Sustainability might be the buzzword of the season but a handful of up-and-coming brands and designers have truly built it into their young businesses.
“It should not be an argument or should not be something that we have to think about it,” said Alphonse Maitrepierre. “It’s actually criminal to launch a brand and not take care of sustainability, so for us it’s totally normal.” He presented a show the first day of fashion week, while other young, sustainable brands including Benjamin Benmoyal and Kevin Germanier also staged runway shows during the week.
Here are seven promising brands that presented throughout Paris Fashion Week.
The smart collection from Berlin-based, Canadian designer Annika Tibando combines sustainability and spirituality, with garments that integrate chakra crystals throughout the clothing. If it sounds gimmicky, it doesn’t read as such, with delicate beads pulling together a laced-up shirt front while giving it an unexpected edge. It’s all about balance in Tibando’s world, with skirts and jackets that appear sharp but feel supple, while kimono influences on tops and jackets in sleeves add extra movement.
Simple pieces are detailed with geometric lines, strategic cutouts and unexpected shapes. Hidden draping details in silk shirts add volume, and eight snaps — another nod to the chakras — are an added design detail that elevates a simple blazer.
Tibando is as precise about her sourcing as her technique. She uses recycled cellulose nylon, organic cotton and silk from regenerative farms in her wares, and as a fan of full transparency lists all the mills she works with and their certifications. “I probably annoy them with all my questions, but I go through a very cumbersome list.” She has her own requirements and points out that competing certifications can be confusing. “I want to, as must as possible, get the information of where they are sourcing from, down to the farms.”
Tibando also has a fresh take on growth as she moves her brand from direct-to-consumer to IRL retail. “Sustainable is an overused word. There should be another way, a steady, incremental way. I don’t want every year to surpass, surpass, surpass. I don’t want to be a trend. I think an incremental, slow evolution of growth and a healthy business flow is the way to do it.”
The collection will also sustain bestsellers from season to season. “I think when you create beautiful silhouettes and shapes, they have the ability to live long.”
For Sandra Sandor, the human touch is what gives a creation that little je ne sais quoi that makes “spirit shines through matter,” as she explained during a showroom appointment for Nanushka’s spring collection.
Sandor continued to push into a gender-fluid direction, offering a silhouette that nipped in lightly at the waist across the board in an earthy palette livened up with a touch of purple, blue or sherbet yellow.
Woven throughout the extensive offering were nods to the brand’s Hungarian roots in woodblock print motifs, but also textiles with an interesting hand, like a nubbly silk-viscose knit that looked like a sophisticated, not to mention easier to maintain, update on raw linen.
As always, the brand’s designs are underpinned by a desire to lessen the impact of their production. New this season were the tailored leather pieces — mostly on the menswear side — made from their in-house Okobor alt-leather and backed with “regenerated leather,” a material obtained by processing leather offcuts.
And congruent with this desire to be reasonable in all things, chief executive officer Peter Baldaszti said the brand had eschewed a more formal presentation to lighten their load as they strive to catch up to “terrible supply chain delays” owing to a combination of factors, including the pandemic and geopolitical instability.
He would continue to exercise caution, as concerns on rising energy prices in Europe mount, especially in Hungary, a country formerly “on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain” with an energy system built to plug into the former Soviet Bloc’s system and therefore highly dependent on Russian oil imports.
“I’m preparing the company and all of the Vanguard Group [brands] to be very careful. We’re not pessimistic but it’s still unproven how discretionary spending will change in upcoming months,” he explained, noting that the summer had been “unbelievably good and successful.”
That said, the brand has recently opened its first Chinese store in Shanghai, has an opening in Chengdu in the pipeline in the coming weeks and is eyeing locations in Paris.
Design duo Alex Po and Derek Cheng toy with the ideas around masculinity in a subtly confrontational collection this season. Classic collegiate codes and Y2K Americana are upended with the traditional football team mascot motif depicted as an intertwined merman and dolphin in place of the traditional aggressive warrior on cropped T-shirts. Denim is reworked with a unique ruching and braiding technique that adds volume and curve to the body, with tiny peeks of skin on jeans and dresses in the this gender-fluid collection.
The China-based brand has worked heavily on textile development and sources deadstock fabrics and offcuts from factories. They repurpose cotton scraps by reworking them into thin strips, which is then hand-crocheted into a dreamy knit on sweaters, dresses and skirts. Elsewhere there is a bit of offbeat construction in hoodies with denim strips, or slashes in lightweight skirts over trousers.
Cheng is transparent that the brand is not fully sustainable just yet but noted they continue to work on techniques to reuse waste fabrics. “We’re really trying to push forward this idea and will continue to push as well,” he said.
“There’s nothing new in the collection, never ever,” said codesigner Laura Beham before the start of their fashion week show. Proving that repurposing is not just for clothes, Beham and codesigner Callum Pidgeon turned an apartment stairway into a runway. Models paraded up and down the hall as guests sat on couches and Beham scribbled on jeans with a marker during the show.
“We like to take items and decode them where we can and turn them into other things,” Pidgeon said. Read: bedsheets. “My Little Pony” and Manchester United linens are given a second life as ruffled cocktail dresses and gowns, while denim, tracksuits and bike shorts are all reworked into unexpected shapes and combinations based on the fabrics, not on the pattern.
The two cut their teeth at Vetements, and their avant-garde aesthetic pokes fun at the pretensions of fashion. Colorful bodysuits with strategic cutouts and damaged doll looks make sense with “Barbie Girl” playing in the background, but camouflage coats and sporty coordinates will have a larger reach outside of a specific circle.
To that end the brand has also developed “Proto Packs,” a unique concept of manuals and sewing patterns so anyone can recreate a look without professional skill for the more applicable pieces.
For his third collection, the young Austrian designer looked to luxury travel and cozy comfort to create a collection of items that feel upscale and relaxed. He elevates these staples with his use of graphic prints that add an air of boldness to his ease.
Rumpf works with deadstock, repurposing offcuts and recycled materials, including mesh. Soft shirts flow from the idea of spending the day by a hotel pool, but tie at the waist for structure and adjustment.
It’s Rumpf’s use of prints that is most intriguing. This season he worked with an AI program to create patterns around what it interprets as specific feelings, which sounds futuristic but is very much of the now. Yet he combines these computer-coded sentiments with his vintage touch in mesh, creating rich layers of color that transcend eras. Body-hugging dresses take on new dimensions, while other prints are worked into loose silk suits or slinky dresses with draping.
Poolside glam is reimagined in velvet, while roomy cotton shirtdresses have become one of the young brand’s bestsellers.
Sonia Carrasco created her collection “with the woman at the center.” The concept was the foundation of her Paris Fashion Week event, which was part performance art and part presentation. The designer juxtaposed exposed thongs with floor-length dresses. Titled “Sex and Crafts,” she wanted to encapsulate the entire process of getting ready, show women at every stage and demonstrate that what is considered sexy is not a contradiction to more conservative looks.
Plaid trousers were crafted into codpieces topped with cropped jackets, denim was worn backward and blazers were cut to focus on the lapels, while dresses were demure in crisp white cotton. She also works with macrame, which is carefully placed throughout the collection as a bridge between the two extremes.
“There is not an option B,” said the designer, who formerly worked at Alexander McQueen and Celine, of using sustainable fabrics. She integrated that ethos into the brand from the beginning, which presented for the first time in Paris. “We have to work in another way, and I want to show that it is possible to do fashion in the most respectful, responsible way.” Fabrics are sourced from deadstock, organic cotton and denim, as well as recycled materials.
Anne Isabelle Rasmussen continues to explore the stripe as her creative territory. The Berlin-based designer and returned with new spins on her op-arty aesthetic for her second Paris iteration, taking cues from the works of art luminaries Julio Le Parc and Francisco Sobrino.
Once more going for a wardrobe that is “practical with a certain amount of quirkiness,” Rasmussen continued to apply warped motifs to denim and other woven textiles cut in modish shapes that hits today’s Space Age nostalgia.
But it’s her knitwear that really begs for a closer look. Not only is it sustainably produced, using deadstock and GOTS-certified materials, but Rasmussen has a knack for extrapolating the idea of a stripe into three-dimensional structures.
Case in point: a polo shirt where stripes seem start to ripple around a row of buttons, turning the whole piece into a wearable version of Park’s kinetic art, or a halterneck that turns into a Sobrino-esque maze of minute structures.