|Written by Abigail Doan - Tuesday, 18 August 2009|
It is perhaps no surprise to some that today’s Pop & Rock scene shares some of the same cloth with contemporary eco fashion labels and the DIY craft movement. Subversive undertones prevail in the best of innovative design, and folks with vision - be they artists, musicians, designers, or activists - are at the forefront of drumming up true originality and material resourcefulness. A thrifty lifestyle often lends itself to establishing an economy of sorts when it comes to laying down the tracks of one’s personal style, and music and fashion often fuel and propel the underground activity of concerned citizenship and emerging new attitudes.
Some of the earliest threads of eco fashion were evident in the eighties-styled collections of Brit designers Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett, both uniquely instrumental in shaking up our consumptive shopping and fashion industry habits. Westwood and collaborator Malcom McLaren created an outrageous collection of punk-styled ‘Bones T-shirts’ crafted from ‘recycled’, (i.e. boiled and drilled) chicken bones harvested from a local take away. What this talismanic tee lacked in eco-friendly palatability, it made up for with raw, ready-made empowerment. Using chains and studs to attach last night’s meal to tomorrow’s outfit is no-doubt extreme, but it also serves as a reminder that we are indeed what we consume and hastily toss out with the next day’s trash. Punk-maven Westwood has since evolved into an outspoken couture designer and global activist, and her latest partnership with vegan-friendly Melissa shoes serves as evidence that the underpinnings of her fashion-forward ideas were sparked as a passionate punk artist with music street cred.
Similarly, UK designer Katharine Hamnett has used the seemingly simple, oversized cotton tee with bold block letters to broadcast her fashion activist slogans for decades. Her groundbreaking and brazenly amplified campaign, ‘Clean Up Or Die’ sent a direct message to the masses regarding the toxicity of cotton industry pesticides and hazardous, sweatshop conditions for workers. Pop groups like Wham! were early supporters of Hamnett’s designs and her original fashion-victim crusade.
Today’s groupie rock chicks as well as the daughters of rockers, have thankfully emerged from the darkness of season-to-season luxury clothing and accessories trends to become long standing advocates of animal-friendly fabrics and vegetarian and/or vegan lifestyle choices. Stella McCartney, a strict vegan employs a “no animal” policy when designing her collections, and still finds clever ways to navigate collaborations with fashion brands like LeSportSac, H&M, Target, and the Gap. McCartney’s LA store recently celebrated World Environment Day and a private screening of Yann-Arthus Bertrand’s film Home by inviting like-minded enviro-advocates and celebs into the bio-fuelled mix. Liv Tyler, Cameron Diaz, and Daryl Hannah all sported their Stella McCartney picks as an homage to Pop & Rock glam meets model/actress/activist earthy.
For ‘sustainable stylistas’ who do not have a model celeb’s wardrobe budget, there are promising and thrifty ways to rock one’s wardrobe while also rolling along through the global recession. Pop up shops have now arrived in most major cities - featuring some of the finest eco fashion labels while also sharing and repurposing dead retail space. These new fashion road shows tap into our current desire for ‘small is beautiful’ event-based shopping and like-minded community experiences where retailers can meaningfully co-mingle with shoppers and jam on personal sustainable style.
Along these lines, DIY craft gatherings and online ‘maker communities’ encourage fashion-forward thinkers to come together and literally take things into their own hands. It is not a coincidence that the popularity of sites like ETSY, Craftzine, and Threadbanger have gained momentum as followers cut, stitch, and sew to their own tune, while also recycling pre-loved garments or commonplace household materials.
My recent perusal of Threadbanger's site revealed a step-by-step instructional video on recycling an ordinary striped polo shirt into a ‘Rockabilly Summer Swimsuit’. Deemed “the first network for people who make their own fashion”, projects like this are street savvy and energizing in ways that Westwood or Hamnett’s earliest fashion initiatives were. Even hip and crafty Brooklyn-based designer Chanel Kennebrew of Junkprints is encouraging folks to don recycled vinyl LP’s as the latest rendition of upcycled Pop & Rock bling.
Fashion victim no longer, fashion underground gone viral, the future of fashion is as bright and as rockin’ as we choose to make it. Whether you feel the pulse of DIY sustainable style or simply sport Westwood/Melissa designed Squiggles vegan wellies at the next outdoor summer concert, eco fashion has some true allies on the music and hard-core craftivity scene.
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