Looks from the Sustainable Surf collection by Vionnet x Marc Quinn

LONDON — Vionnet is veering in a more environmentally sound direction with a sustainable collaboration with the artist Marc Quinn that launches May 7 at Selfridges, WWD has learned.

“The fashion industry is the second biggest pollutant in the world,” said Goga Ashkenazi, Vionnet’s creative director, in an interview. She described the project as “a true coming together of minds” to raise awareness, and also to take steps toward sustainability.

Ashkenazi looked to Quinn’s “Raft Paintings” series, which features rafts made from colorful plastic bags, and created a 340-piece Sustainable Surf lineup that includes coats, dresses, blouses, trousers, cardigans, sweaters, hoodies, jumpsuits and T-shirts. There are also bags and belts.

The range, which takes its inspiration from surfing culture, uses materials such as cotton poplin, eco-leather, recycled plastics and terrycloth in hues of black, blue, yellow, pink, orange and white.

Prices range from 50 pounds for a belt to 1,842 pounds for a long gown. Fifty percent of sales will benefit Parley for the Oceans, an organization that helps to fight pollution and tackle the threat to oceans.

Eyewear has been made from recycled plastic in collaboration with Sea2See and will aid Ambiente Europeo, a European association that promotes awareness around waste-free seas in the Mediterranean area. The range will be sold through a shop-in-shop at Selfridges and on the retailer’s web site.

Located on the store’s second floor, the 1,076-square-foot shop-in-shop was designed with recycled materials including aluminum, bamboo, and wood — as well as surfboards. The “Raft Paintings” will also be on show via 3-D monitors.

The Vionnet shop-in-shop at Selfridges

The Vionnet shop-in-shop at Selfridges.  Courtesy Photo

“It’s more of a playful, day-to-day wear, that reminds you of the surf,” said Ashkenazi of the collection. “A lot of the materials that we have used are made from the plastic found in the ocean. Hence, every time you buy a piece, you will be doing your part in cleaning the ocean.”

Ashkenazi has worked with eco-friendly fabrics in the past.

Her fall ready-to-wear collection took place at the Milan Aquarium and was all about the metamorphosis of the mermaid. It was filled with gossamer fabrics, fluid shapes and lightweight ballgowns crafted from recycled plastic.

She also showed her pre-fall range, which took its inspiration from Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” For that collection, the designer worked eco-friendly silks into tea dresses and pajama sets.

She said there are endless challenges in creating a sustainable range, and added that consumers tend to favor cheaper, less sustainable options.

“That is the biggest challenge,” said Ashkenazi, adding that luxury brands are responsible for leading the way with regard to sustainable fashion. “We ultimately have to make a choice here, which is of course the biggest challenge.”

She said in terms of sourcing textiles, she was surprised by the amount of materials available and said that, at times, sustainable textiles take longer to create — and are more expensive.

“We are at a very long road,” said Ashkenazi. “I cannot do it alone, nobody can, it’s something that we have to do together. Today, there is a large race for profit, and fast fashion that unfortunately overlooks some of the concerns, and I’m not just talking about the environment. I’m also talking about social sustainability, which is equally important for me. Obviously, we all want to build rival businesses, but I think there are ways to build viable businesses without hurting the environment.”

Separately, the designer said she is working with a host of artists on a conceptual range.

“Vionnet has got a very big name and a very big dream,” said Ashkenazi. “However, it’s a mad kind of race with so many different collections coming up, and it’s really difficult for us to compete with huge conglomerates. We want to remain true to ourselves, and it’s very difficult. So, I envisioned that while we would still do the shows, in between we would do capsule collections. And almost every time working with a collaborator has been exciting and obviously, it’s all going to be related to making the company fully sustainable.”

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