Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Building a green style

Reuse of building materials inspire the fashion world.

by Ilaria Lonigro

Did you know that the building world is a treasure for trend setters? Cement sacks can be recycled and turned into sustainable and trendy shoppers, shopping trolleys and funky laptop cases. “Cement bags” are an invention by Turtle Bags and Fair Trade, an English society, but they're produced by the Women's Uplift Program in Bangladesh.

These recycled bags made their official debut in the fashion world at Milan Fashion Week 2012, in the eco-section called “The Green Closet”, which was promoted by the British Embassy and by UK Trade & Investment. There, next to Vivienne Westwood ethical bags, they grabbed the attention of Vogue Italy. But the brand new life of cement bags can even go further: they've been transformed into brightly coloured herb patio planters as well! In this incarnation they won the Product of the Year Award during the Chelsea Flower Show 2011.

Not only are Cement bags colourful and cheap products, but they also offer Bangladeshi women fair conditions of employment. Besides, Turtle Bags and Fair Trade give financial help to the British Zoological Society. It's not a coincidence that this idea was born in the UK. The UK was also first country ever to launch a Plan for sustainable clothing in 2009. More than 300 brands, retailers and NGOs took part in it. But it was earlier, in 2006, that Estethica, an eco-friendly fashion show, took place in London. This innovative impulse coming from colleges of fashion fosters studies in the green fashion field. The good practices and case studies shown in England are encouraging many other countries in Europe and abroad.

First of all Italy, which is a mecca for the fashion addicted. In March 2012 the British Embassy, together with the Camera della Moda Italiana, organised a meeting called “Sustainable fashion: an industry revolution” in Milan to analyse new ways of mixing business and respect for the environment. The short lifespan of products, the quickly changing consumer preferences and the high percentage (90%) of imported clothes aren't sustainable at all. The environmental and social footprint of such a supply chain is devastating. Just in the UK only 0.5 million tonnes of textiles is collected for reuse or recycling, while 2 million tonnes are consumed per year. But, thanks to the Action Plan, things are going to green up.

The British example is successfully inspiring fashion industry all over the world. Viewers of the 2012 Academy Awards could see the red carpet turning green when “The Artist” actress Missi Pyle walked in a beautiful eco-friendly dress designed by Valentina Delfino. She is just one of hundreds of designers who applied for the third annual global dress design contest with a “sustainable twist” known as Red Carpet Green Dress. This competition accepts only sketches of dresses made of entirely sustainable fabrics.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the world, the Australian Museum of Sidney launched a contest called Fashion Less Waste. There's time until 8 May to submit a couture sketch. The outfit materials must be originally bought and used for a non clothing purpose. The theme for 2012 is “Deep Ocean”. From cement bags to Hollywood stars... fashion is definitely greening up.


  1. http://www.ecorazzi.com/2012/03/20/hm-expands-eco-collection-for-spring-and-summer/
    Fashion is getting greener and greener... now there's also a collection by H&M!

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