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UPCYCLED COLLECTIONS @ London Fashion week

The Indian summer, combined with everything from Open house, London Fashion week (LFW), Thames festival, London design festival, (with it’s ever growing number of districts) Theatre, Arts, and the abundance of free events, makes September my favourite month of the year.

I dare say, this plethora of events constantly lays bear my sometimes indecisive side, causing me to dip my toes here , there, everywhere, and never fully immersing myself. I often need something to focus my schedule around this time, and sad as the Queen’s passing was, the cancellation and rescheduled of fashion shows, meant I could focus on LDF, which happened to coincided with the official kick off day for LFW.

I dipped back into LFW over the weekend and the days that followed but opted to see mostly collections that had sustainability and up-cycling at the core. It is one thing to up-cycle a garment, – something my recently teenaged daughter inadvertently started on her t-shirts and to my horror, some of mine! – but a completely different ball game to produce a plausible collection that can grace a runway.

I was certainly inspired by some of the collections exhibiting in the LFW showroom, runway, and at Fashion scouts and thought I’d put them on your radar as well.

NOKI, A British-based fashion activist is new on my radar, but widely recognised from as far back as the mid-90’s for his work waging war against the rise of fast fashion. His anarchical approach to fashion waste and sustainability issues, showcased a streetwear collection sourced from mass-produced garments, to create logo mash-ups of one-off streetwear couture style.

Originating from the 90’s Shoreditch DIY rave scene, his upcycled textile “franken-fashion” college style gave rise to the Dr. Noki moniker, revolutionary then, revolutionary now. As we continue to sleepwalk ever further towards to edge of environmental, economic, and social collapse, Noki’s fearless and uncompromising visual message and anti-establishment narrative has never been more poignant or more powerful.

At the forefront of what we now call “circular fashion”, Dr Noki’s anti-fashion aesthetic is a visual rhetoric for today’s age, the mood of the times, and the voices of tomorrow’s generation. Even the catwalk props were radical, dawning upcycled/d-stressed T-shirts on stools, which guests later got to take home – more inspiration for the teenage I suppose.

Romanian designer Ancuta Sarca who debuted her namesake label in 2019 at London fashion week, has a very innovative voice in the footwear game. I recall seeing her first pieces above in the LFW showroom pre – lockdown, and was fascinated and impressed as to how she managed to combine ‘CHIC’ and ‘STREET’. Ancuța Sarca reimagines shoes for a more sustainable world, creating sneaker-heel hybrids that speak about juxtapositions of masculine and feminine, vintage and modern, sportswear and luxury.  

X Nike Furiosa 50 silver faux leather knee-high boots
X Nike Furiosa 50 black leather knee-high boots
Lima 95 black and green mesh ankle boots

The metamorphosis of each piece involves taking recycled fabric cutouts, as well as material waste, and utilising techniques such as restoration and repainting within the circular design. Supported by Nike in 2020, Sarca gave new life to left over Nike sneakers by recycling them and transforming them into heels.  Supporting an environmentally conscious approach to fashion the label provides an unconventional and feminine take on the traditional sneaker. 

I first discovered Fanfare label in the LFW showroom, just before lockdown and their pieces are proof that we can take an old pair of jeans and give it a second story as something new to love.  This Label is an independent sustainable fashion house leading the way for circularity and positive change, and what others see as waste, they see as a starting point.

Prior to setting up Fanfare Label, founder, Esther Knight spent over a decade working as a buyer in the fashion industry. Through working for many high street and designer brands, she experienced first-hand over the years how fashion businesses drive their financial profits at the expense of the people who make the clothes and our precious planet. Esther recognised the need for urgent radical change and realised this was a broken system she could no longer, and would no longer, be part of. 

Rather than leave the industry, she set her sights on creating a solution to transform not only the way garments are made but the way we buy, wear and consume clothing too. She talked to recycling plants and established relationships with key charities and Fanfare Label was born, a circular fashion brand that promotes a sustainable and moral way of doing things. 

Fanfare Label references London streets with its multidimensional, multicultural melting pots of diverse communities; global heritages and overarching global concerns – climate change, threatened wildlife – especially the majestic elephant- juxtaposed against our very personal translations of contemporary Britishness.

Segue – That fast fashion pair of wide legged Denim -(her first pair ever)- , which my sister and teenager insisted I buy in a shop in Sweden, that then presented a big hole in the crutch area three months later, baffling my daughter who has since stopped wearing it, can draw inspiration from brands like Fanfare Label.

Common Wealth couture denim outfit

British made, Common Wealth brand who are also new on my radar from LFW showroom, showcased stunning up cycled one-off pieces fit for Red carpets worldwide. As well as up cycling, they champion and rediscover the oft-overlooked skills of seamstresses and artisans; inspiring and exciting accessory designers, established and emerging – (fashion Unis/ Colleges).

The brand was conceived from an innate response to redress the relentless, globally destructive pace of fast fashion landfill.  An ongoing, mindless depravity punctuated by the horrific scenario of Bangladeshi factory fires notwithstanding the abusive poverty cycle of global garment workers further hit by the pandemic.

Their fashion narrative is one that truly empowers stand-out style without further sacrificing our
planet, its peoples, animals and species. The strong design stems from vision to recreate, reuse
from rejects, voiced with resonance in contemporary fashion.

©ptichoniuk

Jheni Ferreira, a young self-taught Brazilian designer , again new on my radar, was invited to present a collection in a solo show this season at London Fashion Week. The Catwalk, which took place deep deep off the beaten track in the heart of old Bermondsey south East London, took me ages to find but was well worth the trek.

Created in 2019, her brand quickly became a reference in Brazil in the field of upcycling, by transforming pieces of clothing and accessories from trash to luxury. She focused on discarded materials from hopeless places and gave them a new life by including them in music videos, single covers and albums of national pop stars, such as Luisa Sonza and Pabllo Vittar.

All SSJHENI images from LFW
©ptichoniuk

The SSJHENI concept arises organically from her path and the desire for direct communication through the image, reflecting the stylist’s deep questions regarding the difficulty in syllabic communication. Jheni found in clothes the most crystalline way to express her inner world.

All the materials used in making SSJHENI – Testament collection pieces are acquired in thrift stores and dead stock, which would be discarded. In Brás, a working-class area known for its garment district, Jheni supports and counts on the support of several collectors. Among mining and curatorship, the artist creates the basis of her brand in a socio-environmental way.

Her presentation in London this season reflected a social advance beyond gender and sustainability. It brought light to the Brazilian art and culture, as well as DJ with serious beats!

Props and mood from JJSHENI

These brands amongst others showcased during LFW and Fashion Scout are promising alternatives for us and future generations, as they can become the norm. Whilst I’m yet to buy an up-cycled piece, but instead just rework what I have, I am certainly now more inclined to buy a piece, should an occasion present. I think I speak for many when I say, most of us in our formative years spent time, de-stressing, or up cycling our clothes at some point, but very few follow through in our adult lives. That perhaps could be due to busy lives, lack of creativity, consumerism, trend or other factors – no judgement here -. My hope for my daughter is that she won’t stop at just up cycling her T-shirts and Pyjama bottoms now, but grow into an adult who embraces up-cycled brands, which in turn will reduce the amounts going to landfills, hopefully create a better earth for her generation and give her the confidence to go against the grain and be more individual is her style.

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