Tuesday, December 6, 2011

European Ecofashion

The ignorant would say there is no interest in eco fashion. The arrogant would insist that there is no chance of its success in the market. Skeptics would say that is because it is unappealing. In fact, eco fashion is gleaming with freshness, innovation and elegance. Some evidence in in Europe.

Autumn is a good time to reflect on what we wear, especially when there are great opportunities to learn more about eco-fashion's environmental and ethical aspects at fashion shows and through meetings with designers. Two different perspectives were showcased at WearFair 2010 in Linz, Austria and RE-ACT in Lodz, Poland. What do European designers, producers and consumers have to say about ecological fashion nowadays?
What is central for both eco-fashion events, together with conferences and shows (RE-ACT in Poland and Wearfair in Austria) is mission. Environmental awareness already is critical to the identity of European countries, with their concentration on waste management, organic food, and a healthy lifestyle. Engaged celebrities are also crucial because of their commitment to important ecological solutions (like Miss Austria 2010 wearing organic t-shirts or Polish actresses and singers promoting a non-consumption lifestyle – which is actually hard to believe if we see in tabloids what they do). On mission and celebrities the similarities end. Here we find different perspectives on eco-fashion and designs.
WearFair 2010 is an important event for the whole eco-fashion industry in Austria, which has quite a stable position for several years. There are a bevy of domestic producers, retailers and designers, of course. The ideas concentrate primarily on natural materials - so dominated by clothes from organic cotton (a large supplier of production comes from Mauritius), flax, yucca, or hemp. More importantly, both from consumers and producers point of view, is the emphasis on environmental and ethical standards on the farming and production lines. RE-ACT 2010, in Lodz, in comparison is a unique fashion event for the whole world, a project promoting the art of recycling – esthetical luxury art from waste. RE-ACT promotes unique clothes, with an aesthetic and art of living that use recyclable materials – not only typical textile fibers, but also paper, electric cables or plastics.
While the Austrian muses walks on the runway as if she were at a garden party, dressed in an organic cotton t-shirt, comfortable jeans or wool sweater, the Polish models sparkle in the spotlight in an elegant setting, surrounded by elegant guests from business and society, dressed in elaborate works of art - often unique copies. And there is no chance for a trivial repeat designs – the competition is extremely high, and most designers would love to show their works here: of the 170 candidates who expressed an interest in RE-ACT, only 21 were invited. Dresses with paper, wire insulation, or a customized knitted plastic bags probably would never be sported on a daily basis—and many consumers could also not afford to purchase them,--but that is not the concept of RE-ACT.


As I learned during the conference and meetings with Austrian retailers, eco fashion appeals to older consumers who appreciate natural materials, classic designs, and the sense of order and justice. That is a huge contrast from the young, bold eco-fashion message from Lodz that has a focus on recycling and reuse. Is this a different way of looking at the world? Or is the goal to implement corporate social responsibility into everyday business and inculcate such awareness into people's minds?

From my perspective, there remains two questions: will we in Poland receive one day a massive demand for eco-certified cotton? Or will Austrians ever come to appreciate our intricate designs based on second-hand materials?
What is central for both eco-fashion events, together with conferences and shows (RE-ACT in Poland and Wearfair in Austria) is mission. Environmental awareness already is critical to the identity of European countries, with their concentration on waste management, organic food, and a healthy lifestyle. Engaged celebrities are also crucial because of their commitment to important ecological solutions (like Miss Austria 2010 wearing organic t-shirts or Polish actresses and singers promoting a non-consumption lifestyle – which is actually hard to believe if we see in tabloids what they do). On mission and celebrities the similarities end. Here we find different perspectives on eco-fashion and designs.
WearFair 2010 is an important event for the whole eco-fashion industry in Austria, which has quite a stable position for several years. There are a bevy of domestic producers, retailers and designers, of course. The ideas concentrate primarily on natural materials - so dominated by clothes from organic cotton (a large supplier of production comes from Mauritius), flax, yucca, or hemp. More importantly, both from consumers and producers point of view, is the emphasis on environmental and ethical standards on the farming and production lines. RE-ACT 2010, in Lodz, in comparison is a unique fashion event for the whole world, a project promoting the art of recycling – esthetical luxury art from waste. RE-ACT promotes unique clothes, with an aesthetic and art of living that use recyclable materials – not only typical textile fibers, but also paper, electric cables or plastics.
As I learned during the conference and meetings with Austrian retailers, eco fashion appeals to older consumers who appreciate natural materials, classic designs, and the sense of order and justice. That is a huge contrast from the young, bold eco-fashion message from Lodz that has a focus on recycling and reuse. Is this a different way of looking at the world? Or is the goal to implement corporate social responsibility into everyday business and inculcate such awareness into people's minds?

From my perspective, there remains two questions: will we in Poland receive one day a massive demand for eco-certified cotton? Or will Austrians ever come to appreciate our intricate designs based on second-hand materials?

Editor's Note: You can visit Katarzyna Dulko's sit

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