Estethica AW13 – the ethical fashion showcase inspires

image: Estethica founder Orsola de Castro Beautiful Soul, image: Jay McLaughlin Phannatiq, image: Stephen Berkely-White Liora Lassalle

By Emma | Women
Posted Feb 25, 2013

As the eyes of the fashion industry focus more and more on the talent coming out of London Fashion Week each season, it was Estethica that really made an impact. The ethical fashion showcase was founded seven years ago and is now arguably the world hub of high fashion with conscience. Painstakingly curated to showcase the creme de la creme of design talent to the world’s press and buyers, this year 14 fabulous designers were chosen “for their design excellence and commitment to working in a sustainable way.”

From fair trade and the use of organic fibres to upcycling and ethical practices, over the 14 seasons, Estethica has supported over 100 brands and this year we weren’t disappointed. A relatively select collection of designers, from regulars Ada Zanditon and The North Circular to newcomers such as Katrien Van Hecke and one-to-watch Liora Lassalle, made a huge impact on everyone who came through the doors and the creativity bouncing around the rooms of the majestic Somerset House was palpable. This translated to a record number of orders early on, with many buyers from home and abroad investing not only in the gorgeous clothes on show, but also in the message of ethics.

One of the most encouraging things about Estethica is how it appeals to just about everybody with a huge array of different brands, from haute couture to ready-to-wear and accessories, the level of talent in one space was truly incredible and a credit to founder Orsola de Castro, ethical heavyweight and all-round fabulous fashion queen. “This season has been our best one so far, both in terms of press and buyers. From Suzy Menkes’ great piece for the NYTimes to the solid orders places with most designers, this is the season that will mark Estethica as a mainstream platform for great, intelligent and beautiful fashion,” she told Magnifeco.

A creative force to be reckoned with, Anna Skodbo’s ready-to-wear brand Phannatiq formed a wonderful welcome to the exhibition with the ‘refraction’ AW13 collection. Urban, elegant and inspired by the sprawling decay of hidden London, the range lovingly combines contemporary style with the most gorgeous organically disruptive prints. Committed to sustainable practices and using only natural plant dyes, Phannatiq’s organic and unbleached bamboo and refined fig tree bark pieces were presented in a stunning short film at the Estethica Film Showcase.

Enduring favourite Beautiful Soul received a resounding reception for Nicola Woods’ “I ♥ Ladybirds” collection featuring bold hydrangeas and pretty ladybird accents, while Antwerp-based designer Katrien van Hecke, former apprentice to Hussein Chalayan, offered luxurious silk pieces. Starting from scratch with raw white materials as a base, she uses an artistic combination of vegetable dyes, spices and herbs to create a mind-blowing range of unique modern pieces incorporating soft structure and feminine detail.

Millinery had a strong presence at Estethica, with ethical pioneer Pachacuti continually pushing boundaries and offering not one but four collections in its 21st year. Talented founder Carry Somers told us, “this season we are working with four different themes to cater for our range of different markets. We are very popular in Japan and have a wonderful relationship with gamekeepers all over the UK who provide us with the high quality and beautiful feathers that are the finishing touch for our woven horsehair and wool felt hats and fascinators.” Elsewhere, pintsize force de nature Mich Dulce‘s Tribal Kings & Princesses collection promoted the stunning Filipino fabric T’nalak made from hand-woven banana fibres as well as supporting women from a Philippine-based poverty alleviation project who develop their skills producing the pieces.

British accessories brand Lost Property of London was once again a stylish and inspiring presence at Estethica, unveiling Katy Bell’s latest ‘Maritime’ collection, inspired by the rugged and beautiful Cornish coastline and embracing its ‘rough luxe’ signature with a range of recycled sailcloth and vegetable tanned leather. French brand Veja, a more-than-credible ethical alternative to the powerhouse and distinctly unethical sports brands, also didn’t disappoint with an exciting collection of sneakers and high tops along with lastest additions of chic handbags and wallets.

After such a successful season, what’s next for Estethica?

“We are well on our way,” says Orsola, “Obviously, it’s not just about the high street and the high end embracing eco practices from now on, but also education, collaboration and commitment. It will still take a while for the industry to change, but I see a positive, permanent transition rather than embracing a temporary trend.”

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