Some people design and produce a fashion line and afterwards start asking themselves – ‘How can I produce all this beautiful, edgy stuff in an eco and ethical way?’. Others start a clothing company purely with the aim to produce clothing in a sustainable and ethical way … and further down the line get around to thinking about fitting in with fashion trends.
The German company hessnatur has been selling ambitious, high quality eco-certified basics since 1976 – made solely from natural fibres such as cotton, linen, silk and wool. hessnatur told us that they have considered using natural dyes, but due to the type of salts needed to fix the colour, high quality synthetic dyes are used instead.
The company’s founder and Eco Pioneer, Heinz Hess, was, at own financial risk no less, the first to try out producing organic cotton in Egypt in the 70’s. Today, hessnatur uses 600 tons of organic cotton annually, 80 tons of which is grown in Burkina Faso, West Africa, in cooperation with Helvetas. The spinning and knitting of this organic cotton is done in Germany and further manufacturing in other parts of Europe.
Over the last few years hessnatur has been working more on the aesthetic quality of their designs and becoming a little more fashion conscious, all the while staying true to their beginnings; producing simple, functional garments. To make the change, they engaged Miguel Adrover as Head of Design along with other young, fresh spirits. Miguel Adrover previously worked with Alexander McQueen, was internationally recognized and for a good number of years, was a staple of the New York fashion scene. All thanks to his creative and provoking but delicate, ethnic inspired designs; turning Burberry coats inside out or recycling Louis Vuitton bags without the designers’ consent. His downfall came with his collection ‘Utopia’ – for which he took inspiration from the simplicity of men’s dress in Egypt, where he lived for while. The collected debuted on the day before 9/11 it was unfortunately documented by the media as romantic take on Taliban culture.
The fashion world’s love affair with Miguel Adrover ended abruptly and he returned to his Majorcan homeland, to his horses, to his fishing and set up a café business. It was from there that hessnatur headhunted him, for a new chapter in both his design career and the company’s development. By looking into his story a little bit, this collaboration between Adrover and hessnatur seems to be a good match. He is a rebellious free thinker with a love for nature, underprivileged cultures and a deep understanding of the trials and tribulations of life and the fashion system. He seems to try to get to the bottom of things. Adrovers vision for hessnatur is that it will grow to become one of H&M’s biggest competitors. Sounds like a plan.
In 2010, as their next step into the public consciousness and towards fashion forward innovation, hessnatur established the international HUMANITY IN FASHION AWARD (previously written about on Africa Fashion Guide see link here) with a prize money of 25,000 Euro and a reputable jury. Three designers are selected to present their sustainable collections in January at Berlin Fashion Week 2012: Agnes Biskyte, Sandra Goldmann and Willem Gremliza. Just one of them will be announced as the winner and will be designing a capsule collection for hessnatur, as last years winner Janosch Mallwitz did with a clean and modern sporty menswear collection made out of organic cotton for hessnatur spring/summer 2012.
hessnatur has been a role model in real sustainability, quality and ethical behavior for decades, and in terms of the clothes’ fashion appeal – they are getting better from season to season.
Watch out for the new documentary film about Miguel Adrover, named “Call it a Balance in the Unbalance”. The pictured spring/summer 2012 collection of Miguel Adrover, Evijana Hartmann and Janosch Mallwitz for hessnatur will be available online in January 2012.
Author Sarah Moa Gilbert with guest contributor Helen Gimber