With the likes of such industry key players and brands as Stella McCartney, Bono’s Edun, Livia Firth’s Eco Age advocating sustainable, cruelty-free fashion, it is not surprising that the so-called eco-movement is going through its revival. Once an expensive, but frequently scorned “homely” option, eco-fashion is now rapidly gaining its momentum, expanding into production, sourcing of materials and business ethics of a number of brands. With the whole Western world gradually turning towards more conscious ways of fashion production, the attention is now drawn to the Russian market which is traditionally known for its extensive use of animal furs, synthetic materials and slower adoption of innovative techniques.
The concept of eco-fashion, in fact, is not a new development in the country whose designers are yet to receive global recognition worthy of the aforementioned Stella McCartney. The names of Vika Gazinskaya, Liudmila Norsoyan and Oleg Biryukov might not be familiar to everyone, but they are the ones on the forefront of sustainable fashion production in Russia. Both Biryukov and Gazinskaya promote cruelty-free faux-fur designs as a lifestyle choice, emphasising the importance of natural, organic materials, while biochemist Liudmila Norsoyan offers a first of its kind nano-production using the materials based on steel, copper and coal – all obtained from the country’s vast natural resources.
This approach is further supported by lesser known brands like Tri’Co Cashmere, Lowfat and a number of other emerging designers whose work has been exhibited recently at the very first Russian Eco Fashion Week in July. Organised as a part of RUSECOMODA project, the event is set to become an annual opportunity to promote and support the creative eco-developments in the Russian fashion industry. The said industry also sees an increasing influence of a number of brands (Alexander Terekhov Atelier Moscow, Ulyana Sergeenko) which, while not being direct proponents of eco-fashion, promote the in-house fair production and conscious sourcing of high-quality materials.
1 – Vika Gazinskaya, 2 – Biryukov, 3 – Liudmila Norsoyan
Despite these positive developments, it is impossible to overlook the obstacles that any eco-orientated designer has to face in the course of production, marketing and sales. A rather negative and undeserved reputation of eco-fashion aside, the market evidently suffers from a lack of awareness among the general population, thus creating low to virtually non-existent demand for sustainable products. Given the somewhat higher production costs, sustainable fashion often remains financially inefficient, pushing the brand back to the course where “eco” direction is compromised in favour of marketing success.
Vika Gazinskaya argues that the full implementation of eco principles is impossible in the current conditions as the need for financial vitality is far more important for emerging Russian brands which receive little to no support in the initial stages of production. This inability to find a compromise between business and eco-ethics, difficulties in sourcing natural materials and the lack of understanding among the general public remain to date the main obstacles for a young eco-movement on the Russian fashion market. However, in face of those obstacles there is always room for improvement and innovation, and that is something we should look forward to seeing in the next few years.
Biryukov FW 2012-13
Liudmila Norsoyan F/W 2012-13