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Going Green: Well Fashioned Eco Style in the UK Exhibition

Well Fashioned: Eco Style in the UK
Crafts Council Gallery
44a Pentonville Road
London N1 9BY
T: (0)207.278.7700

Image: Richard LearoydIn an age when we are ever conscious of the organic stamp on the fruits and veg we eat and the free trade requirement of the coffee we drink, it's a bit surprising how little attention we pay to the nature of the clothing we put on our bodies.

Much of the designer and high street fashions available today use harmful dyes or other hazardous manufacturing processes to churn out one-season hits that end up piling up in closets until they walk themselves out to the rubbish. And when the clothes are thrown out, they take many years to decompose and emit harmful gases in the process.

Second-hand and vintage shopping have always been a popular medium to counter this situation while searching for the hidden treasures from couture from years past, and lately, designers in the UK have been taking that practice to the next level.

"The use of organic fabrics and manufacture, reusing old and unwanted textiles in an inventive and creative way has almost become second nature to a growing group of designers," said Rebecca Earley, a UK designer who is featured for her work remaking wedding dresses, among other work in the fashion industry.

Well Fashioned: Eco Style in the UK - a touring exhibition put on by the Crafts Council Gallery - features a set of successful eco-conscious designers working toward saving the environment one trouser leg at a time.

"Well Fashioned as an exhibition raises the question for us as consumers," said Earley, the curator of the show. "When we shop for a new pair of jeans, a T-shirt, or a pair of trainers, what do we actually know about them?"

Well, Gracie Burnett can guarantee mindful consumers that she uses only natural dyes and OsvoMode says it creates clothing primarily out of organic cotton, because our skin absorbs 60 per cent of what is put on it. Benjamin Shine's work consists of a modular garment system of adaptable clothing that allows consumers to extend the life and usage of any one item in the range.

And Sarah Ratty has ensured patrons of her line Ciel Ltd. that they can find clothes designed for "cosmopolitan, busy, funky and fashionable people who may well care about the planet, but don't want to sacrifice style for content." Ratty has attracted celebrities and common citizens alike, all interested in wearing environment-friendly digs.

Like every designer featured at Well Fashioned, she is attempting to create new alternatives to ordinary items that may not be so ordinary when you examine what they're made of.

"The exhibiting designers in Well Fashioned are often small traders, who production volume makes very little impact in contrast to large high street and designer companies," Earley said. "But perhaps they mark the beginning of a new direction, perhaps they are signposting the future for us, and perhaps their impact could in fact by very great indeed."

Well Fashioned gives consumers an idea of the creative processes behind these designers' "green" approach with thoughts and notes from the minds themselves. It also provides information for how the consumer of fashion in the UK can be mindful or eco-friendly products, materials and ranges - allowing everyone to get involved in this growing new trend in fashion.

Lauren Burke

Exhibition Info: Crafts Council Gallery 23 March to 4 June; The City Gallery, Leicester 15 July to 26 August; The Design Centre, Barnsley 7 Sept. to 20 Oct.; City Museum and Records Office, Portsmouth 4 November to 7 January 2007; Bilston Craft Callery 20 January to 3 March 2007)

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