NETTLED: “You can screw each other but stop f–king the planet; Screw yourselves but stop f–king the planet,” so said the voice of Debbie Harry in the darkness before the spring 2020 runway show for concept label Vin + Omi, which featured textiles made from nettles harvested from Prince Charles’ garden.
The conceptual duo, Vin and Omi, who are known only by those names, first met His Royal Highness in May last year at a tea for the Positive Fashion initiative, which promotes sustainability, equality and local production, and best social and environmental practices. It was there that they discussed their experiments with using British plants like nettles, cow parsley, chestnut and mushroom to make fabrics that Prince Charles invited them to his Gloucestershire royal estate to make use of his excess nettles.
“We went to Highgrove [House] with students from Oxford Brookes University to harvest the nettles that he would usually have strimmed and thrown away,” said British-born Vin, who said that his team worked under the guidance of the estate’s head gardener, Debs Goodenough. “We took away about 10 semi-trailers full of nettles.”
Vin + Omi used a traditional technique whereby the nettles are stripped of the leaves and then retted (allowing them to rot) on grass.
The short cream fibers were then used in a variety of ways, from woven to part-felted in a variety of effects and occasionally dyed with natural blue woad or red madder.
As in previous seasons, the designers used an array of symbols throughout the collection in an homage to the growing “tribe” of people that they see as heroes who are working to make changes for the good of us all.
Their ongoing work with outdoor advertising agency Ocean Outdoor’s sustainability program yielded vinyl posters which were put to use in the season’s bag offering.
Make no mistake, Vin + Omi is not a fashion brand, although it has dressed the likes of Michelle Obama and Kate Moss. Neither is it a research and development company. What they are, says Vin, is an ideology, funded by collaborations with brands looking to become more sustainable, evidenced by the show’s satin pieces — some printed with bees — which were a reincarnation of Daler Rowney plastic paint tubes.
This show’s sophisticated location, the Savoy, was a result of their partnership with the hotel as advisers on sustainability. From next spring, the hotel’s doormen will wear Vin + Omi uniforms made from fabric created out of the hotel’s own plastic refuse. An exclusive scarf is in production and will be sold in the gift shop.
The brand’s innovative and unwavering commitment to a waste-free fashion industry has garnered it immense support, evidenced by the goody bags on every seat and containing products from an array of sustainable brands including the Patch, which makes biodegradable bandages from organic bamboo; to Floral Street, the fragrance brand launched by former Estée Lauder executive Michelle Feeney.
Also testament to the brand’s popularity were the many VIP guest models on the runway, from Blondie’s Debbie Harry, who wore looks by Vin + Omi on tour in 2017, to Leah and Jo Wood, who appeared on the catwalk, alongside José Teunissen, dean of the London College of Fashion, and British Olympic athletes, including bobsledder Lamin Deen, pentathlete Samantha Murray and fencing champion James Honeybone.
And boxer Richard Riakporhe, WBA Intercontinental champion, is possibly the only man on the planet who can pull off a powerlift suit made from a latex that was sourced from rubber harvested from a sustainable plantation in Malaysia.
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