Alter, repair, transform – that’s the acronymic process behind Lee’s new sustainable initiative and manifesto, For a World That Works, set to debut at the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (CIFF), held on January 29-31.
Dubbed FWTW, Lee will unveil its A.R.T. initiative at CIFF, which weaves its workwear past with modern technologies through the adoption of responsible sourcing, manufacturing methods and design ideas for repair that collectively redefine the brand’s approach to sustainability. A.R.T. will offer ways to mitigate consumption and disposable design, inclusive of small, individual actions to up-scaled fashion design solutions, the company said. Its three-day program will focus on repairing, mending and transforming as “both innovation and philosophy,” according to the brand.
CIFF will also see Lee’s launch of fabrics for its Indigood project, a foam-dyeing denim technique that doesn’t need water and uses significantly less chemicals, alongside fashion designers Duran Lantink and Bethany Williams, who will debut new collections that include rejuvenated Lee deadstock fabrics.
Lantink told WWD, “Denim needs new life because it is one of the most polluting materials and water consuming process there is. I personally think that denim becomes more beautiful the more it is worn, so I guess I am exploring ways to keep the jeans interesting. This way, we can make people wear the same jeans for a long time, instead of buying new ones every season or year.” And Williams added that “Our intention is giving denim a new life that highlights the garment’s history and character. We will be including the themes are our new collection, which will be showcased in January. The process of our work is to help textiles and people have a second chance.”
Here, CIFF co-curators Stavros Karelis and Orsola de Castro, CIFF show director Kristian Andersen and Sanaa Sadik, marketing director, EMEA, Lee, engage in a discussion on their roles at CIFF, and how they collaborated to curate a wholly unique approach to sustainability.
WWD Studios: What new elements can attendees expect to see at CIFF this year? What is your specific approach to curation?
Stavros Karelis: For me, CIFF under the direction of Kristian Andersen has evolved to become an incubator of ideas and a platform of innovation highlighting design; but even more importantly, CIFF initiates discussion and highlights the incredible force of unexpected collaborators and agents of change that have something new to say. In that sense, my job is to illustrate these collaborations – always in agreement with the principles of CIFF, and Kristian – in the form of installations that are visually stimulating, engaging and interactive, and also informative.
Orsola de Castro: My approach to curation is always collaborative. In this case, I am working with Stavros Karelis, Lee, The Bearscouts and my Estethica partner Filippo Ricci to ensure all angles are covered, from the very practical to the very philosophical. As a team we see mending and repairing not just as a fashion-centric opportunity to look at a contemporary aesthetics during a climate crisis, but how we can also interpret the act of repairing as a way to usher in a better future.
There will be talks focusing on best practices and innovations in the industry, and there will be ideas and solutions to reimagine clothes as “forever,” and not disposable. There will be seriousness and fun, complicated topics and ways that we can all become a part of the solution. Taking our clothes apart, as well as looking at the fashion system, to be disruptive and constructive at the same time.
WWD Studios: How was the project with Lee initiated?
S.K.: When the Lee brand & Giovanni De Marchi approached me for a sustainability project, I saw the potential of creating something really beautiful together, fitting to the above-mentioned principles of CIFF, always pushing for a new way of doing things. I really respect Lee, which as a heritage brand and one of the pioneers and founders of denim, are choosing to work with all these emerging figures with innovative ideas and thoughts about fashion and its future, creating a very organic relationship, while giving the space to experiment and get it right. At the same time, with their status and values expressed in their manifesto, “For The World That Works,” they are bringing innovation and technologies that are truly ground-breaking and make a vast impact towards supporting sustainability, actively reducing pollution, and waste.
WWD Studios: Would you elaborate on the collaborative A.R.T. project? What does it entail, and why is it unique?
S.K.: I think that the project A.R.T (Alter-Repair-Transform) highlights a circular model, a model where every product or fabric can last much longer from what was it originally designed for and give a new meaning to it with incredible added value. The project as a whole is a big and important story to tell, which excites me the most. Having Bethany and Duran re-purpose and re-create those designs, as well as having Lee with its huge heritage – and its introduction of their technology and fabric innovations – is something by itself that makes me truly excited. My favorite part, aside from Bethany’s and Duran’s creations, will be the “Confessionals” area where the audience can have a one-on-one discussion with experts on sustainability topics, and of course, the workshops run by experts that are inviting the public to learn how to be part of “Gen Cloth-keepers.”
WWD Studios: What initiated Lee’s “For a World That Works”?
Sanaa Sadik: We are aware and concerned about the impact of the denim industry on our environment, and therefore we have committed to change our way of running the business with “For a World That Works,” a manifesto that aligns our brand’s values with the future of the brand and of the planet. For a World That Works groups all our sustainable initiatives for spring 2020, and it will be officially launched during CIFF.
WWD Studios: What measures has Lee taken to reach its sustainability goals?
S.S: Lee has been working on sustainable initiatives already for several seasons. In 2018, we teamed up with Italian mill Candiani, reputed to be one of the greenest mills in the world, to launch our most successful men’s and women’s fits in a sustainable selvedge sustainable line, and since then, we have continuously expanded our offerings. For fall 2019, our iconic Rider Jacket comes also in a sustainable denim version, as well as our classic T-shirts, that are made from premium organic cotton.
For spring 2020, we are multiplying our sustainable initiatives by adding new innovations such as Indigood Denim or our biodegradable denim, Back to Nature. These innovations, alongside other initiatives, are gathered under the For a World That Works umbrella and are applied to an important part of our spring collection. On top of this, to underline our sustainable commitment to create jeans that last longer and are easier to recycle with the smallest impact on people and environment, we have adopted the Jeans Redesign Guidelines, developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, that set out a series of requirements on garment durability, material health, recyclability and traceability.
WWD Studios: Is there anything unique or differentiating with the upcoming edition of CIFF?
Kristian Andersen: I’m personally very proud our big collaboration with Lee and the important message and installation open to the public in Copenhagen this season, as well as our continuous collaboration with Stavros Karelis, who always seeks to define and re-define our creative concepts.
Moreover, we are expanding with a completely newly renovated 2000m showroom for DK Company, Denmark’s second-largest fashion company, powering up for an even stronger business-to-business showroom and a one-stop destination for buyers. This season is also the first time we will actively introduce sport and activities as a natural part of the event, with Eugene Tong and Old Man’s Run Club, for a fresh start in the morning. Also, we are welcoming Dr. Martens in our permanent CIFF showrooms.
WWD Studios: What’s next for CIFF?
K.A.: CIFF will host its next international event during Men’s Week in Paris of June 2020. As we continue to re-define the traditional show format, our next presence in Paris will focus on sportswear and key collaborations. We want our international shows to be very agile, constantly changing the formats and adapting to the industry needs, in particular speaking to young consumers and their needs.