Phoebe English: SS20Ethical Arts & Fashion News & Features
Last night (15 September), sustainable fashion designer Phoebe English held her SS20 menswear and womenswear presentation – her most sustainable collection to date – as part of London Fashion Week (13-17 September).
Main image: Julia Grassi
Weleda sponsored the makeup, skincare and hair, meaning the clean beauty pioneer’s products were integral to the look of the presentation.
The Phoebe English approach is to avoid trend-led design and opt for longevity when developing pieces, because good design should last forever. This is something shared with Weleda; Weleda Skin Food, introduced in 1926, is just one of the company’s natural cosmetics from the 1920s that’s still going strong today.
‘I have been a fan and customer of Weleda for years’, Phoebe said on the eve of her SS20 presentation. ‘I remember walking around shops as a child and lusting after those beautiful glass bottles with their tantalising description of heavenly scents. It felt the perfect time to partner with a company with such long-standing and admirable ecological bedrock as we launch this new collection alongside our statements of sustainability.’
Phoebe English is included within the British Fashion Council’s Positive Fashion collective. Since her debut graduate collection in 2011, Phoebe has consistently shown at London Fashion Week and has a dedicated, global following.
Founded in 2011, the women’s and menswear label is entirely made in England and pieces are created with close attention to detail and quality, in contrast to the more usual ‘fast’ fashion.
‘The UK sends mountains of barely worn fast fashion to landfill every day. Not to mention the on going practice of incinerating warehouse after warehouse of unsold ‘dead’ stock. Once you know these facts you cannot unknow them. If you are working in or buying fashion you are part of the problem, and if we are part of the problem we have a responsibility to be part of the solution. So that is the inspiration, to try and be part of the solution as much as we can.’
Sustainable fashion designer
The duel roots of sustainability and craftsmanship are crucial to each Phoebe English collection, and Phoebe has actively pursued change within the fashion world, such as working alongside the UK Environmental Audit Committee to help push through new legislation to improve sustainability within the UK fashion industry.
Fabric sourcing is done in the UK or EU using Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) organic cottons and Oeko-Tex certified materials that are free from harmful chemicals.
Waste offcuts are returned to the studio to be put back in to future collections, and surplus and deadstock fabrics are repurposed in a similar way.
To finish pieces, the team uses a variety of biodegradable natural finishings such as buttons made from palm nuts and milk protein to avoid unnecessary use of plastic.
‘We have seen a big revelation in the processes which go into the food we eat over the years, it’s now really time that fashion had that as it is exactly the same in terms of the links it has to farming. The clothes that we wear on our bodies have all come from the earth at some point, it has either been grown on the land, or drilled from underneath it. It all comes back to the planet. So our starting point as designers should be the planet when we are choosing and using those resources.’
Sustainable fashion designer
Packaging is recyclable, biodegradable or home compostable. Pieces are packed in entirely plastic-free paper and card packaging consisting of recycled tissue paper, protective glassine paper bags, recycled paper tape and cardboard boxes. Customers are encouraged to contact Phoebe English for any necessary repairs, to prolong the life of their purchase.
The idea behind the SS20 presentation was to showcase as many solutions as possible in terms of sustainability. ‘Fashion is a hugely damaging industry’, Phoebe said, ‘contributing a massive 10% to global heating, destroying vast areas of natural habitat – intensive cotton farming to feed our obsession with fast fashion has destroyed the Aral Sea for example, an inland sea the size of the whole of Ireland, which was entirely drained of water to grow huge cotton plantations. It is so large that this now dry desert can be seen from space.’
The LFW look
Weleda sponsored the hair and makeup team with a range of natural and organic cosmetics, principally the Skin Food collection which was used to create the fresh, dewy look for the presentation.
Earlier this year, Skin Food Light, Lip Balm and Body Butter joined the Skin Food menu alongside the original Weleda Skin Food, which already has a cult following. Victoria Beckham says she slathers it all over her body and the wonder balm is also stashed in the makeup bags of Adele, Julia Roberts and many other A-listers. A tube was even spotted backstage as Ed Sheeran jammed with Anne-Marie during the European leg of his ÷ Tour.
During the Phoebe English presentation, new and original Weleda Skin Food products stood up to the unforgiving glare of hot lights and flashing lenses.
Manicurist Ama Quashie replenished dry hands and feet with Skin Food, and nourished cuticles with a little Skin Food Lip Balm.
Hair stylist Cyndia Harvey tamed flyaway hair with a touch of Skin Food original. Makeup artist Jenny Coombs hydrated faces with Skin Food Light whilst limbs were given a lustrous sheen with Skin Food Body Butter.
Skin Food original was used as a natural highlighter to illuminate cheekbones and brow bones, and to add extra gloss to eyebrows. Finally Skin Food Lip Balm provided the perfect natural finish for lips.
Guests left the event with a Weleda gift bag to keep them glowing through fashion week, containing Weleda Skin Food and Skin Food Lip Balm.
‘Through the whole process of re-educating myself and my team, I have found endless importance in conversation. Every single conversation I have had about changing and developing my practice has lead to at least one solution-based idea. It has been absolutely fascinating and really very exciting and has spurred me on and on to try and push further and be better. That’s why it’s so important to partner with companies and brands who hold the same values, there is just so much we can learn from one another.
‘For example, hearing about how Weleda have been reducing their use of aluminium was so interesting and inspiring, I had no idea about the issues surrounding aluminium packaging and I’m sure I can share with you all piles of equally terrifying facts about the fashion industry in return.
‘The only way we can evolve as businesses, consumers and as individuals is by communication and learning from one another so that we can all try and do better. Disinheriting the practices we have inherited and urgently designing new ones with frameworks and standards that fit the new times that we live in and correspond to the planetary boundaries we must remain inside.’
Sustainable fashion designer