Fashion, Sustainability, and Giving the Earth Some Time To Breathe: A Conversation With Designer Peggy Sue

In a world where fashion has become so costly and wasteful, it’s reassuring to see that there are designers out there who love our big blue planet just as much as they love fashion and design. One of the designers who’s focused her career on creating sustainably beautiful and elegant clothing is Peggy Sue. Made with carefully selected materials, threads, and fabrics, Peggy Sue’s designs are made to meet the standards of today’s eco-conscious consumer. Recently, Sue was named one of 3 finalists in the Design Forward competition, which called for designers who focus on sustainability to show three looks to a jury. Recently, Novella Magazine was lucky enough to sit down with the designer, who took home the prize, and talk sustainability within the fashion industry, eco-friendly supplies and sourcing, and how everyone can play their part in creating a better world for the future.

Christopher Zaghi: Sustainability is very important to you, do you think the fashion world will catch onto the idea of sustainable fashion?

Peggy Sue: It’s been extremely exciting to see that the fashion industry is starting to become interested. We’re part of Fashion Takes Action’s Design Forward show competition. We’re one of the 3 finalists and we’ll be showing October 3rd. And the panel of judges there are 10 Toronto industry and New York industry professionals, half of them are from the more traditional sustainable sector and the other half is the more big business, bug fashion sector. So that’s been pretty neat to see those people themselves come together. You know, honestly, I do think fashion is trying to have that conversation about sustainable sourcing and designing. When you see it in so many of these larger companies and supply chains in the way that they are starting to produce most of their textiles, recapturing most of their waste. Which is all very commendable. But it’s harder for existing fashion companies to make these giant swath changes because, you know, they’re set up, their machines are going, we have our seasons and if you miss a season at this point in the fashion industry, it’s akin to closing up shop. So it is hard to make changes in that kind of a model. So slow changes are actually big. So that’s where we come in. I started the company with sustainability at the forefront because I knew that we were starting from scratch so now would be the time to do it. But even in our product delivery timelines, we do sort of take on that slow fashion sustainable concept of fibre to finish and zero waste and consideration of end of life cycle. But I do think the fashion industry is interested. I think there are a lot of initiatives that are coming out in support of it and whats more exciting is that the younger customers that are coming up don’t necessarily want “things,” they want to experience things, they want to be more mobile, they want to travel. So the things they want, they want to take with them on their travels. They want them to count, they want them to last a lifetime. So that itself is very exciting. Because it means, you know, behavioural changes could actually happen and at the end of the day, you bet companies are going to have to listen if they want to stay in business. So, yeah, I think it’ll get there. I don’t think it will ever be like, forefront, I think it’ll be a systems progression in the background.

CZ: I was lucky enough to sit front row at your last collection. I noticed that the natural texture and colour of the cotton came through as a very big design feature. Are unprocessed and organic fibres a go-to for your work?

PS: Great question. So what I like to tell people about the work is that it’s a live pulse of where the North American fibre industry is. As in, when you look at our fabrics and our fibres, this is basically what North America can do at this point. The fabrics that are running through the mills that are supper mechanized, lightweight and perfect, those are cotton-poly blends and we’re never gonna run fresh poly. So we’ve had to start from scratch, so our colour grown cotton, which is all grown in various colours, are still seen as a colour pollutants. When you go to a mill that is processing white fibre all day long. They will either not process colour grown cotton because it may contaminate their machines and they’ll have to shut down their machinery and clean it all out. Which comes at a huge cost and they run the risk of contaminating the next batch that goes through. And having all those chargebacks coming from their larger customers, so there aren’t many places that will process colour grown fibre. So it’s exciting that we’ve been able to find some and they’ve been able to work with our colour grown cotton farmer Sally Fox in California. So yeah, we’re always going to be the niche fibre go-to. You’re never going to find Merino here because as far as I’m concerned Merino is like the white bread of wool. Like, most wool is Merino they just decided that maybe if they throw the breed name on here it’ll be really special. So we worked with heritage Canadian sheep’s wool brands. It’s just so much more exciting that way. I mean, you can go to the market and find so many different kinds of tomatoes and so many different kinds of apples, so why the hell can’t you do the same with fibres? So I guess it really is a go-to.

CZ: What do you feel is your biggest inspiration when it comes to design?

PS: It’s definitely a combination of what the textiles are doing because I don’t get the luxury of going and buying textiles, we make it all. So some years we get felts, some years we get fine wovens or chunky wovens. SO we have to take these textiles and do the best we possibly can with them. When you look at that 13-ounce raw denim laying there in a pile, what does it speak to you? What does it crave, so we definitely get inspired by that. It’s also very exciting to see how people wear their clothes. Do they cuff their pants? Do they cuff their sleeves because they’re always too long? Or do they cuff them cause they like it like that? Do they button their shirt all the way up? Do they use their pockets? What do they put in their pockets? Where are they wearing it to? I love actually seeing people interact with their spaces and seeing the demands they place on their apparel. I think that’s beautiful, I mean, who the hell wants to be constrained by their apparel? Unless you’re in a really exciting sexual position, but that’s a completely different thing! I just think there’s such freedom in personal expression and if we just left behind the ideas of gender biases, body type, and race. And if we just focus on who we are as humans and be comfortable with who we are and my God there isn’t anything sexier than someone who’s comfortable with themselves. So that’s the dream. If I can make someone feel comfortable with themselves through natural local fibres, I’m a happy woman.

Milan & Paris Spring 2018 Trends

As good as New York and London are, nothing compares to the powerhouse duo that is Milan and Paris during fashion month. For decades now, the final stops during the whirlwind that is fashion month seemed to have always been the cherry on top. The trends came through at an astounding rate this season, with countless brands taking a stab at the contemporary trend game. There were sequins galore, pops of colour, tones of duality, and a hint of modern cool that rarely falls within the walls of the European cities. The 4 trends picked for this article are sure to hit mainstream stores immediately for the holiday season and next year’s warm weather, so watch out for them and start planning your dream wardrobe right away!

Glitter In The Air

Sequins seem to have made a comeback during Paris and Milan fashion weeks in a very big way this season! The shiny little buggers were everywhere on the runway in the last two weeks, ranging from demure to daring in a slew of different colours. Most prominent of all were silver and soft champagne sequins. However, colourful jewel tone sequins seemed to pop up in a few shows as well, breaking the sea of singular shine here and there. Yet sequins weren’t the only eye-catching sparklers seen in Paris and Milan. Chainmail and high-shine beading also took the runway by storm, giving fashionistas a different take on glitz and glamour.

Two Tone/enoT owT

Duality seemed to be a big trend in Paris and Milan this season. Designers sent multiple looks that played with stark contrasts in colours down the runway. Sometimes black was offset with florals or jewel tones, while other times a simple pairing of black and white did just the trick to create a visual contrast on the models’ bodies. This may have very well been an evolution of the colour-blocking trend that swept the fashion industry a few years back. However, this time around, it seemed as if designers really wanted to showcase a harsh vertical split with their designs, leaving one half of the body plain and the other lively and colourful.

Icing Pastels

What’s a spring collection without pastels right? The runway of Paris and Milan seemed to be caked in ice cream coloured hues this season. But these weren’t your aunt’s pastels from the ’80s. No, this time around the pastels took on a far more mature and refined look, leaving behind the traditional notion that pastels are juvenile or overly frilly. Sharply tailored suits and streamlined silhouettes complemented this season’s more grown-up aesthetics by pairing powdery pinks and yellows with modern office daywear and adult eveningwear.

Plastique Fantastique

Very rarely does such a kitschy material take hold of the big European fashion capitals the way PVC did this season. For two cities extremely concerned with tradition and glamour, it was a surprise to see so much plastic on the runway. Countless designers seemed to have evolved the sheer trend of summer into outright translucency. Gone are the days of soft laces and meshes creating alluring see-through silhouettes and here are the days of complete and honest transparency! The trend was seen in every way conceivable: Dresses, trench coats, boots, stiletto pumps, and hats all had their shining moment of PVC wrapped goodness in Europe. This is a trend you’ll be sure to see on the global catwalk in the months to come.

*All photos courtesy of Vogue Paris Runway*

Paris Fashion Week Spring 2018: The Highlights

 Moncler Gamme Rouge

Giambattista Valli is a powerhouse when it comes to design. His year consists of designing 4 ready to wear collections both of his ready to wear labels, 2 couture collections for his couture house, and 2 collections for Moncler’s couture house. Altogether, that comes out to 8 collections per year. Without counting accessory design and any other creative venture each brand partakes in. It comes without a doubt that the man is astoundingly busy. However, this constant whirlwind of creative design can sometimes lead designers into the realm of reproduction, where minor labels take on the mirror image of their parent brands. But luckily for Valli, his creative spark and talent persevere in even the toughest of situations, creating stunningly unique that differ from one another wildly. This season, his always vibrant and whimsical collection for Moncler (which is always themed after some sort of outdoor sport) took an interesting turn. Rather than continue on the well established outdoorsy path that Moncler Gamme Rouge is known for, Valli decided to base the collection on the rehearsal uniforms of ballet dancers. Kitschy leg warmers and ballet flats stormed the runway whilst simple t-shirts and leotards were accented with tulle skirts (the famed tutu if you will) which created an elegant yet wonderfully young and playful take on on modern luxury athleisure apparel. What definitely stood out from the pack the most had to be the array of down filled jackets and outerwear. Some coming in the form of marshmallow life down puffer coats, while others came in the form of translucent windbreakers and belted coat dresses.

Dries Van Notten

What can you say? The man knows his way around a piece of fabric. Fashion legend Dries Van Notten returns again this season with a stunning collection filled with his signature knack for patterns and stunning silhouette. If there were certain colours destined to be the colours of the season, this collection didn’t focus on just that. It was more concerned with the playfulness of bringing together bright and hardy jewel tones and mixing them in with neutrals and earth tones. Creating a pleasantly warm (but never doughty) collection fit for the modern fashion-forward mogul. The collection, though very rooted in Van Notten’s signature silhouettes, seemed to have a hint of softer feminity to it. The usual suspects were all there. Van Notten’s suits in strong wool plaids and his elegant slips. However, this season Van Notten added the simple yet extremely effective addition of almost-invisible embroidered sheer tunics to cover some of the stronger looks. Giving the collection a soft and ethereal vibe that the designer doesn’t often turn to. Another great aspect of the collection has to be the pieces which featured handkerchief draped scarves adoring various sides of the ensembles. This simple addition the designer not only softens the looks but adds a sense of romance to the designs. Something that has seemed to be really lacking in the fashion industry outside of a few designers still willing to commit to old school romance in favour of harsh contemporary design.

Jacquemus

After flexing his design muscles season after season, what’s a more appropriate term to describe Simon Porte Jacquemus of Jacquemus than fashion wunderkind? His unique ability to fuse haute Parisien design with modern sensuality is something very little designers, French or otherwise, can manage to do within the realm of good taste. However, Monsieur Jacquemus masters the art of balance with a such a keen precision and lust for life that not many designers in today’s industry could touch when it comes to creating a stunning collection. This season, his inspirations were clear. The beauty of south of France, with all of its sunshine, yachts, and toned bodies is paired beautifully with the Spanish flare and Jacquemus always apparent love for Picasso. As per usual, Jacquemus injects his raw feminine sensuality into the collection with the ultra-short hems of his dresses and beautifully body-hugging fabrics that always look as if they’ve sprung to life and wrapped themselves around model’s bodies. Yet for all the Jacquemus go-to’s within the collection, this collection seemed to be a step in a different direction for the designer. Whilst his usual designs often tend to lean towards the more avant-garde and out-of-the-box realm of design. This collection seemed to be a step towards the world of everyday wearability. Which is in no way meant as a negative. Often times designers have to explore the more abstract realm of fashion to create interest in the brand before releasing a tamer and far more commercial collection once the designer has solidified their position in the industry. However, this is where Jacquemus plays his cards differently. Since the humble beginnings of his label. All of his collections have been commercially successful yet wonderfully abstract and unique. Which is wonderful to see in an industry that’s hell-bent on either pumping out trends or creating collections with the sole purpose of selling clothes. Not art. This is clearly not Jacquemus’ view of his brand and it becomes extremely evident when his array of beautiful black models come waltzing down the runway in draped mustard yellow skirts, dresses that resemble tied travellers scarves, his iconic circle and block-heeled sandals and his wonderfully abstract and oversized sunhats. A clear evolution of his previous season’s Provencal farmer hats, which could be spotted at many runway shows around the globe these past few weeks.

Undercover

Undercover‘s Jun Takahashi has solidified himself as one of Paris’ major players when it comes to fashion. After his glorious collection which explored a queen and her court last season. Jun comes back once again with a collection deeply rooted in a larger than life narrative. Dealing with the duality in human nature. Takahashi shows his audience and clientele the light and dark of human nature, the good and bad, the ugly and the beautiful. Which often doesn’t present itself in the world of fashion very often as a comparative. For Takahashi, the vision was clear. Rather than have a linear show that showcased the transition from one point of human nature to the other, the designer opted for a runway show which showcased models in pairs (some of them twins) walking hand in hand on the runway. Each representing the two extremes within a singular person. To put the concept more simply, one model walked onto the runway with a dress that had the nighttime sky printed on it, while the other dress showcased a bright daytime sky on it. the concept was far more visible with the pairs that exhibited extreme differences within their paired looks. The most striking of these was a pair of twins who eerily resembled the two little girls from the Shinning. On one twin, the innocent looking baby blue dress seems familiar and innocent, while on the other, the same dress is strewn in red fringe that resembles blood. Reminding the audience of the poor girls’ fate. The duality may seem a little overdrawn and exaggerated for some, maybe even verging on costume rather than fashion. But what truly makes this collection on the best of the season is Takahashi’s fearlessness when it comes to design and telling a story. There are far too many designers these days that could use a lesson in creating memorable and unique moments from Mr. Takahashi.

Dear… (A Comprehensive Look At The Most Questionable Moments in Fashion)

As a lover of fashion, I’m well aware the often times, many designers veer into the cringe-worthy territory of problematic life choices. Recently, the Novella team sat down for a brainstorming session on some new weekly pieces we could all bring to the boardroom table. Among the friendly banter and ideas being thrown around, we came up with an interesting concept. Why not call out those within the fashion industry that need a little slap on the wrist. In the end, we came up with the concept of Dear… Where I have the wonderful privilege of being able to discuss (and tear apart) some of fashion’s most epic nose dives for all of our reader’s gossip needs. So without further adieu, here’s fashion’s Hot Goss.

Dear Marc Jacobs…

The question we’re all asking after New York fashion week isn’t whether or not you’re one of the most talented and influential designers in the world, instead, we’re all asking why you seem to focus all of your design talents on making collections that are essentially culturally appropriative marching parades. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve made some jaw-dropping collections in the past. Louis Vuitton Spring 2012, Spring 2003, and Louis Vuitton fall 2011 all come to mind. So I know he has the potential of creating collections that are beyond beautiful, so why is that Mr Jacobs has been insistent on creating collections that take vital aspects of minorities cultures, specifically black traditions and culture. There really is something inappropriate about placing women who aren’t women of colour in dreadlock wigs or 70’s and 80’s Harlem inspired clothing. This subtle borrowing of black cultural without having black designers assist in the design process is just careless in the fact that a designer, no matter how experienced the designer may be, will never know the personal experience of the culture they’re borrowing from unless they were born into that culture or grew up in that culture.

However, Mr Jacobs seems to look past the complaints of those around him and continues to push the boundary on what is acceptable as inspiration and what is full blown appropriation. Recently, for his last show in New York, Jacobs focused all of his design talents on creating a collection fit an elegant woman of colour. Sadly, the collection had only a handful of black women walk the show. Which wouldn’t seem out of the norm in the fashion industry, but it’s extremely unsettling to see so little black women walk a show where the models are dressed in African inspired prints and head wraps that resemble those worn by African and African-American women. Now to some, it may not seem like such a big deal, however, when a show includes models like Kendal Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and Taylor Hill wearing traditionally styled Gele and Ankara headdresses worn by women from countries like Ghana and Nigeria, it becomes extremely problematic because those specific headdresses are seen as foreign and are often gawked at by westerners. But when white models sport them it then becomes fashionable and trendy. The same can be said for his collections that featured heavy hip-hop inspirations and dreadlocks. On one hand, “urban” clothing and dreadlocks are worn by black men and women every day and it’s seen as ghetto and lower class, but when people outside of a traditional black environment decide to grow their hair into dreadlocks or wear clothing heavily inspired by black culture. It then becomes extremely forward thinking and ambitious.

What the moral of this entire gong show is, is that Marc Jacobs should look into the social consequences caused by the appropriation of culture, especially that of black culture in the United States. And then look into the global repercussions of appropriating the cultures of minorities around the world are before creating collections that are culturally and socially insensitive.Remember Mr Jacobs,

Remember Mr Jacobs, black women were laughed at and made the butt of the joke for taking pride and wearing their Gele’s and headwraps in public for decades now. Making them feel as if they shouldn’t be wearing their traditional cultural dress outside of their own country and making them feel shame and embarrassment for doing so. So why make it harder for black women (and all POC who takes pride in dressing in their homeland’s traditional garb) by making them feel as if the one thing they have to take pride on, isn’t even their own anymore. Because someone else can buy and be praised for it, while they get shunned and mocked for it.

Sincerely,

Chris Zaghi

 

The Best of Milan Fashion Week Spring 2018

Milan seemed up in its spirits this season. Of all the major fashion cities around the world, Milan has has a harder time with reinventing itself and finding its signature aesthetics. While the city’s designers are still looking for their voices, it seems that the soul-searching has led to a signature Milan-look. The Spring collections were filled with pretty things. Frilly white frocks were cut and sewn into delicate silhouettes, while pops of color and pattern introduced a light dusting of excitement throughout the week. In the end, it’s good to see that Milan is moving in this direction. Here’s hoping Milano sticks to the pristine angelic ensembles that graced the runway this season. Pretty suits the city.

Versace

Versace is an Italian powerhouse and has been for more than two decades. Celebrities and the elite have tripped over their own two feet to wear the iconic Medusa head on their bodies. But it seems that the world craves Versace now more than ever. Which seems like the perfect timing since this year commemorates Gianni Versace, who died in 1997. Donatella created a collection that took the spotlight away from the horrific murder and once again focused on her brother’s designs. The collection celebrated Gianni’s affinity for sexy mini dresses, cropped bolero jackets, gold chains, and seashell motifs. Versace’s designs were never intended to feel serious and uptight; they always felt fun and celebratory, like joy in printed fabric form, which is exactly the kind of carefree joy the world needs right now.

Missoni

Missoni is one of those brands that have become synonymous with Italian fashion. Since its humble beginnings back in 1953, brand has never ceased to surprise with its signature zigzag knits. Now some may think that keeping alive house codes created back in the ’50s is a recipe for disaster, but that isn’t always the case. With so many designers abandoning the things that made their brand famous back in the day, it’s refreshing to see brands like Missoni reinvent itself without throwing away its foundations. This season, Angela Missoni presented a collection with a bohemian flare. But the collection didn’t rely soley on boho-chic to get by — many contemporary trends came into play. Sheer gowns and oversized cardigans looked right at home beside completely on-trend oversized sunhats, giving the collection a vintage yet contemporary feeling.

Elisabetta Franchi

Kudos to Maria Grazia for attempting to pull off a modern western vibe at Dior a few months ago (better luck next time!), but it looks like Elisabetta Franchi has the entire look covered. Franchi, who’s mostly known for dressing Italy’s well-to-do in elegant and refined clothing, often opted for traditional glamour than take the route of over the top fashion designer or high fashion extremes. However, this collection marks a very interesting moment for the designer. Diverging from her usuals, Franchi chose to create a whimsical and very mature take on vintage western clothing. Large black straw hats were paired alongside flirty rompers and micro mini dresses. Long billowing gowns had pretty historic touches sewn throughout — they’re versatile and can be worn as they were seen on the runway or on their own. The accessories used throughout the show also emphasized the old world decorative dressing. The belts had a particular beauty about them, with their strung pearls and gold dangling delicately at the waist.

Prada

Arguably the most important designer in Italy (maybe even the world) Miuccia Prada lives and breathes fashion. Look at the last decade and try to find a collection that wasn’t in one way or another infleuntial, artistic, innovative, and beautiful. It’s likely that you won’t. And that’s what sets Miuccia and Prada apart from the pack. Prada has always been known as the brand that’s years ahead of its time. Elements from collections that Miuccia created years ago continue to pop up in other designers’ collections season after season. Luckily, Madame Prada commands enough respect to never have her designs completely ‘borrowed’. This season’s collection follows suit. Classic, the Prada-ism that put the brand at the top of the fashion game, with touches of forward-thinking design makes for a modern collection fit for fashion’s most progressive dressers. The collection itself was a crossroads of interesting designs, mixing beatnik vests and shirting with flirty in-your-face Prada patterns that the brand is known for. The bright pops of tomato red fit in perfectly with the season’s biggest color trend. And the accessories, as per usual, are simply to die for, with the brand’s signature graphic handbags once again on center stage.

Luisa Beccaria

Ethereal beauty reigned supreme at Luisa Beccaria this season. Everything seemed to be touched by a fairy godmother’s wand. Sheer gowns were strewn in embroidered flowers, eyelet lace, pastels, and fancy little polka dots. The show felt very surreal with models walking through a courtyard dotted with petals to the sound of classical music. The color scheme was very soft and delicate, mirroring the overall feeling of the show. Yet the delicate colors didn’t feel fragile but inviting and warm. Even the cool baby blues somehow managed to come across far more sumptuous and warm than cold and icy. Another major factor that made this collection stand out from the crowd of soft and pretty runway shows was its effortless sexiness. Many of the collection’s looks featured barely-there shorts and almost all of the gowns and dresses that walked the runway displayed various levels of transparency. But the collection never felt like it was trying to look sexy — Beccaria managed to infuse grown-up sexiness into the collection by manipulating the levels of sheerness throughout. It wasn’t about provoking by exposing the models’ breasts through gauzy fabric or by revealing a panty underneath a long gown. It was about dressing a woman in a natural, carefree, and self-loving way.

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