From biodegradable jeans to recycled gold jewelry, to a new luxury vision of upcycling from LVMH and a new take on fashion philanthropy from Chloé, fall 2021 holds some exciting new innovations for our wardrobes.
Backpacks That Give Back
Gabriela Hearst could hardly have picked a more glamorous venue for her Chloé debut than Paris institution Brasserie Lipp, where Apollinaire and Hemingway once held court. But while the locale might have appealed to the literary brain, the collection itself aimed straight for the heart. Hearst used her august Parisian platform to shed light on an issue that the pandemic and economic uncertainty have only intensified: homelessness. In what feels like a new philanthropic model for fashion, she partnered with Sheltersuit, a nonprofit that creates protective (and potentially lifesaving) products for unhoused people, to craft backpacks made out of repurposed material from the Chloé archives. For each backpack sold, the house will fund the production of two Sheltersuits, which are jackets that come with duffel bags and optional sleeping bags—serving as both clothing and shelter for inclement conditions. Sheltersuit founder Bas Timmer says that seven years in existence and 12,500 suits donated have given his team “a deep understanding of the incredible challenges faced every day by our neighbors forced to live on the streets.” While “there is no single product or solution that will end the struggle for these individuals,” he says, this project is both “meaningful in the short term and will have a long-term positive impact for thousands of people.”
Printed canvas and calfskin leather backpack featuring reused sneakers, Sheltersuit & Chloé, $850, chloe.com.
Upcycling Goes Luxe
LVMH has long stocked a sustainable fabric and leather library for its stable of brands, but this year the luxury conglomerate upped the ante with Nona Source, headed by sustainability experts Marie Falguera, Romain Brabo, and Anne Prieur Du Perray. Their goal: to become the premier source of textiles for emerging designers in Europe (because the stock is housed in France, they want to minimize shipping emissions). Even the lingo that Nona Source uses to describe dead-stock materials—it calls them “sleeping beauties”—makes upcycling sound chicer than ever. (“I wanted to wake them up,” says Brabo of his warehouse “aha” moment.) And because selecting fabrics is such a tactile experience, the team went the extra mile, adding a video component to each swatch to convey drape, weight, and translucence. Open to all, the online resale platform offers its wares at prices up to 70 percent off original wholesale prices, making the old saw “Sustainable equals expensive” feel so last season.
Nappa Pixel lambskin Twist pouch, Louis Vuitton, louisvuitton.com.
The Incredible Disappearing Jeans
No one is looking to give up their denim anytime soon—but as one of the world’s most beloved clothing staples, it’s a bit of a water hog, requiring about 1,800 gallons of H2O to grow enough cotton to produce a single pair of jeans, not to mention the dyeing and washing processes. Los Angeles-based denim brand AG has set out to change all that with The Jean of Tomorrow. Despite the forward-looking name, many of the solutions the design team found have been around for eons, namely hemp fibers, plant-based dyes, and corozo nut buttons. The result: 100 percent biodegradable garments. (That’s right, you could bury your worn-out denim and it would return to the earth, though the brand recommends donating it or sending it to a textile recycling program.) “I can’t say what the new green standard will be,” says president and creative director Sam Ku. “I’m willing to bet that biodegradability will become a common component.” Meanwhile, across the pond and on the runway, Stella McCartney launched footwear for winter with biodegradable soles made from thermoplastic, while Richard Malone utilized biodegradable yarns in his collection. (It’s a natural step for Malone, who won last year’s International Woolmark Prize for his fully biodegradable garments made from merino wool.) In a nod to his Irish roots, this season the designer sourced hand-spun linens from Wexford and wools from County Down. Perhaps the new sustainability test should be, “Can this garment be planted?”
All That Glitters Is (Recycled) Gold
When it comes to sustainable jewelry, diamonds tend to get the bulk of the attention, with the last few years having seen the arrival of eco-friendly and ethical lab-created stones from Diamond Foundry and DeBeers’ Lightbox. Gold, however, is now poised for its green moment. John Hardy, who built his brand on sustainable silver jewelry (and whose Balinese HQ is housed in a sustainably-built bamboo structure), is embracing 100 percent reclaimed gold through the Reticulated collection, named for the metalsmithing technique that heats the interior to its molten state and results in a rippled pattern that calls to mind Bali’s volcanic landscape. Giants in the field like Tiffany & Co. and Bulgari have also begun embracing reclaimed gold in their collections, while smaller brands such as Monica Vinader and Emefa Cole have committed to using 100 percent reclaimed silver and gold—and Pandora, the world’s largest jewelry brand, aims to do so by 2025. And in Silicon Valley, Generation Collection, founded by the late former Tesla executive Boryana Straubel, is doing its part to curtail pollution caused by the gold (and silver and platinum) mining processes with its fully circular fine jewelry brand—the first and only of its kind—while honoring Straubel’s mission of “helping families accrue wealth in environmentally sustainable metals and celebrate life’s most meaningful accomplishments.”
18K recycled yellow gold with SMO gold wire Kla earrings, $7,920, Emefa Cole, emefacole.com.
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