Amsterdam - "We especially wanted to focus on the concept of circular economy at this edition of Amsterdam Fashion Week," said Iris Ruisch, Creative Director of Mercedes-Benz Amsterdam Fashion Week to FashionUnited. "I am really proud to say that at least 80 percent of the designs shown on schedule this edition are sustainable." Although the interpretation of sustainable fashion certainly varied per designer, the 27th edition of Mercedes-Benz Amsterdam Fashion Week explored what it means to be green in one of the world's most polluting industries.
“The designers [at Amsterdam Fashion Week] wanted to make a statement,” said Hans Ubbink, Dutch designer, and consultant to FashionUnited backstage. “We’ve had Hacked By van Slobbe van Benthum, which shows the public what you can do with old clothes and still be able to wear it. Cut it short, or make it longer, add new applications, change the sleeves and so on.” Other designers such as Bas Kosters and Ajbilou | Rosdorff, incorporated different sustainable design techniques in their collections, such as zero-waste and upcycling, while a new local initiative, 'Amsterdam maakt er wat van,' translated as ‘Amsterdam makes something of it,’ saw the city council teamed up with six recent graduates from two leading fashion schools to raise awareness for garment recycling.
“Reusing is the best thing you can do. Buy good, durable clothing and reuse and recycle”
"I’m also proud that a lot of our designers are looking to break the rules within the fashion system," added Ruisch. "I think this is something that has been happening around the globe for a number of years already and within our schedule, you can see that we are really giving our response to this sustainable movement with our group of Dutch designers." Mercedes-Benz Amsterdam Fashion Week officially started Thursday evening with a show from Hacked By Van Slobbe en Van Benthum, the new label from Dutch designers Alexander van Slobbe and Francisco van Benthum. Together the duo developed a new concept which features new garments constructed from the deadstock of fast-fashion retailers. By 'hacking' excess stock from other brands and using it to make new collections, the design duo aims to show the industry the fashion system current issues and encourage designers to rethink how their products are made.
Amsterdam Fashion Week showcases sustainable fashion
"We are breaking the system in a very cynical, but satirical and comical way," noted Ruisch. "We are trying to encourage people to rethink their definition of fashion, how they dress, how they treat their clothing and how they should treat it." Dutch designer Bas Kosters took things a step further for his show for his collection ‘My Paper Crown,’ by encouraging people to rethink how they perceive each other, as well as how they perceive fashion. Kosters sought to highlight the importance of inclusiveness in individuals daily lives, as he believes ‘everyone deserves an equal chance in life.’ Which is partly why he used hundreds of old cotton flags from around the world to make his new collection, "because this idea was not just born out of the will to do good, but also out of love for the material," said Kosters to newspaper Trouw. “Sustainability means to me showing people how they can do things differently,” added the eccentric Dutch designer. “I think it’s important that people realize what the consequences of their choices are. Cheap clothing also comes with a price tag.”
“"We are trying to encourage people to rethink their definition of fashion”
Kosters is not alone on his view that sustainability needs to be taught to the masses, as raising public awareness concerning what consumers can do with their unwanted garments was one of the key driving factors behind Amsterdam's new initiative. The city council teamed up with Mercedes-Benz Amsterdam Fashion Week, the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) and Gerrit Rietveld Academy and challenged 6 recent graduates to create 3 upcycled outfits from unwanted textiles and garments collected during King’s Day. The students, who were coached by Dutch designer Hans Ubbink, Niels Klaver (Rietveld) and Peter Leferink (AMFI), were given 3 months time to design and create their collections. “We thought how nice would it be to make new collections from the leftovers and unwanted clothing and share it with the public,” said Ruisch.
Ubbink, a fashion veteran, and green-advocate was “pleasantly surprised” when asked to participate in the initiative, as he strongly believes people should take more care with what they buy, how they wear it and what they do afterward with it. “When they approached me for this project I thought it would be good to show what you can do with clothes after you’re bored with them and create awareness,” he said to FashionUnited. “People should take more care with what they buy, where they buy it and what they wear, especially once they’ve become bored with it. Because clothes that are thrown out are hardly ever worn out, it' just that the wearer is bored with it.”
A fan of the rise of the shared economy, which sees more young people, in particular women sharing services, is another way the fashion industry could tap into more to help fight against this notion of throw-away fashion, added Ubbink. In addition, sharing a wardrobe can also offer wearers the chance to further customize their look and take style inspiration from their friends. “Reusing clothes is so much better for the environment and also for the personality of the clothes.” Yasmina Ajbilou and Lynn Kate Rosdorff, the duo behind young label Ajbilou | Rosdorff also believe in reusing old garments and unwanted textiles, which is why their brand focuses on offering one of a kind garments made using zero-waste policy.
“The industry needs to stop producing more than we need, people need to stop buying more than they need”
“We are showing the industry and the public that fashion can be different,” said Ajbilou to FashionUnited following their show on Sunday. The young designers enjoy ‘hunting’ for leftover fabrics to make their clothing, which they find from a wide range of sources, including textile manufacturers, garbage dumps, and designer fashion houses. To ensure their collections really are zero-waste they are currently working with a fabric manufacturing to make new fabrics from the tiny leftovers they have gathered from previous collections to use in their next collection.
However, even though sustainable design remains at the core of the brand, both designers are adamant that Ajbilou | Rosdorff is not labeled a ‘green fashion brand. “We want to be seen as a regular label and be more accessible to the public, rather than a niche brand,” said Rosdorff. “At the same time, we also think that sustainable fashion should be the norm and not viewed as anything special.” Both Rosdorff and Ajbilou believe real change within the fashion industry can begin with what is shown on the catwalks and support AFW sustainable focus.
“Sustainable [design] from start will drive real change in the industry”
Ubbink also hopes the initiative will make the inhabitants of Amsterdam, as well as the fashion industry more aware as the solutions to the issues faced by the industry. “If a fashion week, or company, can help us and the public become more aware because, in the end, the public is the one who dictates the market by buying or not buying, then that’s great,” he continued. “But it’s hard. Will this initiative change public awareness world wide? No. Will it pave the way for change with a group of frontrunners? Yes, I think so, and I hope so. We cannot change the past, we can only change the future we can only do it bit by bit.”
Ruisch is aware that change within the industry will not happen overnight, but is optimistic for the future and expects sustainability to continue growing within Amsterdam Fashion Week, “This is not merely a trend, this is fulfilling a need to do things differently to make a difference,” she stressed. “I think that all the buyers within the industry will also focus more and more on these aspects and they are less interested in other [non-sustainable] ideas. You cannot simplify it and you cannot develop a new collection which is not sustainable.”
Photo credits: Team Peter Stigter