China is no stranger to hitting global headlines in regards to its urban air pollution and it’s counter-smog-measures the country employs - honey, those Darth Vader mouth mask will never be fashionable!
In fact, the textile industry has long been one of China’s largest polluters. Is the smog down to our desire for fast fashion? Is it possible for fashion to be sustainable and made in china?
It is tough to be stylish on streets where visibility can drop to 0.1 meter.
Given we’ve worked together on her magazine’s China issue, I figured we’d talk about the enormous enigma that is ‘Sustainable Fashion in China’.
Alina Raetsep with a SIX magazine tote bag
‘Eco-anything’ meets ‘China’, you wouldn’t normally think that those two things would ever go together
First off, ‘eco fashion’ is quite a limited term in a way that it only describes ecologically sound fashion. I prefer to refer to the umbrella term ‘sustainability’, as overused as it might be, because it covers all of the SIX aspects of what any industry should be - including fashion.
To me, sustainability is the formula of ‘respect + preservation + innovation’:
- Respect toward the environment
- Respect toward the people who produce the product / service
- Respect towards the end product and its lifecycle
- Respect toward the consumer
- Preservation of tradition
- Making use of and driving innovation
China is really coming into its own in terms of developing styles that don’t just copy Western ideas of fashion, but rather refer to the roots of Chinese heritage.
Subtle use of traditional lines, materials, methods and cuts mixed with innovative ideas are slowly but surely starting to give shape and voice to the creature that is modern Chinese design.
Is there a general movement towards sustainable fashion and design within China?
Concern with eco fashion doesn’t start with fashion, for many consumers it’s a natural progression from their interest in organic food and cosmetics.
In China, as I suspect in the West, new parents are at the forefront of this group, followed closely by those who take keen interest in Western trends. And eco fashion is for sure a major Western “trend” that’s starting to spread eastward.
Still, the majority of the Chinese designers are hardly aware and possibly don’t care about eco textiles or eco production methods. The one factor that points at the eco fashion movement among the Middle Kingdom creative talent is their reference of traditional production methods (Vega Zaishi Wang) and, sometimes, collaboration with local artisanal communities (Angel Chang, Atelier Rouge de Pekin).
This is already a big step forward toward one of the very important elements of sustainable fashion - preservation of tradition. The engine behind the eco fashion movement in China are still expat/foreign designers and brands, for their majority, such as Neemic.
NEEMIC is a designer brand started in 2011. All NEEMIC pieces are designed and made in Beijing.
Any favorite sustainable “Made in China” brands?
They might not be entirely eco, but they have fantastic prospects of becoming that way eventually - Vega Wang and Neemic have been my firm favourites ever since I discovered them when I started researching Chinese fashion in 2011. I am also torn between Angel Chang, who works with local communities across China bringing back traditional designs and textiles, and Atelier Rouge de Pekin, a Franco-Chinese design duo crafting Mao-inspired styles with a Parisian twist.
From the sounds of it a new “Made In China” is rising from the smog. In what seems like a very stylish fashion.
But will mainstream, fast fashion brands follow in the footsteps of the designers mentioned? Will they create a more eco-friendly, pollution free China? Tweet us your thoughts @YahooStyleUK