Authored by Spencer Fahlman
London Fashion Week is back again, bringing hundreds of the world’s brightest designers to showcase their new collections for the first time. Ranging from some of the most prominent names in the industry to the virtually undiscovered, making a collection that will stand out is on the top of every creative director’s list. Over the years, we’ve seen designers use gimmicks to accomplish this, like creating inutile accessories to become the next internet meme or designing ostentatious neon-bright pieces that are more on the ridiculous side of fashionable.
Every year comes a new trend, and this year’s trend was sustainability. We were delighted to see collections deriving from more sustainable materials or that fashion houses were investing in innovative eco-friendly manufacturing. There was no doubt that sustainability was at the tip of everyone’s tongue this season. One of the brands that stood out to us was the collaborative design team ToBeFrank x Molyneaux.
Having one of the more memorable runway shows of LFW, ToBeFrank X Molyneaux started the show off strong with a bold sound bite from Jo Wood, going into the impacts of fast fashion on the planet and touching on the idea that all parties should be more eco-conscious. Despite luxury brands producing limited quantities, it does not exempt them from contributing to the global problem. After that clip played, there was a roar of applause from around the room, and everyone was eager to see the new collection.
Once the show had commenced, we were delighted by their fantastically designed monochromatic jumpsuits, longnecks, and dresses. We were blown away by the use of their lace and organza, which had us curious about how a sustainable brand could pull off such incredible designs without using traditional materials. We were lucky enough to sit down with the co-founder and creative director, Frankie Phillips, to answer our questions and talk about the new collection and its efforts to be the world’s most sustainable luxury fashion brand.
What Does it Mean to be a Sustainable Fashion Brand Today?
One of the significant parts of being sustainable is accepting that it’s all of our responsibility to do something about it. Fast fashion is getting a lot of blame, and they do need to figure out a better way to impact the environment and people. Saying a t-shirt is recycled that’s enough to say it’s sustainable.
One of the big things about sustainability is for us; we’ve started as a sustainable brand. So everything we’ve sourced has been sustainable. All of our factories we’ve sourced them because of their beliefs.
We don’t compromise on any of that. If a factory doesn’t have a minimum wage, they won’t show us their payrolls to know they pay more than minimum wage, i.e., a living wage; we won’t work with them simply because that doesn’t fit our ethos.
What is the Significance of That Jo Wood Soundbite from the Beginning of Your Show?
Fashion Weeks, in general, even though they don’t make up the masses and don’t have the mass amount of waste, are seen as the benchmark and inspiration.
That was our opportunity to show that if luxury fashion does it the best it can, then everyone will follow. All of us in this industry who follow fashion have their impact; whether it’s a celebrity, whether it’s press, or buyers, they are the ones who can make a huge change.
Do You Find That Being a Sustainable Brand Hinders Your Creative Process?
No. I thought that at first, when I linked up with Amy to do this range, she said, oh, we can’t do that. But, when you get into it, it pushes you creatively much more because the normal things you can use as a safety net, fabric, can’t do that anymore. So you have to think so much differently and much more in-depth about what you’re going to design and what you’re going to use. It pushes you even more to be creative. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do the luxury range. I wanted to show that you can have a beautiful luxury range and nothing is being compromised.
What Are Some of the Challenges You Faced Creating a Luxury Collection This Season?
It was different doing a luxury range design-wise because, style-wise, I’m much more of a casual person. Linking up with Amy was incredible because we tried to mix our capacities, so we got more of a luxury/anarchy thing. So the challenge, I think, was trying to bring everything together at the supply chain base. We got great mills and factories. They were excited to do this project with us because you won’t believe how many mills and manufacturers push retailers to be sustainable, and the answer is always no. So when we told them we were doing this range, they all kind of got together and helped us.
A lot of the time, mills want to develop fabrics as well. Much of the material we have here is new development processes from mills that we’ve worked with that they wanted to try. We’ve got organza from wasted organza that we’ve remade into new organza.
Where Did You Find Your Inspiration for the Monochromatic Theme in Your Range?
Amy and I were working together on how we could combine our looks. She’s quite luxurious, and I am more on the unruly side of fashion. So we agreed that the ’60s would be great because that’s also a time that comes to freedom of speech; people were more creative in what they believed in, the images of protests, and people fighting for what they believed in. So when it came to having it black and white, that came quite naturally because of the fabrics we developed, like the chrome-free and vegetable-dyed leathers and some of the satins and seed fabric that we got came in this beautiful black and white. So it just made sense.
How do You Plan on Staying Sustainable Going Forward?
When it comes to our plans for 2020, we just linked up with Frank Water, a water charity that provides communities worldwide with tools to help clean their water. Every bit of water we don’t use during our washing process, we donate to them. A liter for a liter. That’s something that we started this year, and that will be with our ToBeFrank range and our Amy Molyneaux range.
One of the big things we want to implement this year is training for women’s empowerment projects. We have a charity called the ToBeFrank Foundation, and we want to implement training for women so that they will be on the same pay. It’s just closing that gap, we know it’s going to be a long process, but that’ll mean implementing training in the factories, which will be awesome.