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Alexander Fury: Keeping the style in sustainable

Wear, What, Why, When?

I'm always uneasy when people bandy about the phrase sustainable fashion. It sounds like a paradox. Or at least a misnomer.

Isn't fashion inherently about artificial acceleration, about supply surpassing demand, or at least creating a new type of demand? “Worn out” is an interesting phrase when it comes to fashion. It rarely means threadbare, more aesthetically exhausted.

It's not just the catwalks: the weekly drops of product on the high street tap into the same urges as high fashion's obsession with pre-collections and collaborative ranges. Really, all those labels mean is yet more clothes.

Diatribe over. The idea of challenging that system is surrendering interesting results. And also fashionable ones. Young London designer Claire Barrow started her career decorating vintage biker jackets with her signature roughshod graphics. It cut her manufacturing costs, and focussed your attention on her labour. It also gave a fresh life to garments that were far from dead.

Even the grandest of maisons are getting in on the action. Last week, none less than Hermès – purveyor of hyper-exclusive luxury leather products – unveiled its latest line in London. Titled Petit h, it's a recherché recycling project, the brainchild of Hermès scion Pascale Mussard, with garments and objects created from discarded Hermès materials or items. Scraps of leather become key fobs, old scarves are pieced into handbags or joined to a discarded shirt collar to create a bolero, like a chic Stig of the Dump.

Of course, even reworked, this stuff is riotously expensive, as only a handmade crocodile cup-holder can be. But that's the idea of the movement horribly tagged “upcycling” by some witless fashion commentator: imbuing an item with monetary and fashionable value. That's vital. If you want sustainable fashion that will stick around, fashion appeal should never be subjugated.