Sex appeal and sustainability are a pair that are rarely associated with each other. Sustainable clothing is usually seen negatively, assumed that it will be made out of rough materials in less-than-fashionable styles. However, Martine Jarlgaard is changing the scene with her structural cuts and elegant femininity.
“I’ve always been very interested in how to approach fashion in a different way, how to make it better, how to make it more sustainable – but really I would prefer a world where we didn’t even have this conversation,” Jarlgaard told What’s Your Legacy in her studio.
The way I see sustainability is as a naturally integrated but a more invisible part of my brand. I don’t want that to be the number one thing that you see as part of my brand, because to me the brand has to exist in its own right.
Her brand, which debuted at London Fashion Week in September 2016, encompasses her favoured aesthetic of luxurious, timeless pieces. Using the training she learnt at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, alongside her experience of working at Vivienne Westwood Red Label, All Saints and Diesel, Jarlgaard is not only fully adept in the art of clothes-making, but she knows what women want in their womenswear. “It was important for me to focus on the quality and the luxury of everything because I haven’t made my brand a luxury brand just for the sake of luxury. It is because the way we define luxury today is good quality, beautifully made and with some qualities that go beyond just the season,” she said.
Using materials such as organic cotton, that is incredibly soft to the touch, or recycled fabric from Italy that is comprised of cotton, linen and silk, Jarlgaard is ensures her clothes are luxurious through choosing good quality sustainable fabrics as the foundation for her collections. “I’m always looking for better fabrics and trying to use my network,” she showed us her collection of sustainable swatches, each material possesses a silky feel, which is something you don’t expect with sustainably-sourced clothes. “I also try and think out of the box, thinking is there any way I can partner with other companies and fabric suppliers and develop something together? In sourcing, I use my network but also constantly I am a curious person so that curiosity drives a lot of exploring new suppliers and asking a lot of questions.”
This curiosity is what led Jarlgaard to presenting her London Fashion Week collection last September with the Hololens. Instead of hosting a show in a more traditional way, with models walking down the catwalk or standing stationary throughout the day in a presentation, Jarlgaard gave attendees an opportunity to experience her work in a futuristic way, viewing it through the new technology of virtual reality and experiencing it three-dimensionally that way.
“It started because I was talking at a conference in Westminster and the Head of Fashion Innovation was there and I think after he heard me talk and I heard him talk, he said I think we have something that you would like.”
The Hololens was something Jarlgaard was drawn to in her desire to make fashion more accessible, believing that being able to take around a transportable device in which people can view her collection three-dimensionally it enables her to democratise fashion and create a conversation about new, more innovative ways to present at London Fashion Week. She has confirmed that she will continue to work with the Hololens in the future, holding faith that it is the technology of today: “A fetish I’ve developed is when people put it on for the first time. There is this sweet and childish sense of amazement that you don’t get very often.”
Where the designer is passionate about augmented reality, she is passionate about the state of the world and how being sustainable is a necessity for the earth to survive.
I find it so devastating, fashion has such a strong image but it’s not good because it’s so attractive and it’s all about what’s new. That mentality and that drive for the new, the linear way of thinking. The problem with fashion is it’s disguising so many bad things and once we start talking about what’s going on in India, people black out and don’t deal with it. They choose to ignore it because they are just seeing the pretty product in the nice light in Oxford Street and that’s all they see and this is where we really need to think about where we add those layers to the product.
However, she believes that it is entirely possible for the industry to change. Explaining that once all the smaller companies do it, the bigger companies will follow as it will be seen as something consumers demand.
Jarlgaard is, however, one of the trailblazers for sustainability and her collection is changing the face of it item by item, collection by collection. Many things are on the cards for the future, she tells us, but can’t be disclosed. We are particularly excited for her new knitwear line. All the alpaca wool spun for the knitwear is sourced and spun at a farm in England, using a traditional Japanese method and all the alpacas are well-looked after. “One of the things that I want to push even further is the raw material,” she explained at the end of the interview “I really like the idea that I know the whole path and that’s something really interesting to work with, not just being global but there’s more potential for doing things locally.”
MARTINE JARLGAARD | womenswear
ETHICS | ethically made in Europe
SUSTAINABILITY | uses organic and recycled fabrics