Wednesday, October 19, 2016

less is now more than ever: the Anthropocene Age

As the Autumn/Winter collections have been presented and ecomodista reflects on style, textiles, and the impetus for acquiring the latest fashions she evaluates her own efforts to reduce consumption personally. 

For the the first time human beings are responsible for manipulating and shaping the earth’s environment, it’s climate and geological events—the Anthropocene Age it is now designated. In fact ecomodista experienced her first earthquake in Shawnee, Kansas this summer where she awoke to what felt like an automatic massage bed convulsing under her, caused by fracking in Oklahoma, which instantly reminded her of the Simpsons episode in which Marge decamps to a motel because Homer has become a gun fanatic… However ecomodista proposes that actually the dawn of the industrial age should be the turning point rather than 1950, given the impact of using coal over the past 3 centuries as well as deforestation globally during that period.
see for an excellent description of the Anthropcene Age. 

hence ecomodista’s revised manifesto:
reduce reduce reduce
If one doesn't crochet, why not re-purpose table lace?

Designers have been tackling this issue for two decades, and it is difficult in terms of production for if not mass consumption, even limited consumption is challenging. Using textile waste is often limited however knitwear designers seem to be successful using left over yarns from other productions.

Plastic recycling

As ecomodista has always maintained secondary use clothing is a great source of stylish clothing, numerous sources both online (ebay etc.) and thrift shops are a major source, not mention trading children’s clothing among friends and relatives. Apparently though such an excess of donated clothing is suppressing textile production in countries such as Kenya although it does provide ancillary jobsin these locations. see the Guardian

Landfill, composed to a large degree of textile waste, has been creating new geological features, a trend that appears to be increasing unless more rigorous recycling is practiced. New equipment to do just this has made San Francisco a destination to study how this can be accomplished. Who has never wondered if that tiny cardboard tag should be added to the paper and cardboard recycling bin or simply thrown in the trash. Food waste is finally being tackled, with food retailers joining the effort to re-direct those oddly shaped squash that don’t conform to the normal. It’s actually amazing that the western world has so much food that decisions such as this actually result in waste. Waste disposal causes costly environmental impact and depletes valuable resources. On the On the other hand, new business models must arise to combat obsolescence; New Yorker reporter, J. B. MacKinnon analysed how the LED light bulb industry is morphing October 5, 2016.

In a sense mass consumption has shifted just as prediction by economists in the 1980’s towards services, snapchat, Facebook, Linkedin, cable, wifi, Netflix. yet there are still innumerable consumer products, not only  increasingly specific devices apparently co, and designed to be outmoded.  
Christopher Kane S/S 2016 collection used a novel reuse material--plastic cable ties in bright colours

Reducing waste (traditionally defined as any product or substance that has no further use or value, a definition that is morphing into a material that has potential value subject to reuse or re-manufacture) from packaging, food is the simplest for a consumer to control. Numerous packaging materials in a food coop or supermarket are recyclable and/or produced from post consumer materials. Bulk foods like rice, pasta, peas and beans, fruits, vegetables and nuts are easily taken home, put away in canning jars or stored in fridge, plastic bags washed and reused shopping next time. The majority of food co-ops have become consequential players in supporting local food production, from urban rooftop to kansas farmland, small farmers are finding their pursuit once again viable. The US Department of Agriculture has even expand it’s programs now funding rural health clinics.

Making one’s own clothing and knitting are extremely viable, now more than ever with vintage yarns and textiles available in thrift and even antique shops and of course innumerable sources online. Tote bags are a chic replacement for paper and plastic.

knitting a chunky tote bag could not be more appropriate

ecomodista's manifesto for the Anthropocene Age to be continued...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

not twee TWEEDY 2

 photographs courtesy of

Tweed yarn's characteristic flecks of colour create a versatile textile, chic, yet capable of great warmth and protection from the elements, due to tiny tiny air pockets created by the roving flecks and historically the perfect example of reuse and recycling. As reimagined by Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld, tweed is versatile--gold lurex, raffia, and other fibbers lend themselves to his pliable imagination. His Autumn 2010 Ready to Wear is particularly wonderful, playing with fringed knits and tweeds, shreds of silk chiffon, and other allusions to the origins of tweed. The pink suit below imposes the rigour of pleats on shredded chiffon.

Scottish frugality (not necessarily by choice) probably contributed to the creation of tweed yarn, adding bits of roving dyed other colours to a consistent single colour being spun to avoid waste. Basically during the 18th and 19th centuries recycling was pervasive, nothing was exempt from being shredded to spin new yarns from horse blankets and rugs (producing shoddy) to finely knit wool stockings (used for mungo). Even Charles Dickens wrote about this phenomenon, visiting the city of Bately, Victorian England's capitol of shoddy production.

Describing his experience he wrote, "We learned from the [railway] station-master the names and addresses of the two principal mill owners, and after we had satisfied these gentlemen that we were not secret emissaries of trade rivals anxious to pry into the mysteries of their manufacture, but simply in search of reproducible information, we were received with great courtesy, and conducted through their respective establishments. And the first piece of information afforded us was that the outside world is wrong in its general acceptation of the word "shoddy," and of its entire ignorance of the word "mungo." It may be broadly stated that the preparation made from rags is called shoddy, while that pulled out of old cloth and woollen goods is called “mungo."

From spinning tweed yarn that was used by crofters in the Outer Hebrides to weave warm blankets and outerwear, Harris Tweed evolved and long established it's trademark and protections through the use of the orb logo. The name is derived from the North Harris Estate owned by Lord & Lady Dunmore who promoted the textile.

carla breeze 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

not twee TWEEDY

Menswear inspired Coco Chanel to adopt tweed as her medium of choice.  During the 1920's the Duke of Westminster sported tweeds, and after borrowing his clothing, Chanel became convinced tweed embodied a sophisticated quality that was quite modern, spontaneous slubs of bright colours against darker tones adapted easily to her, now iconic, designs. Initially, Chanel worked with a Scottish factory to produce her tweed textiles. Since 1924, tweeds have been a permanent fixure at the house of Chanel, and Karl Lagerfeld's brilliance has devolved around transforming, expanding and deconstructing Chanel's vision including perennial inclusion of tweeds. Chanel Ready to Wear A/W 2016 exemplifies his ability to transform and update Coco Chanel's modernity, including designs which are constructed in terms of scale and detail to photograph well, no surprise since he is a photographer. see:

Although Chanel tweed was originally manufactured in the Hebrides, tweed production was later moved to small ateliers in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, France. Chanel’s lightweight tweed has been created in the French atelier of Maison Lesage. 

Amanda Harlech, who has curated Lagerfeld's work describes him: ‘‘Karl’s eye is like a magnifying lens: he reads people like an X-ray or a shaman[...] His alchemical eye has sublimated tweed at Chanel. He has reinvented tweed. It can be woven with ribbons of cellophane, re-embroidered with silken threads, shredded and dusted with fragments of light, hand-painted, overlaid over prints, unwoven and rewoven into magnified holes, or remixed into an apparition of tweed.’’ see:
photograph: Chanel A/W 2016 ready to wear

Initially produced in the Outer Hebrides in the 18th century, crofters often recycled worn out knits by introducing coloured mungo (similar to shoddy both of which were recycled, mungo being from cleaner clothing sources including knitwear that is shredded) slabs into the yarn as it was spun. Tweed, essentially a rough twill, insinuated itself into aristocratic country, those, including Prince Albert, purchasing Scottish estates in the early & mid-19th century. After Prince Albert designed a Balmoral tweed, estate tweeds became a necessary accoutrement for aristocrats. Since both employer and employees wore their estate's tweed, it transcends class, despite contemporary perception. Early estate tweeds originated from the black and white Shepard check (sheep herders) according to the historian of tweed, Edward P. Harrison. Marled yarns with slabs of various colours appearing later did indeed provide hunters with some camouflage. 
photograph: Chanel A/W 2016 ready to wear

photographHarris Tweed weaver at his Hattersley loom, Wikicommons

Thursday, March 17, 2016

spinning wood into gold

Manufacturers producing organic textiles (primarily cotton) are certified according to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the number of whom continues to increase annually. In 2014 3,814 facilities were certified, and interestingly, India heads the list of countries with the largest increase in GOTS certification in 2015, followed by Europe. Germany ranks third in the total number of GOTS certification. For an interesting survey of organic cotton, see:

According to the Organic Trade Association's recent Organic Industry Survey, the market for organic textiles is rapidly expanding, partially resulting from the 2011 US Department of Agriculture's policy requiring companies labeling their textiles as “organic” to certify their products to the US organic food standard or GOTS. "The figures show that GOTS is credible and independent certification of the entire supply chain is an important driver for the business case for sustainability--in contrast to mere self claims," said Claudia Kersten, GOTS Marketing Director. 

Cotton prices continue to increase--in 2011 it was dramatically higher due to the massive rains and flooding in Pakistan and other countries which destroyed cotton crops the previous year. Climate change continues to exert  effects on agriculture in the midst of shifting to organic cotton cultivation. 

While the use of cotton generally continues to decline as a result of cost and consumers' ethical and environmental concerns, Nordic countries are reactivating wood pulp mills which had declined over the past two decades. Anxious to meet increasing demand for replacing cotton with viscose, fiber from timber, the Nordic forestry and pulp industries are increasingly viable, especially as manufacturing now conforms to environmental regulation. Additionally, Ikea, Hennes & Mauritz (H & M) Filippa K, and other Nordic firms would like to source locally to meet their own sustainability goals.

Rowan felted tweed, alpaca, wool & viscose content

Global output of pulp for textiles is expected to grow by 30% by 2020 in anticipation of increasing demand for viscose and lycel, as cotton production peaks (and of course water is the primary culprit in production, even if it is organic) according to Oliver Lansdell at forest products industry consultancy Hawkins Wright. No coincidence that the Norwegian firm producing yarn for hand knitting, Drops, already has a cotton/viscose yarn available.

photograph: INDIGITAL speaking of tweeds, see Chanel knits from ready to wear A/W 2016 collection (love the grommets!)

photograph: INDIGITAL Chanel knitwear, grommets & wool from ready to wear A/W 2016 collection (more grommets)

Altuzarra A/W 2016 wool knit with leather

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

upheaval in knitwear industry

Wool and the Gang hat for Giles Deacon A/W 2014

No, hand knitters are not being replaced by machines, that was accomplished during the Elizabethan period by British clergyman William Lee. Hybrid business models are appearing from Wool and the Gang to Unmade. And certainly the most luxurious knits will continue to be produced by hand, Hillary Rohde, Thistle and Broom and Eribe in Scotland and various knitwear companies in Norway and Denmark, where knitters work from home. A new generation of  knitters has been drafted whether working in spare time while studying at university or employed in another sector. Nothing compares to a hand knit garment or accessory. ecomodista won't dwell on the wretched spinoffs of Fair Isle impelled by Dolce & Gabbana's diffusion line DG in 2010 (like cardigans with the pattern rows woefully mismatched...)

Tech start-up and low tech cottage industry, Wool and the Gang (WATG) was founded by Jade Harwood and Aurelie Popper, creating a business model incorporating DIY and hand knit production. One may order the kit to knit oneself, or order the item already knit. Located in Dalston east London studio, a WATG culture has emerged which provides a community of over 2,000 "Gang Makers" who work in home production for the company and "whom they can call on at any time, in whatever numbers they need, to make anything from a single bespoke item to bulk order - like 250 hats [produced for Giles Deacon runway presentation A/W 2014]. In an instant they can scale their production up or down according to demand." as Tamsin Blanchard reported.

Wool and the Gang

Other hybrid knitwear companies may be found at Makerversity, situated in the partially abandoned lower floors of the 300 year old cultural centre and former palace, Somerset House, on the banks of the river Thames. Creating a workspace for 60+ entrepreneurial ventures, and where Unmade is located various business models are being created to combat stereotypes. Using coding to transform knitting machines to respond in the manner of 3D printers, Unmade essentially "prints" clothing to order, reconfiguring the process of clothing manufacturing. This process insures Unmade will not produce clothing no one wants. "It is estimated that 10% of all the clothes made in the world go straight to landfill, which, says Alun-Jones [of Unmade] is 'insane'. We seem to have lost something in mass production where you are making things for everyone, but everything is made for no one.”  This is a shocking indictment of the clothing industry, and analogous to food waste, which is being currently legislated  in the UK to redistribute food to those in need.

Monday, February 8, 2016

upheaval in fashion

Burberry ad campaign 2011 S/S
When Christopher Bailey announced an entirely new paradigm for runway presentations, other companies began to follow suit. Seasons will no longer apply, no Autumn/Winter 2017, instead the clothing will be adaptable to any season, Northern or Southern Hemisphere, for example the sleeveless trench coat. Secondly, consumers will be able to purchase the clothing displayed on runway immediately following the presentation, allowing Burberry to utilise the hype surrounding these presentations.

"We still travel around the world attending men’s, women’s and haute couture collections for months on end. We embrace social media and the internet, but the timing of this communication is out of sync with the availability of collections, which arrive many months after the consumer has seen them. We try to respond to the customer’s need for newness, but in doing so, we have created an over-proliferation of products that don’t have enough time to sell before the next collection drops, leading to waste. In doing so, we are constraining the creativity of our designers, exhausting the buyers and press, and overwhelming the consumer." 

This opening paragraph in today's BoF Letter from the Editor (Imran Amed)  clearly addresses the environmental and economic issues confronting the fashion industry. There was an interesting study cited by BoF (different article) regarding teenagers spending on clothing, which has dropped from much higher levels 10 years ago. Of course it has, many teenagers now purchase their clothing on eBay and Etsy, primarily reusing clothing that owners no longer need. ecomodista has endorsed recycling, reusing, and reducing consumption, yet it seems much of the fashion industry does not recognize the importance of environmental and social justice issues to the post-millennial generation. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

chic holiday wear--the aran

It's official, Vogue UK has proclaimed the jumper of choice for this holiday season--the Aran. Featuring Altuzarra's pale blue Aran, among other designers it's possible to ignore in the flood of hype, he has worked with knitwear including Argyle in prior collections, such as is A/W 2011. Clearly a major talent, informed by his intelligence, Altuzarra's knits are an inspiration. 

 Altuzarra A/W 2011

 Altuzarra A/W 2011

Even the Financial Times considers the sweater of choice, illuminating various issues: "There are no trade restrictions attached to Aran as  there are with Champagne and and Parmigiano Reggiano, which makes it slightly confusing, says Tarlach de Blácam, chief executive of Aran company Inis Meáin (named after the Aran island on which the business is based. If we had the regulation they do in France it would be different..." The original Aran sweaters were much simpler in design. "A small cottg industry developed at the end of the 19th century as one of [British prime minister] Gladsone's employment schemes for the west of Irelands," says de Blácam, who moved to Inis Meáin 40 years ago. "They started making these white decorated sweaters for merchants and tourists visiting the islands, but if you look at old photographs and talk to the local people about what they used to wear out fishing, they all wore something much more restrained and simple which we like to call Aran workwear."