Alice Lambert-Gorwyn is a 4th Year Fashion Design student from Somerset, studying at The University of Leeds. She is passionate about the welfare of animals and ethical rights. This passion lead her to winning a PETA competition to design a vegan shoe for Beyond Skin. I caught up with her to gain insight into why cruelty free and eco fashion are so important.
What does eco fashion mean to you and why do you feel it’s important?
A couple of years ago the term eco fashion had me immediately picturing green felt shoes and hemp sack dresses, and I think to some people, the term still resonates these ideas. However, I believe so many more consumers are now much more aware of issues from the production, right through to the afterlife of our garments, that eco fashion is now something we aspire to. Brands such as Stella McCartney and People Tree have proven there is a place in the industry for consumers who want to look great, but who also have an ethical conscience.
I believe eco fashion to be important because, it is so easy to buy cheap items that you only wear once (I myself have been guilty of this), but the pace of fast fashion cannot last forever – Children working in collapsing factories and animals being tortured is simply not ok.
With the possible exception of fur, it’s probably fair to say that the average consumer doesn’t pay much mind to animals in the garments they wear. What more do you think can be done to raise the profile of cruelty free fashion?
I think people just need to become more aware about what their buying, however it’s not always easy to know how something is made or where it is from; therefore, I think stores themselves have a huge responsibility.
Social networking is an enormous platform to share causes and petitions, meaning fashion brands today can so easily be publicly shamed; recently it was revealed about the cruel treatment of angora rabbits, and it didn’t take long for the majority of high-street stores to suspend their production of angora garments. Stores will only sell what consumers want – if we speak up for what’s not right, they simply won’t sell it.
What are your favourite eco friendly and cruelty free materials and why do you think needs to be done for more designers to encompass them in their clothing?
I love hemp jersey, it’s so soft and feels amazing. It’s really tough though for any material to be 100% ethical; Cotton for example, is often thought to be the better choice, when actually it takes 20,000 litres of water to produce a single t-shirt and a pair of jeans.
If a designer isn’t using leathers, they’ll most likely be using synthetics, both of which aren’t the most eco-friendly materials, therefore I believe that it is more important designers focus on their mass-consumption of materials – everybody needs to be producing less and buying less. Lab-grown and biodegradable materials I believe will be the future.
How did your ideas on eco fashion and animal welfare influence your award winning vegan shoe design?
I wanted to create a design that was simply stylish and elegant; something that would appeal to various women, whether they were vegan or not.
The shoe uses imitation exotic skin, fake leather and mock suede. There is an opinion that using replica and fake materials drives the trend for the real thing, which I don’t deny, however I believe that it is better there is an alternative, than nothing at all; Majority consumer opinion isn’t going to change overnight. I also believe that fashion is art, therefore there is nothing wrong with materials being inspired by nature and its creatures – for example, the skin of a snake is beautiful, but the real thing should only ever belong on a snake.
How do you see Eco Fashion and animal welfare impacting the fashion industry as a whole over the coming years?
The trouble is, high-street stores now sell so many luxury fabrics and offer such immaculate tailoring that fur seems to be the only exclusive thing left for high-end designers. The use of fur appears to be increasing and I worry about this. I hope that students and future designers will path the way for ethical fashion, and we leave the use of animal pelts in the past where they belong.
I think in the end it probably won’t be the pelt trade, designer, or us the consumer who decide what we wear, or where it is made. Maybe the way we’ve already exhausted the world’s resources and abused its creatures has made that decision for us, as we move into a non-optional future of synthetics and lab grown materials.