If there is one day you can shop, and shop guilt-free, this is World Aids Day, today. That is, if you plan to visit the Designers Against AIDS website and indulge in unique products of collaborations between the charity and all the designers you love. Non-profit organization ‘Beauty Without Irony’ has launched the international project ‘Designers Against AIDS’ (DAA) in 2004 in order to raise AIDS awareness in the international media and towards the public, using the power of contemporary pop culture (music, fashion, design, arts, sports, film, celebrities) thus establishing unique collaborations with fashion and pop idols.
Ninette Murk, the Founder and Creative Director of Beauty without Irony is the soul and voice of DAA, pursuing her dream to unify fashion and social change for years. “Never take the easy road, but the one that is shown by your heart,” she says. “We believe that fashion can really help charity causes if the intentions are authentic and the products are good and attractive, and that’s what we aim to do. Everything in the online store comes from donations or collaborations. We use 100% of all the proceeds to help fund our work raising awareness about safe sex, mental health, and tolerance- and building a better world together.” Today she handpicks her favorite collective items from the DAA online stores especially for World Aids Day-and for you.
” I know Véronique for a long time, Delvaux is a Belgian classic and condoms cases… how much more logical can you get? This is an example of a perfect synergy. These cases are quite popular in Japan, they call them ‘Kawai’- not sure they use them to carry condoms in though.”
” Robert was one of the first people to design a print for DAA, in 2005. My then creative director, Javier Barcala, also worked for MTV Spain and he asked him for a design after an interview. Thankfully he said yes. And I love The Cure.”
She’s also an activist who uses fashion as the carrier of her messages (another one is Vivienne Westwood), she is very honest and outspoken and passionate a woman to admire. Plus her slogan tees are iconic.
” I sourced these scarves myself in India, love the old embroidery techniques, the colors, the beautiful silks (vintage saris)… They look like they’re designed by Dries Van Noten (who manufactures a lot of his special pieces in India) but these are more affordable. Best Christmas present ever! We have around 15 of them left I think.”
What do we actually define by a brand’s ethos? And just how important is that in shaping the overall aesthetic and creative practice behind a name? For Cunnington & Sanderson, their ethos is their trademark; their work, a fashion narrative with a signature style, and a fascinating fashion story to tell.
Experimenting with tailoring and volume, the designer duo uses innovating cutting and elaborate draping to form silhouettes that unexpectedly emerge through an endless dialogue with the fabric itself. Their creations are bold, sculptural pieces of extreme craftsmanship; a rare combination of traditional techniques and fashion-forward aesthetic innovation.
For the award-winning brand, the construction process works as part of a very personal fashion narrative waiting to be told. Each individual garment undertakes elaborate draping, sculpting, and is crafted according to its own unique characteristics –characteristics that eventually become its emotional symbolism, its story.
We caught up with John and Matthew to discuss creativity, sustainability, and the emotionally charged vocabulary of their clothes.
You are a design duo, how does this influence the design process
We always base our collections on a narrative. Every garment has its own characteristics and emotive symbolism. At the beginning, the heart of the story is chosen, and then as a design duo, we build a whole world around it. Working in unison we collect objects, depict music, emotions, silhouettes, words, phrases, art, sculpture, symbolisms, and begin sculpting them together. When the narrative is written we transfer this world into our draping and garment design. Excellent communication is key as well as compromise to ensure we are both on the same page with the same vision. This is always achieved because we both involved with the creative directions throughout the whole design process, from the concept, research, development, draping, editing, structure, pattern cutting, finishes, fabric choice, colorways, fittings, production, etc right until the garment is worn by one of our loyal and valued customers. Having two perspectives is really exciting. We both have different ideas but because we design in the same way by draping onto the stand to create new, original, and thought-provoking garments, the results are always complimentary.
You have described your ‘Occupied’ collection as a certain iconography of emotions. Are we afraid to wear our emotions?
We believe that clothes can express how we are feeling or how we want to feel, either subtly or extrovertly. Clothes can make you feel confident, attractive, or more relaxed. They can heighten a mood you are already feeling or they can express the emotion you want to express. We want to inspire people to wear what they want.
Emotions are a key element that we portray in our garment designs, and we hope people make a connection to the personality of their characteristics.
For example, the “Occupied” AW1819 collection focused on breaking the stigma around Mental Health by creating awareness and giving hope and encouragement to others. In our view, the bed can be a solitary sanctuary and become an entire universe. In the collection, pillows, bed linen, and blankets are worn as everyday clothes just as emotions are worn for everyone to see and are no longer hidden. Comfort is found in the non-conformity.
You have been avid advocates of sustainability and ethical fashion – how do you ensure it
We aim to create and design clothes for somebody who can recognize and appreciate craftsmanship, creativity, and originality in clothes. For someone who understands the importance of sustainability. Our brand promotes slow fashion and aims our designs to people who do not follow trends but cherish quality clothes that they make a personal connection with. We design zero waste garments using luxurious & organic fabrics and we use environmentally friendly processes that are transparent. Working closely with traditional Yorkshire Mills such as Abraham Moon & Sons who show a transparent and traceable process where all processes are made in -house and in one location.
Constructing, deconstructing, editing – how do you both know when a garment is finished
We decide a garment is finished by instinct, a moment of feeling like when you get goose pimples, and we can see that the structure holds within all the credentials that inspired its own creation. We imagine the same way a sculpture or a painter knows. It is important not to overwork an idea always aiming to capture the creative process and not to look placed or forced. Allowing the fabric to breathe and drape with gravity capturing movement, shape, shadow, space, volume and to appear as though the fabric is sculpting the garment by itself.
A garment is far more than just something that is worn. It should be cherished. Hours of dedication and passion is put into the creation of one of our designs. For us, each piece is special because if it was not it would not have been created.
There is a certain symbolic element in your garments design. Tell us more about it.
From the Occupied collection, the pillow top was the first design –and it went on to inspire the whole collection. Other garments include the tailored jacket which is worn as a skirt with sleeves as pockets, a laundry dress with elasticated detailing like bedding to capture what once was and a hollow dress that appears detached as an empty unworn dress on the front of the wearer.
The symbolic elements build up the characteristics of the garment. They can be inspired by many things including personal experiences or even historical events. These elements are then expressed through fabric texture, colour, creative pattern cutting, uniques finishes and detailing. Importance is always focussed on fabric placement – how the fabric drapes naturally by its own weight and how the movement just one center-meter can change the whole mood and appearance of a design.
What are your future plans and projects?
Designing a range of zero waste garments that are made in sustainable fabrics. And of course, continue to design and create innovative garments by developing new ways of working with digital technology and sustainable processes.
Cunnington & Sanderson are very proud to have been selected by prestigious buyers and renowned stores for the Not Just A Label x Joor x 100 Project. That means that from now on, we also present our work on the international leading wholesale platform JOOR, where the whole selling process is made online.
Any comments on the current situation? How do you view the Covid19 pandemic?
We hope that after the pandemic of the Covid19 people will give independent fashion designers the credit that they deserve for their craftsmanship. Clothes should be valued and purchased for quality and originality and not for fast fashion that turns into damaging disposable waste.
Image Credits – Photography Rafael Kroetz – Model Zoe Herveva – Make up & Hair Sabine Nania – art direction Cunnington & Sanderson
What we wear is a statement of who we are. Our clothes are way more than a stylistic choice; they are an expression of we perceive ourselves in the world. Clothes help us express our creative side and make a powerful statement of our aesthetics. In that sense, every single dress choice has a meaning, is a door to our tastes and beliefs.
In the case of vegan fashion, this statement is more powerful than ever. Every sustainable choice of an outfit or an accessory is actually a visual projection of our values. Ethical fashion is not only fashion, is a process of thinking and a way to view the world. It’s an ethical choice made public- a statement of values. Emmanuelle Rienda, the founder of the first Vegan Fashion Week, in LA, sees a new era coming: “Cruelty-free is the new luxury. It is neither fashionable nor cool to wear a $3000 bag made of the skin of an animal. Nobody wants to walk around holding a dead baby calf.’’
What sustainable fashion means to vegan fashionistas
Many sustainable fashionistas define their style as an act of resistance and it’s hard not to make the connection. They claim that what they wear are in fact equally important with what they don’t wear- leather, fur, and all animal-made materials. Dressing ethically is, therefore, becoming an act of knowing thyself and your values-and challenging the world for what you believe.
Shruti Jain, the founder of Style Destino, a popular blog on sustainable fashion and vegan living. is adamant that: “Being a vegan doesn’t just involve eschewing meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey, but also the use of every animal products from your lifestyle. It means avoiding clothing and accessories made from leather, wool, silk, fur, feather, for example.’’.
A vegan lifestyle and dressing style is showing the world that cruelty-free clothes are not just a trend; they are an act of resistance towards modern consumerism. This kind of lifestyle allows consumers to take power in their hands and spend money where they think is just, thus influence the market. Or, as pioneer designer Stella Mc McCartney stated in her recent Numero interview: “the (animals’) path from A to Z of becoming a handbag or a pair of shoes is not pretty, it’s not fashionable, and it’s not even luxurious. Its murder.”
Shruti defines her role as the vegan influencers as one to initiate: “a process of positive change through my wardrobe. The visual impact that fashion has on people has multiplied with the rise of social media. I believe that through an ethical vegan wardrobe, you can demand change in the way fashion works today – exploiting people, the planet and the animals.”
Indeed, vegan fashion reflects a crucial shift in cultural values and community ethics. This new generation of conscious consumers is challenging traditional behaviors by choosing to dress as they live-beautifully and cruelty-free. Becoming vegan at this point means breaking away from the norm and challenging the whole western culture of animal exploitation-it is a choice of the ultimate personal expression inside the world.
If dressing is an act of freedom, being a vegan fashionista is, in fact, a conscious celebration of this freedom.’’ When an influencer shares the dark side of the fashion world, at the same time offering ethical alternatives the act serves a dual purpose. First, it educates the followers about inequality, cruelty, and injustice in the fashion world and then it also inspires them to bring a change because they can see alternatives.”, says Shruti.
Emmanuelle is equally aware her role is a pioneering one: “My role is to educate and create connections. Everybody wants to do better, she adds, we are just not aware of the reality of what we are pushed to consume.”
‘’Isn’t that what activism really is – campaigning for a social change? asks Shruti. “.In this case, it would be Fashion Activism – inspiring people to forego animal and human cruelty from their wardrobe – because it’s unnecessary and uncool!”
.The Coronavirus pandemic has been a surprise to most. Many countries and governments struggled to adjust to a new reality and take whatever action was needed in those unprecedented -and turbulent -times.
And yet, post-apocalyptical times have long been the topic of fashion. In fact, fashion designers have subtly-or more boldly-been talking about a dystopian end -of the –world situation coming. For those of us who attended last season’s Paris Fashion Week, the examples were more than obvious.
In fact, there was a great part of fashion designers that were dealing with modern man’s fall from grace -offering post-apocalyptic style collections that worked like mini-warnings for all mankind. Paris fashion week 2020 had at least three thigh profile shows addressing the issue of the world coming to an end as we know it because of man’s behavior. Marine Serre, Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga and Jun Takahashi for Undercover did exactly this.
Functionality aesthetics, elaborate protection face masks, utility clothing and staging that made references to post-apocalyptic times told us we need to worry about our future. So how come we didn’t listen?
Clothes are most than a piece of fabric; and fashion tells stories as Virginia Woolf notes: “Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us… There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not us them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking”
In that sense, fashion is a communication tool, an expression of social identity and this way one way or another it reflects the socioeconomic status quo Take it one step further, and fashion unveils the true mystery of the world, the visible, as Oscar Wilde would confirm. Fashion’s frivolity is a feast to the senses –but not only. By accurately reflecting its times, fashion in one of the semantic systems to reflect and thus predict the future.
Enter interpretation. Every system that can provide with information is always open to analysis and interpretation. The fashion critic of the past did exactly this-based in scientific knowledge, passion or insight, he would offer a lens through which we could view trends that exposed to forecasting the trends that are to come. Like every true artist, the fashion designer would consciously or subconsciously incorporate his knowledge and interpretation of the world translated into forms, shapes, embellishments.
When designers aren’t artists and fashion critics are fans, no true meaning can be extracted than this: fashion has lacked its unique ability to reflect the world. Can we hold Millenial and Gen Z’ culture for rendering fashion synonymous with luxury and street style show off-only? Fashion criticism has long given place to relentless praise and press-release reviews that satisfy but don’t offer a view or a new meaning. It was this happy go-like side of the industry that maintained the fairytale-and the fairytale only.
This pandemic is a tragedy that holds many lessons. Let it one be the reinstallation of fashion as a tool for social discussion-and therefore-change. As an opportunity to dive into one of the greatest mysteries of this world-reality.