Fabrics In The Spotlight: London Fashion Week Moves To Soho:

When you go shopping for new clothes, do you check what material they’re made of? If you don’t, perhaps you should. According to “Body Ecology”, “Everything Beautiful.com” and other similar sites, there are several “toxic fabrics” which are potentially bad for your health and so should be avoided. They all depict polyester as the “the worst you can buy”, followed by acrylic, which – according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – contains an acid that “acts as a strong irritant to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes”. Rayon is derived from recycled wood pulp and treated with “chemicals like caustic soda, ammonia, acetone and sulphuric acid which are used to ensure the fabric survives regular washing and wearing”. Nylon is made from petroleum and is “often given a permanent chemical finish that can be harmful”.

“Everything Beautiful” advises us to stay well clear of any fabric claiming to be “stain resistant”, “wrinkle-free”, “anti-shrink” or “perspiration proof” as they will contain harmful elements such as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) and formaldehyde. They recommend that we should wear natural fibres, preferably organic, such as cotton, wool, silk (“but watch out for synthetic dyes”) and linen. Hemp is apparently not only four times stronger than cotton, but also “grows without any need for fungicides, herbicides or pesticides because it’s naturally insect–resistent”.

The Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF) has pointed out that the fashion industry “has an enormous impact on the environment”. The petrochemicals in synthetic materials, it asserts, “are non-biodegradable, cause pollution and contribute to global warming”. The EFF believes that, due to technological developments “environmentally-friendly textiles have become a viable alternative to conventional fabrics” – though it is concerned that garments claiming to be made from, for example, organic cotton, “do not take into account any accessories that may be on them, such as zips and buttons”.

Attempts to discuss these issues at the recent London Fashion Week SS16 (September 18th – 22nd) met with a mixed response. Some of the designers or their staff on the Ready-To-Wear and millinery stands in the Designer Showrooms insisted that all their clothes were made of natural fibres, others admitted that they did use some polyester, rayon or acrylic in their creations or simply didn’t want to talk about it.

After five years based at Somerset House in the Strand, this LFW (the 62nd) took place in its “new home” at the Brewer Street Car Park in Soho. The idea, the British Fashion Council’s (BFC) Chief Executive, Caroline Bush told the Guardian’s Fashion Editor, Jess Cartner-Morley, was to “bring the shows closer to retail”. It certainly created “a buzz” in the area and boosted business for local shops, bars, restaurants and hotels – but also clogged up the traffic in the narrow Soho streets. Statistics released by the BFC prior to the event indicated that 78 designers would be featured in the 52 catwalk shows and 26 presentations. The British Fashion Industry, it was noted, contributes £26 billion to the UK economy, the amount spent on fashion online in the UK is expected to reach £19 billion by 2019 and the value of the web-based fashion and footwear market in the UK is predicted to grow to £11 billion over the same period.

There was undoubtedly a sense of a break from the routine of previous LFWs and this was reflected in many of the innovative catwalks. The Jean Pierre Braganza Show was notable for its sleek designs and stylish colour combinations, Fydor Golan’s models carefully negotiated the catwalk in double-pump footwear and Jasper Conran opted overwhelmingly for green, with Matisse-esque prints and elaborate, shimmering pieces accompanied by gold sandals.

Some of the attire displayed during “The Power Of Soho” Show at the Vinyll Factory in Marshall Street was rather reminiscent of the Michelin Tyre Man, though anyone who has experienced difficulties tottering around on stiletto heels will have welcomed the conical alternatives worn by many of the models at the same event. The “torn jeans look” was extended to an entire dress at the Swedish School of Textiles Show in the Freemasons Hall in Great Queen Street, but the bulky, albeit brightly- coloured, jackets also featured there might not appeal to those fashionistas who prefer to maintain a slimmer and more compact appearance.

A few of the models at the Swedish School event were adorned from head to toe in the type of plastic cover more usually associated with the clothes which can be seen hanging up in any dry-cleaners. Certainly a little unusual, even bizarre, and probably not entirely comfortable either for the models. But then, that’s what London Fashion Week is all about.

Filed under: Society | Posted on September 21st, 2015 by Colin D Gordon

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