Textiles created from salvaged plastic bags and shoes made of fish skins are just two of the 50 examples of sustainable fashion currently on show at De Melkfabriek in Arnhem. Part of the inaugural State of Fashion exhibition, the event explores how fashion can be more sustainable through the introduction of new techniques and innovative technologies, and is the first large-scale international public event of its kind entirely devoted to sustainable and honest fashion.
The successor to the Arnhem Fashion Biënnale, a month-long celebration of fashion, art and design, the exhibition is a response to the major upheaval the industry is facing, as customers become increasingly aware of its negative impact on the environmental and poor social record. Large-scale fashion brands such as G-Star RAW, H&M and Zegna are presenting their vision for a sustainable future alongside innovative start-ups and designers including Bruno Pieters, Osklen and Iris van Herpen. "It's a fundamental rethinking of what fashion is," explained curator José Teunissen, who is Dean of Design and Technology at the London College of Fashion.
The exhibition revolves around a manifesto, which tries to define what fashion's new luxury might be, with eight hashtags – #imagination #agency, #essential, #tech, #care, #reuse, #fairness and #no waste – accompanying the project descriptions. "It is called Searching for the New Luxury because we don't have an answer yet," said Teunessen in an interview with Dezeen’s Angel Trinidad. "The new luxury is about imagination and coming up with new ideas, and a new universe that matches better with our daily lives and values. It's about agency and taking control."
José Teunissen shared her show highlights with Dezeen, and here are three of her favorite projects…
We Are Not Sheep by VIN + OMI
VIN + OMI, the London-based fashion and multimedia studio, has been developing eco-textiles since 2004, and has produced 12 unique fabrics, four of which are exhibited at the State of Fashion: rPET, a textile from salvaged ocean plastics; sustainable (and biodegradable) latex which supports communities in Malaysia; no-kill fleece obtained from pet llamas; and 4Ganic, a plant fabric.
"They are very interesting because they don't call themselves a brand, but an ideology," Teunissen told Dezeen. "They work primarily with supporting local communities and developing textiles from waste materials. They support river clean-up projects in Shanghai and New York. They are about to develop one in London with plastic waste from the River Thames."
Freedom by Yuima Nakazato
Japanese designer Yuima Nakazato has developed a unique digital-fabrication system that allows partial updates to garments so that clothes could potentially last a lifetime. The system allows various materials such as cotton, nylon and wool to be combined freely without the use of needles and threads.
"It's based on a 3D-border scan and laser-cutting techniques, which create these textile units with serial numbers – a sort of DNA," said Teunissen. "He [Yuima Nakazato] presented this as a Haute Couture collection in Paris, but it's nice to see that you can also use the same technique with bomber jackets or jeans."
A21 by Osklen and Instituto E
For their A21 line, Brazilian luxury brand Osklen uses the skin of the pirarucu, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, which is found in the state of Rondônia. The company works with farmers to safely farm the fish while protecting the Amazon and supporting the local population. Compared with cattle farming, this model generates lower CO2 emissions, and farmers achieve 40 per cent higher productivity than if they were raising cattle on the same land.
"Until recently, they [the farmers] didn't use the fish's skin. Now, the leftovers are used for Osklen's bags and shoes. It has a really nice quality, and it's also very soft," explained Teunissen.
‘State of Fashion 2018: Searching for the New Luxury’ runs until Sunday, 22nd July. Read more about the exhibition here.