. Angelina Jolie is always visting Pakistan to support the communities, where she is surrounded by women in hijabs, so wearing one herself as a means to fit in and show respect toward the culture.  Being in the appropriate environment, refusing to participate in known traditions can be shown as disrespect and insulting.

The tip to positively reflect cultural appropriation, like Rhi-Rhi did so elegantly at the Met, is to treat a cultural exchange like any other creative collaboration — you must give credit and consider royalties.

 

Written by: Darcey Weaven

References:
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/cultural-appropriation-appreciation-difference-meaning-fashion-examples-chinese-prom-dress-a8332176.html
https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/10/the-dos-and-donts-of-cultural-appropriation/411292/
https://fashionista.com/2015/12/cultural-appropriation-in-2015

Grow Your Own Wardrobe: How Science Is Brewing Up New Looks

Ever walked past a fabric store and felt inspired to make your own clothes, to reject the destructive industry of fast fashion and become the next Project Runway superstar? Only to feel the inspo quickly fade when you remember that making clothes takes a whole bunch of time, money and probable swearing?

If only beautiful, conscious clothes grew on trees, right? Well, according to designer Suzanne Lee, home-grown (literally) clothes may soon be a reality. And all you need is a little green tea and sugar. Oh, and some bacteria.

Image: Hands Across The Sea Samplers

That’s right, everyone’s favourite trendy health-drink, kombucha, is now leading the charge of bio-fashion technology. The source of the magic is the slightly disturbing ‘scoby’, the gelatinous blob which is a byproduct of the kombucha brewing process. When dried out and rolled, this creates a unique transparent material, which Lee then turns into structured jackets and ethereal looking shirts. “It’s like a flexible vegetable leather” says Lee in her TED Talk on the process. “You can sew it conventionally or form it around a three-dimensional shape”.

The material is not without its downsides, however. For one, the results may be a little unnerving for some. “I guess it looks a little like human skin, which intrigues me” laughs Lee. The textile is also super water-absorbent, so your cool beverage-based bomber may not fare so well in the rain.

Image: Hands Across The Sea Samplers

However, while scoby-based fabric may not be viable for use outside of haute couture just yet, it represents a promising future for science-based fashion. Lee says that biological technologies currently being explored to ‘program’ bacteria to heal wounds or grow replacement bone tissue, could someday be used in textile manufacturing. “I’m not suggesting microbial cellulose is going to be a replacement for cotton, leather or other textile materials, but I do think it could be quite a smart and sustainable addition to our precious natural resources.” She notes.

Image: Hands Across The Sea Samplers

If you’re intrigued by the idea of growing fabrics from stuff found in your fridge, the possibilities don’t end with kombucha. If you can bear to waste good wine, there’s even the possibility of using a nice Merlot to make your next party outfit. The delicate fabric, produced by fermenting the drink in a similar process to kombucha, retains the rich colour of the wine (and the rich scent!).

On the less appetizing end of the spectrum, spoiled milk is also being used to develop new bio-textiles. That funky smell you get when you leave your milk on the counter just a little too long? It actually signals the presence of a special protein which forms unique fibres.


Image: I, Science

The velvety texture of milk translates really well into the fabric, according to inventor Anke Domaske, who believes it could one day be a cheaper alternative to silk. “Milk is underrated because people only view it as a food-stuff. But you can make a lot more from it – milk is a wonderful, natural raw material.” She comments.

With advances in microbiology coming in leaps and bounds, it may not be long until we start seeing this ‘fermented fashion’ make its way onto the high street. With biodegradable clothes grown from scratch, wastage and clothing landfill could soon be a thing of the past. In the meantime, prepare to start seeing your favourite drinks in a new light!

Thirsty, anyone?

 

Written by: Kate Nightingale

Sources:
https://www.thekitchn.com/you-can-make-clothes-out-of-your-kombucha-scoby-214887
https://www.trustedclothes.com/blog/2016/05/18/the-future-of-sustainable-textiles/

H&M: Planet or Profit Conscious?

Old candlesticks and sea-worn rope fishing nets may not instantly inspire thoughts of glamorous high fashion, but according to Ann-Sofie Johansson, creative advisor at H&M, they represent a new way forward for the industry.

“The way the materials feature in our Conscious Exclusive collection shows how the latest technology can be incorporated with time-honoured techniques for spectacular results.” Johansson says of the fast-fashion giant’s newest ‘eco-positive’ undertaking.

Inspired by the early 20th century Arts and Craft movement, the 2018 Conscious Exclusive collection features rich emeralds, dusky blues and neutral tones, showcasing the unusual recycled materials.

Image: H&M

The Conscious Exclusive line was spawned several years ago when the company recognised growing social pressure to change their unsustainable practices. “Our size, scale and influence mean we have both a responsibility to do the right thing and an opportunity to create real lasting change.” acknowledges Anna Gedda, the head of sustainability.

Recycling-focused Conscious Exclusive was their solution. Now on their seventh collection, the line has garnered a sizeable following with celebs and eco-minded customers.

The move was met with such a success, in fact, that the company announced in December a brand new progressive range, lauded by designer Petra Smeds as ‘the way forward’ for fashion.
The big innovation? Activewear, made -wait for it- from recycled materials. And of course, we can’t forget H&M’s October sustainability initiative “Close The Loop”: cutting edge, state of the art denim looks… made from recycled materials.

Image: H&M

To quote The Devil Wears Prada: groundbreaking.

It seems H&M have found a niche that ticks all the boxes in moving away from their damaging ‘ruthless fast-fashion mill’ image. But is this really the revolution they claim it to be? The prices in the ‘exquisite, premium’ Conscious line, as H&M’s website describes it, are drastically higher from the stores usual offerings — on average retailing around $200-$400AUD. Meanwhile, a run-of-the-mill, non-‘eco’ t-shirt will still only set you back little more than $5.

When we look past the novelty factor of clothes made from fishing nets, it begs the question: what is being done to address the very real and very unsustainable production practices that enable such appealing low prices?

H&M defends its use of developing countries for production, arguing the company is ‘supporting’ growth through ‘mutually prosperous partnerships’. Furthermore, H&M attests that “We only allow our products to be manufactured by suppliers and factories that commit to our values and sign our strict code of conduct”.

Image: H&M

However, H&M concedes that suppliers have often broken their ‘strict code of conduct’ in the past. A Cambodian production factory rated ‘Gold’ standard by H&M revealed 8000 of their workers had collapsed of malnutrition since 2010. Most recently, the brand made news in February when an exposé alleged a major supplier to H&M used Chinese prisoners as labour to make packaging for the brand, paying them just $19USD a month. Meanwhile, the same amount could buy Aussie customers a nice H&M top.

Not only are at-risk workers losing out in this race for volume, but so is the planet. H&M proudly boasts it has been certified as the world’s No.1 user of organic cotton; a fact that distracts from the reality that H&M is one of the biggest consumers of cotton, period. Cotton crops, organic or not, require colossal amounts of water and energy in their production: it takes 20,000 litres to produce enough cotton for a single t-shirt.

Image: H&M

H&M’s intentions seem undeniably noble, taking measures toward production transparency and conscientiousness far beyond those of their fast-fashion competitors. However, the issue lies in mass fashion retailers’ driving motivation: ‘quantity, quantity, quantity’.

Whilst this remains the ethos of these brands, sustainability will never be achievable, and author of To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? Lucy Siegle advises we take so-called “green or ethical collections” with a pinch of salt.

“The biggest of the fast fashion brands are keen to show us that they are not just cleaning up but leading the charge. But behind the scenes the business model remains intact, predicated on producing ever-increasing volumes at lower prices and faster speeds.” She says.

Image: H&M

It may seem as though all hope is lost for a sustainable future for the industry as long as the appeal of trendy, cheap fashion reigns supreme. But Siegle has one solution for budget-conscious consumers who can’t afford the eco-friendly boutiques but still want to make a difference. “Buy fast fashion for slow reasons.” She implores; “Keep [it] in your wardrobe for as long as possible and commit to wearing until it’s fit for dusters”.

So next time you feel tempted by that $5 shirt destined to be thrown out in your next spring clean, or are drawn to that magic green sticker that makes you look great AND feel good, stop and think: what’s the real cost here?

 

Written by: Kate Nightingale

Sources:
http://money.cnn.com/2018/02/22/news/companies/hm-3m-ca-china-prison-labor-allegations/index.html
http://www.businessinsider.com/hm-vows-to-improve-working-conditions-in-its-factories-in-cambodia-and-india-2016-5?IR=T
https://www.vogue.com.au/fashion/trends/how-your-fast-fashion-habit-is-harming-more-than-the-earth/news-story/b67985de72be083a05570255ee8bdc2c
https://www.vogue.com.au/gamechangers/Fashion-and-Culture/hm-are-set-to-launch-their-latest-sustainable-conscious-exclusive-collection/news-story/9bf78e608fe81a61dffee840b523073b
https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton
http://about.hm.com/en/sustainability.html