In a progressive move, the 2019 Helsinki Fashion Week introduced a ban on animal leather, which took place in the Finnish capital from 19 to 22 July, with designers instead encouraged to work with plant-based leathers and other sustainable textiles and eco-friendly supply chains.
Fashion “needs to rapidly develop” beyond animal leather says Helsinki Fashion Week founder Evelyn Mora. Believing that the fashion industry should expect a major upheaval, as customers start to demand more eco-friendly products, fashion designers and brands need to start swapping animal leather for sustainable alternatives, or risk alienating themselves from consumers, she explained.
Image courtesy: New York-based brand Ultrafabrics, which manufactures a range of innovative leather-like materials.
“I think that in the near future there’s going to be a big shift,” she told Dezeen. “Everybody is going to take a big leap towards sustainable fashion.”
“Right now we are all talk, everybody is talking about how important sustainability is, but we need to see results.”
“The companies have to go where the money is, and that’s where the consumers are – they are changing their minds and they’re starting to be more conscious,” said Mora.
Image courtesy: Evelyn Mora, 27, founder of Helsinki Fashion Week
The aim of this year’s event, according to Mora, was to send a message to the industry that it can no longer ignore the impact that leather farming has on the environment, particularly its contribution to climate change. She wants Helsinki Design Week to go beyond the traditional role of a fashion event and become a platform that facilitates change through innovation.
To celebrate the creativity on display, Mora named the five designers that made the biggest impression, presenting designs that brought together innovative new textiles, recycled materials and ethical manufacturing practices:
Image courtesy: Shohei | Wongwannawat
Austrian fashion house Shohei was among those that took notice. Its show featured textiles from New York-based brand Ultrafabrics, which manufactures a range of innovative leather-like materials.
Image courtesy: ABCH
Led by designer Courtney Holm, ABCH promotes the circular economy in every collection. The Melbourne-based label only uses raw materials that naturally biodegrade or can be reused, and operates a recycling programme that helps to prevent old garments going into landfill.
Belgian designer Mandali Mendrilla is trying to encourage a sustainable mindset in her collections by only using vegetarian-friendly materials and combining these with a process she calls Yantra Couture, which involves creating custom patterns based on natural vibrations. At Helsinki Fashion Week, the designer presented brightly coloured garments made using both recycled silk and peace silk, along with natural dyes and the dust of 16 crystals.
Image courtesy: Kata Szegedi | Wongwannawat
Often using custom-made and recycled vintage fabrics in her designs, Hungarian designer Kata Szegedi brings greater transparency to the manufacturing process. Her latest collection sees her textiles transformed into immaculately tailored suits, dresses and playsuits.
The event also featured an exhibition from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, which is developing a leather substitute made from mushroom mycelium, and a space called the Bio Playground, where brands showcased pioneering materials and responsible supply chains.
Mora launched Helsinki Fashion Week in 2012, aged just 22. Featuring both Nordic and international designers, the event had a focus on sustainable fashion from the start, although this year’s was the first to introduce a leather ban.