Modern clothing, whether in the form of Paris-runway couture or suburban mall fast fashion, is not known for being particularly sustainable. But rising sea temperatures and the scourge of plastics in our oceans are reaching catastrophic levels, threatening all life on our fragile planet – including our own – and industries that once considered themselves far removed from environmental concerns are starting to notice. And, more importantly, they are starting to take action.
The latest designer to tackle the intersection of high fashion and sustainable, conscious design is Vionnet’s creative director Goga Ashkenazi. She has collaborated with artist Marc Quinn to create a 340-piece sustainable capsule collection, named “Sustainable Surf.” The collection, made from eco-leather, cotton poplin, and recycled plastics, includes everything from gowns to tee shirts to cardigans. It is available for a limited time through a 1076 square foot shop-in-shop at Selfridges, and for an extended period on the retailer’s web site, and Vionnet is donating 50% of the profits to the environmental initiative group Parley For the Oceans (who I first introduced in my article about Adidas’ environmentally-friendly sneaker collection).
Quinn’s series of “Raft Paintings”, which the artist describes as “the paradox of materiality – transforming the accidental beauty of man-made waste, such as non-biodegradable plastic bags, into artwork that raises awareness,” were the inspiration behind the collection. As he explained to British Vogue: “I’ve been making art about the amount of plastic in our seas and in our lives, which is nothing less than a ticking time bomb,” he explains. “I showed this work to my friend Goga, who loved it and suggested using the imagery for a capsule collection that would help raise more money for Parley for the Oceans.”
The designer also collaborated with Sea2See, a premium eyeware company whose products are made entirely from abandoned fishnets and ropes, collected by fishing communities along the coast of Spain. Ten pounds ($13.50 USD) from each pair of glasses sold from Vionnet’s Sustainable Surf collection will be donated to Ambiente Europeo, the European Environment Association that promotes actions in Spain and the Mediterranean region aimed at creating the necessary social awareness to help reduce the amount of waste that reaches the sea.
In the words of the designer herself, “We are at a very long road,” said Ashkenazi. “I cannot do it alone, nobody can, it’s something that we have to do together…I think there are ways to build viable businesses without hurting the environment.”
I do, too.