Seven Designers Repurpose Luxury Hotel Bed Linens for Eco Fashion Week (with Video)

Eco Fashion Week

April 19-24,

When it comes Eco Fashion Week 2015, it's really about making the thread count.

Swooping up bundles of pre-loved bed linen from the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel for a new feature in 2015, seven local designers have cut, stitched and dyed a flurry of stylish kimonos for the Waterfront Kimono Contest.

Myriam Laroche, EFW's founder and president, admits she is still surprised by the sheen produced by the discarded fabric's 250-thread-count (over a square inch, that's the number of threads woven together), 70 per cent cotton and 30 per cent polyester blend.

"It's not silk, but they (the kimonos) look so shiny and chic," she says. "I had no expectations, but it's remarkable to think they were made out of sheets and are so much softer, and drape so much better than I thought possible. Each one looks completely unique."

In shades of coral, green and lilac (thanks to Tintex dyeing company), designers Anna Talbot, Bianca Barr, Sharon Zhang, Lexi Soukoreff (dying) with Glencora Twigg (construction), My-Linh Tran, Jasmin Dhillon and Jules Francisco whipped up the creative designs using two flat sheets and two pillowcases, with some also working in leather and gold foil accents.

The kimonos are on show at the Pacific Centre until April 24, and winners of three cash prizes will be selected by public vote.

Riffing on a strong Japanese influence in the fashion world (and citing Angelina Jolie's movie, Unbroken, as influential), Laroche feels the parade of kimonos is de rigueur.

It is also a far more fashionable end for some of the 1,500 sheets that are usually either repurposed as rags and furniture covers or donated to local shelters every year, says Kristyna Vogel, marketing and public relations manager of the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel.

Bed linens are retired after a life of around two years.

"The majority of our discards no longer meet our luxury expectation but are still very usable," says Vogel, adding that the hotel hopes to make the competition an annual event.

It's just the kind of innovative approach to reusing material that EFW hopes to drum up in the province.

Now in its fifth year, EFW is continuing to build on the success of past collaborations with Holt Renfrew, bringing major companies like the Fairmont into the eco-fashion debate.

The 2015 event will also see a return of H & M, with the B.C. launch of its Spring Summer 2015 Conscious Exclusive Collection, which will highlight the seven eco commitments made by the Swedish fashion behemoth, explains Laroche.

"We're all about making people aware of the waste and inspiring them to do something about it," says the Quebec-born Vancouver resident.

"We've all been stuck in our ways of doing things for years so it's time to think about changing. We want to make it easy for the industry to be more responsible."

Along with local (Jason Matlo and Couture Therapy among others) and international creators (Croatia's Murva and Tuschimo from Germany), California's urban-chic passport2freedom will be one of the designers to hit the runway during the event.

Hanne Fellers, who founded the line in 2011, is bringing the Long Beach collection to Vancouver for a "fun, lighthearted and energetic" showcase.

The non-profit, which spreads awareness about human trafficking and runs educational and recycling programs for children and families living in the favela slums of Rio de Janeiro, designs apparel as a reaction to the standard tees with a graphic or message that most organizations produced to represent their causes.

"I was like, 'oh man, I like the logos and what they are doing, but I would never wear that shirt unless I'm just jogging'," Fellers says.

"So the idea was ... why don't we create something that I would want to wear and I can dress up or down in it just hanging with friends or going to a nice event? I wanted to rock the pieces."

In the complex world of garment materials, Fellers explains they use modal (a "soft" sustainable cellulose fibre made from high-yielding beech trees) for their manufacturing in Indonesia and the U.S.

Beyond it being "a cool opportunity to show our urban clothes" including a new line of T shirts and pants, she explains heading up here is the perfect way to link in with like-minded folk.

"If you're part of the eco movement, you're conscious and (have a) far from the normal 'I have a passion for fashion,' type of approach," says Fellers.

"For us, it's all about being inspired - that's the fuel to keep going with our work, whereby we can focus on the good, and that there's hope."

Alongside EFW's long-running campaign to have designers upcycle from 68 pounds of material (the amount thrown away by a single North American every year) as well as eco-fashion films at Vancity, it seems like awareness about the textile industry is catching on.

As the Fairmont's Vogel says: "I'm unable to look at clothing the same way - I just don't want to see any fabric going into the garbage."

Featuring the seven eco commitments made by the Swedish fashion behemoth

Sunday From 7 p.m., | The Fairmont Waterfront

Sixty-eight pounds is the amount of clothing thrown away by each North American every year, presented by Value Village

Monday, from 5:30 p.m. | The Fairmont Waterfront

Designed by Vancouver architect Michael Green, the runway will showcase designers from B.C. including Jason Matlo, Born Again Vintage, and Couture Therapy as well as California (passport2freedom), Croatia (Murva) and Germany (Tuschimo).

Tuesday, from 4:30 p.m. | The Fairmont Waterfront

Co-hosted by Metro Vancouver

Wednesday, from 8:30 a.m. | The Fairmont Waterfront

Co-presented with Vancouver International Film Festival, screenings of films Traceable and Hand Made with Love in France. 6 p.m. Traceable screening; 7:10 p.m. panel discussion on fair labour; 8 p.m. reception; 9 p.m. Hand Made with Love in France screening.

April 24, from 5 p.m. | VIFF Vancity Theatre

Seven Designers Repurpose Luxury Hotel Bed Linens for Eco Fashion Week (with Video) 1

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