At last count I had 50 eco canvas bags and I seem to acquire several more each season whether I need them or not. In the grand eco-aware scheme of things, that can’t be right, can it?
Helen Storey thinks not. The former, award-winning, London Fashion Week veteran now turned Professor of Fashion and Science at the University of the Arts (just one of five professorships she has acquired since stepping away from the catwalk along with an MBE) has been diligently exploring a way to rebrand the disgraced plastic carrier and with it a new way of looking at the future of Luggage Lite.
“An eco canvas bag needs to be re-used 171 times to offset the higher energy and resources it takes to produce,” say’s Storey. “A plastic bag takes 99% less energy and many are now designed to degrade by exposure to UV light over the course of a few months. It’s not the plastic bags that are environmentally unsound, it is the current attitude of using each one just once.”
Maybe it was a precocious start at Valentino, in the early eighties where, shocked by the masochistic narcissism of those she dressed, Storey began an altogether more noble questioning of what fashion can do when it puts its mind to it.
Or perhaps it was experiencing the abrupt and brutal demise of her own very successful business in the mid nineties that saw Storey envisioning her design intelligence and love of creating beautiful things through a more experimental portal. Eight acclaimed International exhibitions later using fashion as a language to explain science, she was ready for a working relationship with Scientist and Professor Tony Ryan from Sheffield University. Together they created Catalytic Clothing a project to explore a garment’s ability to purify air, using nanotechnology applied through the laundry process to anyone’s existing wardrobe of clothes.
Looking at fashion through a different lens, Storey’s dissolvable dresses created from the polymer used to make washing powder sachets, highlighted a conceptual solution to fashion’s prolific landfill cramming.
And let’s not forget the degradable plastic bottle, born out of the above project that would have an intelligent relationship with its contents, disappearing once the liquid was gone only to re form as a fertile material to grow plant life. Storey names it a “drink me shrink me conversation
Pollution and waste is a big theme for this fashion visionary. Her catwalk collections in the 90’s, a commentary around over-consumption baffled many who had not yet got wind of up-cycling. More than a decade before Estethica, being further ahead of the curve than most, is clearly a signature style .
And so we have ‘Objects of Truth’ – Storey’s latest collaborative project between the University of Sheffield, the London College of Fashion and the world-renowned Bill Amberg Design Studio, which alerts shoppers to ‘re-think’ and ‘re-use’ the humble utility carrier. “There are no easy answers to living green, she say’s, but by changing our behaviours in small ways we can make a big difference to our environment.”
Bill Amberg’ limited edition bags will be displayed for the first time as part of the ‘Plastic is Precious’ exhibition between 13th October and 4th November at Meadowhall Shopping Centre.
The exhibition will also host a plastic bag amnesty, managed by students from the University of Sheffield encouraging shoppers to exchange their current plastic bags for one similar to the carrier bags exhibited as part of Bill Amberg’ design. Printed with slogans to re introduce the preciousness of contemporary plastic eliminates issues and concerns around waste, we may see a new trend for vintage and heritage numbers (where is that old Macfisheries bag of my teens?) as well as a whole new take on print graphics for the modern day carrier.
Translated into fashion speak…. The new must-have bag has landed.
For more information visit Centre of Sustainable Fashion
Follow Prof Helen Storey on Twitter @ProfHelenStorey
Follow Prof Tony Ryan on Twitter @pvcryan
Former fashion editor and co-editor of i-D Magazine for 6 years in the early eighties, Caryn Franklin has been a fashion commentator for 31 years. She presented the BBC’s Clothes Show for 12 years and BBC’s Style Challenge for 3 years as well as producing and presenting numerous documentaries for ITV on designers including Vivienne Westwood, Philip Treacy and Matthew Williamson.
Working in education throughout her career as external assessor and lecturer in colleges like Central St Martins, London College of fashion and Royal College of Art, she is also an ardent fashion activist and has co-chaired the award winning Fashion Targets Breast Cancer for 17 years and proposed the London College of Fashion Centre of Sustainability and is its ambassador.
Follow Caryn on Twitter: @Caryn_franklin