It’s always exciting when celebrities champion sustainable fashion movements. Emma Watson, who has always been a strong advocate of socially conscious fashion, took up the Green Carpet challenge at the Met Gala and proved again that sustainable can be stylish. Watson collaborated with fashion giants Calvin Klein and Eco Age to come up with an astounding gown that is environmentally friendly. But she’s not the only one making waves with reclaimed plastic.
Emma & Calvin
Emma Watson hit the red carpet in an unusual piece by Calvin Klein. I was delighted to hear Calvin Klein had taken on the challenge, as they’ve always appeared to fly somewhat under the radar when it comes to sustainability and ethical production. In fact, back in 2011, they were found to be one of several big brands to be sourcing from Sri Lankan factories involved in workers rights abuses. Almost all the factories investigated did not pay the legal minimum living wage, enforced overtime (up to 40 hours a week in some cases), verbally and physically abused their workers, delayed wages and overtime pay – sometimes not paying at all, blackmailed trade unions (again, if any unions were allowed at all) and failed to provide maternity leave as required by law. So I was pleased to see Calvin Klein taking up the torch, to say the least.
Not one, but three of the fabrics used in the look were created from recycled plastic bottles. Recycled polyester is an incredible example of how a dangerous pollutant like plastic can be re-purposed into a fabric, and the outfit really does showcase (as we’ve seen a zillion times, but was somehow ‘big news’ on this occasion) that trash can be turned into something beautiful. If you’re not familiar with recycled polyester, you can read up about how it is made here. And the ethical fabrics didn’t stop there: the bustier was organic cotton, the lining of the gown was organic silk and the zippers were crafted from recycled materials. I love the ethical attention to even the small details… no mention of the thread, but hopefully it was organic.
Another massively important factor that makes the dress truly sustainable is that it is modular: the different parts can be taken apart and re-styled. The bustier and trousers (hiding under the train) can be worn on their own, while the stunning train can be taken off and worn with another dress. The actress believes that she can use the gown’s various pieces at least thirty times, making sure it gets maximum use for its worth. I’m certainly holding her to that.
While it was pretty big news for the fashion world, this wasn’t actually the first time that recycled polyester has been in the limelight at the Met Gala. Livia Firth (founder of the Green Carpet Challenge!) took to the Met Ball last year in this absolutely stunning red Antonio Berardi gown. Just like the Calvin Klein dress, the fabric was also ‘Newlife’, made from recycled plastic bottles (more on that below).
The fact that Emma’s dress hit the news big time this year is an amazing example of how a celebrity endorsement (not that Livia isn’t a big celeb – but next to Hermione Granger…) can do amazing things. Huge ‘Thank You!’ to Emma for advocating the cause and continuing her fight to make ethical fashion commonplace. And Bravo to Livia for continuing her brilliant ‘Green Carpet’ initiative and inviting all her celebrity friends to take part (since 2012 I think, but I can’t actually find a solid date).
The Thing About Recycled Polyester?
One of the great things about polyester is that it can be made in so many different forms. You can manufacture it to replicate smooth silk, or it can be woven to feel and look just like cotton. There’s a reason it’s one of the most popular fabrics on the planet (for better or worse); it’s just so versatile.
Recycled polyester is easy to work with and can be used in garments and soft furnishings. The recycled polyester satin I sell on Offset Warehouse has a beautiful creamy ecru colour and is Green Mark and Oeko Tex Standard 100 certified. You can also print on it, so the colour and print options are completely limitless. It’s a great choice for clothing and fashion accessories, and it also works well as bed linen, curtains and inner-wear. The fabric looks stunning and drapes beautifully. It has the characteristic sheen of satin on one side and matt and opaque on the other. Go on, have a go at making a Met Gala worthy frock. Look at what the designer, Irene D’Antonio, made with hers:
New Life Yarn
As Watson and Firth impressed upon us, fabrics made from recycled plastic are an innovative solution for many problems affecting the environment. The fabric in Watson’s gown is recycled polyester, made with New Life yarn. It is exclusively made from discarded plastic bottles that are processed and spun into polyester yarn in Italy. The product has many eco-credentials, including the Oekotex certification and Global Recycle standard.
Recycled polyester has a significantly lower environmental footprint than virgin polyester. Manufacturing involves fewer processing stages and causes lower carbon emissions. For a full exploration, read our article here on the benefits of recycled polyester. It neither uses harmful chemicals nor does it consume as much energy as virgin polyester. So, it is a product that is sustainable, while being functional.
Other Plastic Waste Innovations
As the popularity of recycled polyester indicates, global fashion is making remarkable strides in terms of sustainability. The successful launch of G-Star RAW collection by music mogul Pharrell Williams is one such example. RAW for the Oceans collection is an initiative that repurposes ocean plastic waste. Once collected from the sea, this plastic is broken down and blended with other fibres, like cotton, to create a yarn that is woven into a fabric and finally, made into fashion items. The collection includes denim jeans, T-shirts, jackets and sweatshirts. With the vast amount of plastic waste that ends up in oceans – more initiatives like this could mean huge changes in the world’s ocean pollution.
The Future of Recycled Plastic?
Emma Watson’s dress choice for the Met Gala and Pharrell Williams’ RAW for the Oceans collection are just the beginnings to a future for recycled plastic fabrics. PerPETual Global Technologies, parent company of polyester yarn supplier Polygenta, announced their recent developments in this area, with huge environmental impact. Their innovation focuses on improved operational efficiency in the conversion of plastic bottles into yarn. Chairman Vivek Tandon mentions that through their recent breakthrough, they can now produce higher quality yarns comparable in purity to virgin polyester. Not only is this conversion efficient, the new process also reduces resource consumption and pollution. Even as Polygenta are due to use this new technology to produce high quality yarn from PET bottles, the company further aims to partner with more companies and expand their business internationally.