When Style Becomes Sustainable
WORDS BY NICOLE BAXTER
Attending the Mercedes Benz Sydney Fashion Week was a blur of loud prints, camera clicks and exposed ankles, but amongst all the noise, Blair Archibald presented a collection that was minimalist yet intricate – modern yet classic. No, this isn’t Gossip Girl, but it’s well worth gossiping about.
Archibald’s show began with a video playing on several screens around the gallery. It explained the background of both Archibald and his new line, a product of the International Woolmark Prize he won late last year for Menswear, for his outstanding talent in showcasing ‘the beauty and versatility of Merino wool’. The competition’s theme was ‘sustainability and recycling’, and Archibald expressed his continued desire to keep wool production sustainable, as ‘it is such a renewable texture’. Viewers of this year’s show got to see behind-the-scenes, as the video took us to New Zealand, where Archibald sources the wool he uses for his clothing.
Archibald’s commitment to sustainable textiles set a tone for the remainder of the show that added a sort of gloss, in my mind, to the clothes. It was easier to enjoy what was put in front of me when I knew that they were ethically sourced and would eventually be recycled. What was ticking through my mind throughout the show, however, was the focus of the second half of Archibald’s video.
It addressed the issue of job outsourcing in the fashion industry, which, if I’m honest, isn’t something I’ve ever considered in much depth before.
The video took a stance of keeping clothing manufacturing jobs close to home, with the benefits of Australian jobs and, Archibald’s primary objective, seeing the creation process through from start to finish. The video didn’t present any stance on the overseas labour force, but implied a condemnation of abusive and exploitative manufacturing industries in developing countries. As open as Archibald had been about his brand, I couldn’t help feeling like greater transparency was needed in the fashion industry overall to find a fair and economically sound balance between the outsourcing of labour to developing nations and the maintenance of a strong employment base in Australia. The benefits of outsourcing manufacturing, such as a low production cost resulting in a higher profit margin, need to be balanced with accountability for the safety and prosperity of workers from all regions. I know I’d personally like to see some of the profits earnt by brands by outsourcing labour put back into sustainability initiatives and worker safety improvements.
Now, about the ACTUAL clothes. I loved this show. The entire collection (with some rare exceptions) appeared wearable in a day-to-day situation, which is few and far between for any Fashion Week. I also loved the use of some female models, despite the entire line being menswear; androgyny is making a comeback, and Archibald nailed it. Each model was perfectly matched with the clothes they wore, and there was a wide variety of races represented, although I would have loved to see more body types used – this is 2018, not everyone disappears when viewed from the side.
My favourite look from the show (pictured below) is, I think, the perfect representation of Archibald’s body of work in this collection. Pinstripes have been done a million different ways, but somehow, this design feels fresh. The styling is impeccable – I particularly like the untucked pocket (or is that a cuff? I guess we’ll never know) and stark white sandals.
My final thoughts about this show mainly revolve around the makeup. Most of the models looked exhausted, with shadows around their eyes and carved cheekbones. One model even had teardrop-shaped prosthetics on her cheeks, in a constant state of ‘crying’. With final exams approaching, all I can say is: same, girl, same.