The Ecologist guide to Estethica

| 15th September 2011
London’s environmental fashion initiative celebrates its fifth birthday this year and this season looks set to be the best yet. Ruth Styles takes a closer look

London Fashion Week’s main platform for ethical and eco-friendly fashion is five years old this year, and has helped cement the careers of the 108 designers who have passed through its doors to date. Launched in 2006, Estethica was a response to a growing interest among consumers, buyers and designers in fashion that doesn’t literally cost the earth, and has made a name for itself by promoting Fairtrade, upcycled and organic pieces, as well as helping to get the careers of some of the UK’s brightest talents off the ground. Among them are the likes of Christopher Raeburn, Junky Styling, Dr Noki and The North Circular, all of whom adhere to Estethica’s three main principles: Fairtrade, ethical practices or the use of organic or recycled materials.

‘This anniversary of Estethica marks an important milestone for the initiative and also for the fashion industry,’ commented Harold Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council. ‘Each season we see Estethica grow to support designers in new and exciting ways...placing sustainable values at the forefront of fashion design. This is a chance to celebrate Estethica’s achievements and look forward to future ventures in promoting sustainable fashion.’ Whatever the future holds, Estethica has already participated in a wide variety of initiatives, including a mentoring scheme for new talent, work with DEFRA to create a roadmap for sustainable fashion, and partnering with to provide a sales outlet for the cream of Britain’s young eco-designers. So who’s on the cast list this season? Here are some of the highlights:

Lost Property of London
Returning to Estethica for the second time is upcycled bag specialist, Lost Property of London. Founded by St Martin’s graduate, Katy Bell, in June 2009, the brand turns redundant Fairtrade coffee sacks and leather offcuts into gorgeous totes, holdalls and clutches. Top picks include the feathered Beeby clutch, which has sold out repeatedly, and the ultra practical Belmont leather messenger bag, £210, while the Willow sacking washbag, at £45, offers a cheaper way of getting your hands on a piece of Lost Property of London.

The Soil Association
It might not be a brand in its own right, but the Soil Association’s fashion certification scheme includes some of the most impressive eco-brands around today. Curated by the Telegraph Magazine’s Style Director, Tamsin Blanchard, its stand at this season’s Somerset House exhibition will provide a platform for pieces by denim label, Monkee Genes, People Tree and ethical basics specialist, Continental Clothing.


Eva Zingoni
Giving eco-chic a couture twist is Eva Zingoni – a French designer who makes her pieces from fabric discarded by Paris’ many ateliers. A fashion industry veteran, Zingoni’s CV includes stints at Balenciaga, Ralph Lauren and Studio Berçot – experience that can be seen in her brilliant grasp of tailoring and Ghesquiere-esque approach that has resulted in realistic shapes that work on real bodies. Although only on her third collection, Zingoni is definitely one to watch.

Rajkumar Dyeing & Printing Works
Not only does lead designer, Julia Moore, whip up ethical raincoats good enough to give Burberry’s a run for their money at Rajkumar; she also runs an online boutique selling vintage and modern wet weather gear. Made at the company HQ in Calcutta, Rajkumar Dyeing & Printing Works offers a bewildering array of rubberised coats, hats, jackets and shirts; all made to Fairtrade ethical standards.

Joanna Cave
One of the few jewellers to specialise in recycled silver; Joanna Cave’s vintage inspired jewels also make use of ethically sourced pearls. Sculptural pendants inspired by the natural world – think gold-plated silver fish dotted with pearls – are Cave’s trademark, although her filigree Indian-influenced earrings are prettily delicate and well worth checking out.

A graduate of Estethica’s mentoring programme, Sri Lankan designer Charini Suriyage produces wonderfully delicate lingerie to the strictest of environmental and ethical standards. Having eliminated all plastic and metal components, Charini’s smalls are made from traditional hand-woven silks and trimmings made by local Sri Lankan artisans and put together in ‘Garments without Guilt’ certified factories.

Henrietta Ludgate
A former winner of the Environmental Fashion Forum’s Fashion Innovation award, Scottish designer Henrietta Ludgate is one of eco-design’s most promising new talents. Her focus is on local – specifically Scottish – textiles including Caledonian wool and gabardine. Her Schiaparelli-inspired aesthetic has resulted in hugely wearable minimalist pieces with a futuristic edge.

Purveyors of fabulous Fairtrade Panama hats that come in every shape, size and colour imaginable, Pachacuti might be a relative newcomer, but has already scooped numerous prizes, including the fashion gong at this year’s Observer Ethical Awards. Its hats are made by 12 Fairtrade collectives dotted around South America, including in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, using traditional techniques and materials sourced from the surrounding area. What’s more, the company has also made reducing its environmental impact a priority and has signed up to DEFRA and Esthetica’s sustainable clothing roadmap.

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