Bolstered along by the human rights movement in the 1960s, eco fashion emerged as a challenge to the deep-rooted systems of consumerism. A response to the mass production and overseas manufacturing plants of the 1960s and 70s, environmentally friendly ethics aimed to encourage consumers to buy into what the clothing represented rather than how it looked. Unfortunately, this meant that eco fashion was initially perceived as purely practical clothing constructed from uncomfortable fabrics in formless designs, however, it has since come a long way in terms of style, substance, and purpose.
By the turn of the century, fashion designers had cottoned on the potential for environmentally conscious clothing. In 2005 Marc Jacobs collaborated with Anne Salvatore Epstein to create a range which incorporated bamboo, recycled leather, and organic cotton. By 2009, Linda Loudermilk had launched her eco fashion range which used earth-generated textiles made of sea cell, soya, and sasawashi, along with a recycled plastic bottle fabric called Ecospun®.
Taking into account the working conditions of people in the industry, the environmental impact of the construction and transport of clothes and the health of the consumers who purchase them, eco fashion designers have a lot to juggle to ensure that they are producing ethically and environmentally sound garments. This means that current eco trends are seen as premium products instead of the standard, a fact which is inevitably passed to the consumer via the cost of the items.
However, as more designers take on the challenge of creating beautiful couture from sustainable, ethically produced materials, the knock-on effect will be that eco fashion will eventually become more accessible and affordable. Big corporations such as H&M and Nike have paved the way for ethical standards within the industry while fashion leaders such as Katharine Hamnett and Diana Svensk have championed the concept of sustainability and ethics when it comes to clothing.
So where next for eco fashion? Manufacturers are wising up to the eco movement and are looking to offer more affordable alternatives. More consumers are beginning to realise the impact of their buying choices and are starting to question the origins of their products. In time, perhaps, eco fashion could become the standard, rather than the premium.