Today the carousels at Charles de Gaulle airport filled with designer suitcases as the world´s fashion press descend for Paris Fashion Week – but this weekend a very different showcase opened in the French capital.
The Ethical Fashion Show, the world´s largest event devoted solely to sustainable fashion, is now in its seventh year and becoming increasingly mainstream: there are over a hundred brands represented, and the show has outgrown its humble origins in disused warehouses to occupy the new Docks en Seine building, home of the French Fashion Institute.
The clothes on display range from the impressive but quirky – a jaw-dropping couture dress made from recycled film stock – to the more wearable and commercial, like 50s-style skirts in organic cotton and silk from French/Vietnamese brand All, and British company Terra Plana´s recycled leather shoes.
This year the show has been taken over by Messe Frankfurt, the world´s largest trade show organiser – a sign that despite the recession, ethical fashion is still a growth market. “It´s become more professional, it looks a lot more like a trade show now,” said Gilles Richard of childrenswear brand La Queue du Chat, who have been exhibiting here for four years.
Several brands from Britain have also made the trip. Sarah Ratty of Ciel, who was showcasing a stunning new digital print, colour-fixed with algae, said she had been lured here for the first time by the involvement of Messe Frankfurt. “It´s really nice to be able to have a platform abroad to showcase great British design with a green twist,” she said.
Other highlights included an ingenious dress by Danish company Diffus, embedded with tiny lights that visibly react to the CO2 levels in the environment around it. Celebrating the UN´s Year of Biodiversity, there is also a particular focus on sustainable fabrics, including loose-knit scarfs and jumpers made from nettle, pineapple and super-soft banana fibres.
Ethical fashion is increasingly moving into the limelight – Mintel estimates that despite the recession the market has more than quadrupled in the last five years, to around £175 million in the UK alone. Last week saw the first sustainable fashion show at London fashion week, as well as a vibrant and busy Estethica showcase. But the organisers of this show are determined to make Paris the capital of ethical fashion – as well as couture and pret-a-porter.