The new generation of conscious fashion designers at SS20

HOMEHIGHLIGHT ▸ The new generation of conscious fashion designers at SS20

Across the fashion industry, a major re-examination of priorities and practices is underway as designers, manufacturers and retailers seek to future-proof the industry against a rapidly changing social, economic and environmental climate, and satisfy the ethical expectations of today’s conscious consumer. From New York and London, to Paris and Milan, the Fashion Week events were based upon the values of industry sustainability, diversity, inclusivity, community and craftsmanship. While established houses have had to incorporate these new practices into existing long-standing business models, SS20 became a watershed moment for the emerging talents whose brands have been built from the ground up on these core ideals and ethea, quietly subverting long held constructs with a purposeful and positive ideology.

Today, we invite Trendstop’s team of experts to introduce a new generation of designers at the forefront of the conscious couture movement. Be inspired by four key perspectives from the SS20 season and the collections that represent the future of fashion.

Marine Serre SS20
Storytelling the Sustainable Way

A ‘buy less’ ethos pervades, as investment dressing and designs of substance seek to depose throw-away culture. Weaving a strong, affecting narrative through a collection creates an emotional connection between brand and client that motivates considered purchasing of a lesser amount of higher quality items.

Changing consumer consumption habits and rejecting fast-fashion is very much part of the philosophy behind Richard Malone’s collections while his personal efforts focus on collaboration with a female cooperative of weavers in Southern India, utilising traditional skills such as jacquard looming to produce limited-edition pieces and employing natural dying processes to limit environmental impact. Inspired by his late grandmother, SS20’s offering made for a poignant tribute, incorporating recycled Taroni silk deadstock and offcuts adorned with her original bird and cat illustrations. Malone’s ensembles are infused with a sense of history, community, family and harmony with the environment, fostering the relationship between designer, customer and finished article. In a departure from the usual runway calendar Malone will be assigning his collections numbers, rather than seasons, further embracing the slow-fashion ethos that allows for more sustainable production and time dedicated to one-of-a-kind creations.

The move away from impersonal high-volume products towards pieces that exude craftsmanship and an intrinsic human touch saw young labels such as KOCHÉ gain greater recognition. Patchworking, upcycled materials with elaborate artisanal embroidery and delicate bead embellishments offered a relatable high-low aesthetic that transcended the opposing genres of streetwear and couture.

Trend takeaway: As consumers abandon high consumption and throw-away culture, focus on creating emotive products of quality and substance become key aspects in the design process.

Save our Seas

The worlds oceans have become the metaphorical heartland of the climate crisis. From rising temperatures to chemical and waste pollution damaging marine habitats. The title of Marine Serre’s SS20 collection ‘Marée Noire’, meaning ‘oil spill’ or more literally, ‘black tide’, brought home to runway attendees the urgency with which the crisis needs to be addressed. Slick black finishes belied their eco-credentials, incorporating recycled plastics, reclaimed hardware and all accessorised reusable water canisters. Sustainable values are embedded into Serre’s brand, 50% of Serre’s output is produced using upcycled materials propelled by a love of vintage fashion that she repurposes, taking ‘materials of no inherent value’, and reimagining them in her futuristic, athletic image. Local manufacturers and mills working in traditional mediums add that special, timeless element to the pieces, emphasising that today’s luxury also requires soul.

Already a champion of sustainability, Tiziano Guardini looked to the waves for decorative inspiration, adorning his cruelty-free and bio silks, cellulosic Tencel fibres and organic denim with scallop details, crystal seahorses and laser-treatments that reduce the high-water consumption associated with traditional printing methods. Tackling an ocean of plastic may seem a daunting task but many labels are using their skills to make a difference and using ocean waste as a source for new materials.

Exhibiting at London Fashion Week’s #PositiveFashion event, premium brand, Stay Wild Swim, showcased their contemporary designs produced from regenerated ocean plastic and water-loving designers Natalie Glaze and Zanna Van Dijk teamed up with artist Kate Amery to create recycled art pieces to complement their range of swimwear and water bottles.

Trend takeaway: The fast pace of material development is making sustainable fabrics more accessible at all market levels. Incorporation across apparel, accessories and footwear categories is essential for brands aiming to reduce their environmental footprint.

Ottolinger SS20
Subversive Sportswear

The long-running, ever popular sportswear trend was given a subversive twist, incorporating elements of upcycling and the deconstruction/reconstruction of athletic icons. The Nike sneakers cut up and transformed into a bustier at Ottolinger, upcycled patchwork tracksuits by Christelle Kocher, and spliced and diced polos teamed with flowing hanky hem skirts at Rokh, summed up one of the season’s hot topics, addressing fashion’s feminine/masculine dichotomy in a genderless age.

Synchronising with the overarching sustainability theme, these fashion/sports mashups offered innovative answers to the reusing and repurposing of previously discarded items. Reinvented as a dedicated sustainability platform, the SS20 edition of the London Showrooms set the scene for the latest addition to Fashion East’s line-up, Ancuta Sacra. Showcasing her collection of hybrid sneaker-meets-vintage kitten heel, Sacra’s hybrid fusions gave a new and quirky second life to classic footwear silhouettes.

Trend takeaway: New innovations applied to popular long-running leitmotifs, extends direction lifecycle and reignites consumer excitement for profitable trends.

An Inclusive Industry

Diversity, inclusivity and equality are the cornerstones of many SS20 emerging couturiers. Telfar, described by designer Telfar Clemens as “a black-owned, nongendered fashion project established in 2005 in NYC, a long time before such a thing was possible,” doubled the impact of their everyday sportswear and modified utility wear augmented with unexpected details with a video backdrop echoing the live models on the runway. Inspired by “the customs/security lines at any airport at any given time, anywhere in the world” the collection made a powerful political statement while Paris’ traditional reserve was disrupted further as the audience were invited to join the models in a lively post-show dance. Like Richard Malone, Telfar continued to defy Fashion Week convention, this time by showing in both New York and Paris in a single season.

Celebrating multiculturalism was at the heart of New York-based label Area’s runway presentation. Translating their brand name into multiple languages and making them into nameplate necklaces, design duo Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk affirmed their brand philosophy of breaking down boundaries and creating a collection from everyone, for everyone. On the runways themselves, a host of designers employed models of different shapes, sizes and ethnicities, many of them street-cast, seeking to build on the progress exhibited during the previous AW19 season which featured the most diverse modelling cast to date. 

While genderless collections and coed shows made a considerable impact on the traditional runway format, dedicated womenswear collections remained the dominating presence. Conversations revolved around reevaluations of femininity, feminism, the continued struggle for equality and what it means to be a woman in contemporary society. In her show notes Marta Jakubowski described a strong female ‘striding out with determination in her step’. Cinema idols past and present inspired the blend of broad power shoulders, subverted yet precise tailoring techniques softened with lavender hues all exuding a sense of authority.

For Korean-born, London-based designer Rok Hwang, representing the real woman was a priority. “From the beginning, we wanted to project the women who we believe in, someone who doesn’t feel confident and is more youthful and fragile,” explained the Céline alumni of his label Rokh’s underlying aesthetic. A darker, fiercer character came through for SS20 in the deconstructed suiting reminiscent of the working women in 90’s New York while still attending to day-to-day practical dressing requirements of his present-day clientele.

Trend takeaway: Creating an inclusive environment and products that appeal to a broader range of demographics expands target market potential and increases accessibility to a wider consumer base.

Trendstop is a trend forecasting agency and consultancy with the finger on the pulse and an eye firmly to the future. With Trendstop’s trend forecasts, designers have the fundamental tools to build a collection that is not just conceptual, but carries the right elements to attract buyers’ attention and make a new label commercially viable.

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