Better Fashion

Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 01:00

STYLE:THIS WEEK IS Brown Sugar Better Fashion Week, an annual celebration and showcase of ethical brands, sustainable fashion, film screenings and industry talks and debates, in association with Re-Dress, the better fashion initiative. But what is better fashion?

First and foremost, the aim is to lessen the impact of our sartorial consumption.

But this can take many different forms: while Stella McCartney makes her mark by refusing to use animal by-products, Melissa shoes are made using eco-friendly materials that can be disassembled and recycled. People Tree meets the standards of the World Fair Trade Organisation in the production of its clothes, pioneering environmentally sound production methods, while American Apparel manufactures, distributes and sells its items from a factory in Los Angeles, reducing its CO2 emissions by keeping it local.

Ali Hewson’s Edun has a commitment to developing fair trade with Africa and supports manufacturers, infrastructure and community-building initiatives.

Then there are the companies making small differences: Marks Spencer launched Plan A in 2007, setting out 100 commitments for the company, from combating climate change to trading ethically; HM this month launched a “glamour” collection as an offshoot of its Conscious range, with all items made from “more” sustainable materials.

The key, however, is in the word “more”; although many companies are making great strides, the most sustainable fashion of all is recycled.

The two simplest steps anybody can take are to consume less and then – only then – to consume better.

And, of course, there are baby steps: for instance, wash clothes less often. Research in China is revealing new, no-wash cotton, but for now, most clothing will need to be washed, which uses water, energy and chemicals from detergents.

Washing at 30 degrees and using eco-friendly detergents makes a difference.

Also, buy consciously. Will this item last, not only trend-wise (you can put that Aztec bodycon dress down, thanks) but will it survive the washing machine, the rain and next Saturday’s bike ride? The most treasured items are often the ones with memories attached, not those we wear once.

Exercise your voice and choice as a consumer. Commend stores and brands by buying into their efforts to be more sustainable. See re-dress.iefor a list of brands noted for their eco credentials.


This weekend, Better Fashion Week finishes up but you’ve plenty of time to get a piece of the action. Tonight,

at 35 Castle Market, Dublin 2, there is an industry symposium with talks on the future of fashion and mentoring sessions from industry insiders such as Angela Scanlon, Peter O’Brien, Sonya Lennon and Natalie B Coleman. Tickets are €35 and registration starts at 5.30pm. On Sunday, Bill Cunningham New York will be shown in the cosy environs of the cinema in Brooks Hotel. Tickets €10; showings at 12pm, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm.

Shopping second-hand for sustainable living

WHILE FASHION would encourage us to buy, buy, buy in order to keep up with the latest trends, this drive for consumerism is not sustainable. One of the basic tenets of sustainable fashion is the objective of consuming less and reusing existing items.

It’s lucky for us, then, that the last decade has seen a huge revival in terms of second-hand and vintage clothing – thanks to the likes of Sienna Miller, Alexa Chung and Kate Moss, it’s never been cooler to dress head to toe in someone else’s cast-offs.

There is an art to buying vintage or second-hand clothing, and it starts with listening to your instinct. There’s no point in picking something up because you can imagine it on Moss; buy what you’ll wear. There’s no sustainability in buying for the sake of it.

Unless you’re a dab hand with the sewing machine, don’t be tempted by damaged items. If an item is torn at the seam, it is fixable; if the fabric is torn, leave it behind. The odd bit of DIY is easy – if you love a cardigan, for example, but hate the buttons, replace them. Denim and cotton can be easily dyed – in fact, a pair of 1990s “mom jeans” could look so very now with a bit of an acid tie-dye job and some careful fraying. Some of the best DIYs are online: check out becauseimaddicted.netand afterdrk.freshnet.sefor great examples.

If you’re on the lookout for high-end designer cast-offs, think geographically. Affluent areas will have the most expensive cast-offs – Oxfam and Enable Ireland shops in well-off areas have been known to yield lucrative dividends in the form of designer goods, barely worn and still in fashion.


Our favourite hauls have come from the main street in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, which is littered with second-hand shops. Shutterbug in Kilkenny (, does regular Facebook uploads, which means you can shop from the comfort of your own home. Siopaella, a consignment store in Dublin’s Temple Bar, will take your cast-offs and sell them on for you (with a fair commission), and has been known to stock items by Armani, Marni and even Christian Louboutin. Ebay.ieis an oldie, but a goody; check under slightly misspelled names for the bargains no one else will have spotted – try Guci or Christian Loubutin.


Totally balmy cleanser€40 by Voya, a 100 per cent organic seaweed-based cleanser produced in Co Sligo. See

Brand focus: Toms

Bio: Toms was founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie, an American entrepreneur who travelled to Argentina and was struck by two things: a huge number of children in the area had no shoes; and the country had its own indigenous shoe, the alpargata. Mycoskie founded Toms, shoes for tomorrow, when he returned to the US, as a for-profit company that would operate a not-for-profit subsidiary, donating one pair of shoes to the developing world for every pair of Toms shoes sold. The brand has since moved on to selling eyewear, with the same “one for one” ethos.

Aesthetic:Toms are based on the simple, flat, canvas espadrille design of the alpargata. Colours and patterns vary from season to season and between men’s and women’s lines, but the basic shape remains the same.

Stockists: Toms shoes are stocked in Office and Schuh stores nationwide, as well as online at

Price tag:Between €40 and €50. If you opt for the limited- edition Olsen twins range, expect to pay upwards of €100.

Take five: Sustainable fashion items

American Apparel red swing dress (€26.66), at

Printed button-up skirt (€94.99) by Orla Kiely for People Tree, from

Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon sandals (€170), at BT2

Conscious pink lace pencil skirt (€14.95), at H&M

Edun trousers (€275) and knit (€275), at Brown Thomas