At the end of February, designers across the major fashion cities in the world debuted their collections. For AW22, plenty of them dove into sustainability and made it a part of the foundation of their collections, and some started dipping their toes into the sustainability journey, branching out with materials that are eco-friendlier. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite brands that hit the mark with their sustainability efforts and left us excited to see what’s coming next season!
A staple force in sustainable fashion, Stella McCartney’s Frank Stella-inspired AW22 collection is no different. This season the brand ventured further into the alternative leather field debuting handbags made using a vegan grape leather alternative, produced with waste from Italian wineries, on the runway.
The innovative leather alternative isn’t only concentrated within the brand’s handbag range, its use is also present in Stella’s footwear range, with a new sneaker model, which is the most conscious shoe it has released to date. Besides the sneakers, the collection also features vegan stretch cowboy boots and is made up of 67% conscious materials, such as forest-friendly viscose, organic cotton, recycled nylon, recycled polyester and regenerative NATIVA wool.
Newcomer Harris Reed has quickly become one of fashion’s most coveted designers. Their work revolves around exploring gender fluidity and queerness, and this collection follows the same themes. Called “60 Years a Queen”, it takes inspiration from Sir Herbert Maxwell’s book from 1987, by the same name. These two principles mean it dives into Reed’s own interpretation of monarchic dresses, giving us a regal, real-world club-kid masterpiece through a glam rock lens.
Sustainability has always been a focus within Reed’s brand, having used old wedding dresses donated from Oxfam for their first collection. Now, for AW22 all the fabrics used in this season were donated by the Bussandri family. Originating from Italy, the family has a vast history in the world of interiors, having contributed 100-year-old upholstery fabrics that were made into pink flowing trains, white floral gowns and other stunning pieces. Besides the fabric, the demi-couture pieces were adorned with sequins sourced from a deadstock supplier based in London.
This season Marine Serre presented her collection in a weekend-long exhibition at Lafayette Anticipations in Paris. The event aimed to make sustainable fashion more accessible to a wider audience, forgoing the typical invite-only MO and opening it up to the general public. On the first floor, you come into contact with the sustainable practices present throughout the collection since, during the weekend, there was a live atelier with staff members piecing together old remnants of deadstock fabric.
The collection counted with Serre’s signature crescent-moon print, this time on overcoats and, as always, there were multiple signs of upcycling throughout it as well. These transformations could be seen through fringed tartan scarves that had been patchworked into clan-type coats and pastoral skirts, band tees spliced into hooded gowns, and surplus camo panels and second-hand denim that were altered into corseted dress jackets.
Kyiv-based designer Svitlana Bevza presented her AW22 collection, inspired by a “love letter to the Earth.” Having committed to promoting sustainability in her home country of Ukraine since the inception of her brand, she continues to feature ethically sourced materials and eco-friendly fabrics made of recycled plastic bottles. These were presented on the runway by way of long slick vests and maxi skirts.
The collection also featured pearlized seashell earmuffs, fish scale-like finished pieces, clutches and buttons in the shape of a wax seal, and tailoring with paper envelope likeness, pulling the theme together perfectly.
Long before it became a hot topic, Vivienne Westwood had sustainability as a central value of her brand, with “buy Less, love your clothes more” being the mantra. For AW22, the brand continues pushing through on its sustainability journey with 71% of the collection being produced from low-impact and cruelty-free materials, set to increase to 95% when factoring in production for stores. Another big goal set by the company is using up the brand’s own deadstock fabrics from past collections.
“We have this reimagining waste concept this season, but also going forward, where we’re using fabrics from old seasons and reinterpreting them – making them feel new,” explained a senior designer to Vogue UK.
Along with the AW22 mainline collection, a 22-page document was published detailing the brand’s improvements over the past few months. Besides the statistics shared above, the brand has also been working with a holistic farmer that has a regenerative agricultural practice to source its cotton, and that six fabrics within the collection are made from deadstock from old collections.
Presented through a digital presentation at the Design Museum, Bethany Willams centered on the craftspeople and social organizations that she works with to build her collections. Called “The Hands That Heal Us,” the AW22 collection celebrates those that make our clothes, a topic that has always been central to the designer’s work.
For the second time now, the brand collaborated on the lively prints in this collection with artist Melissa Kitty Jarram, telling the story of each of the brand’s partners through art. Throughout the collection, you can find: denim made using organic and recycled cotton and hemp; eco-finished metal buttons, which can be easily taken off pieces so they can be recycled; cactus leather and bamboo silk: and deadstock and upcycled materials that have been a staple for Willam’s for a long time now.
For Priya Ahluwalia, sustainability is simply a part of the foundation of the brand. After becoming somewhat of a film master during the pandemic, Ahluwalia held her runway debut for AW22. Tapping into her Nigerian and Indian heritages, and influenced by Nollywood and Bollywood cinema, the show explores the representation of what it’s like to be Black and Brown in its own way.
These elements were translated onto the clothes through hand-painted, textural elements of film posters onto oversized shirts and denim twinsets. Another big aspect that drew the designer to these movie genres, in particular, was the romantic storylines in Bollywood productions, and the sensuality expressed in Nollywood movies. These themes are visible through the pairing of the barely-there halter-necks, and pleated miniskirts, painted in an array of fun rainbow colors, with sari inspired draping details giving it yet another layer of conceptual depth.
In the meantime, Ahluwalia has launched a platform in partnership with Microsoft called Circulate. It aims to crowdsource unwanted garments, creating something that resolves a problem and promotes engagement with sustainability. Going forward the plan is to workshop how to keep the B2C part of the platform going but also open it up to B2B so businesses can share large quantities of unwanted deadstock fabric.
Botter has had a longstanding concern for the environment, with its practices going beyond a conventional sustainable collection. These external ventures span all the way to the Caribbean where the brand has built coral farms, aiming to establish ecological progress as its foundation.
When it comes to the practices within the brand’s collections, the designers are partial to upcycling, giving a second life to what others may consider trash. This concern goes down to the detail level, choosing to use recycled ocean plastic beads for the decorative accents.
Composed of vibrant and political pieces the collection comes together with eye-catching details on classic silhouettes. Drawing inspiration from the togetherness and liveliness that carnival inspires, the designers have chosen to feature these ideas on suits, balaclava caps, and oversized rugby shirts made from fabric scraps, all colored in bright neon colors.
Originally set to be a commentary on the climate crisis, once the Russian invasion of Ukraine started it became an acknowledgement of the events taking place a few countries over, and the ramifications these had. Due to these developments, the environment that surrounded the Balenciaga show was already heavy. Tack on to that the fact that Demna himself went through something quite similar with the Abkhaz-Georgian conflict in the ‘90s, which made him a refugee, and we have a recipe for a pretty impactful show.
The show was an immersive experience that used Virtual Reality to create a snow globe where oversized silhouettes of black hoodies, XXL wide-leg jeans and huge puffer jackets were paired with pieces seemingly just as large underneath.
While this one might come as a surprise, highlighting even the smallest positives going around is something we’re always here for. For this new collection, Balenciaga also sent down the runway a leather-looking coat made with mushroom roots. Specially developed for the brand, it used a mycelium-based leather alternative, a material that has been on the rise among the sustainable fashion crowd.
You might recognize the name Conner Ives as the designer that Rihanna hired before he was even out of college. After graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2020, his reconstructed designs, using vintage T-shirts, jerseys and silk scarves became a hit. Like many up-and-coming designers, sustainability is ingrained within his collections. Ives doesn’t focus on that as a selling point, but rather as an added benefit when purchasing the clothes. For his debut fashion show, Ives took inspiration from the Y2K Americana aesthetic, having a style that paid homage to different American archetypes, from Jackie O to Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, among other iconic figures.
He used vintage garments, destock fabrics and by-products from previous pieces. These showed up on the runway in pieces such as the two-piece black suit, constructed with recycled spandex made from plastic bottles, and the finale wedding dress made in deadstock Italian silk charmeuse. There were also a couple of collaborations, including one with new knitwear designer Zoe Horgan, that produced a knit sweater, with matching briefs, headband/scarf made from deadstock viscose knit. The other collaboration was with Tonello, an Italian company that is an expert when it comes to sustainable technologies and innovative ways to develop denim. The collection also featured his signature reworked T-shirt dresses, which were elevated with crochet trims and floral appliques.
While there is still a long way to go in increasing high-end fashion’s sustainability, it’s always important to celebrate those working towards it and the process involved in getting there!
Photo Credit: Vogue Runway