“We are a shop selling ‘stuff’, so let’s take a closer look at the very materiality that makes it.” These are the words of Selfridges’ creative director Linda Hewson, just one of many influential figures within the fashion industry questioning the origins and ethics of the clothing we consume. Last year the retailer’s ‘Bright New Things’ initiative spotlighted innovative designers creating aesthetic brilliance through sustainable working processes; this year Selfridges is going further still with its ‘Material World’ project, which launches on Monday.
Conceived as an in-depth examination of sustainable textile development and the various obstacles halting its progress, the project will hone in on eight specific fabrics including leather, denim, plastic and linen. Each material will be represented by a designer or label renowned for their visionary work with that fabric in particular; the idea is to create an immersive ‘Material World’ showcasing an array of forward-thinking creatives committed to the cause of a sustainable fashion future.
Not only will this world become a physical reality in the windows of Selfridges’ Oxford Street flagship, it will develop online throughout a series of personal product stories. “We want to invite customers and the industry to re-fashion the way we think about our clothes, and how we talk about sustainability”, explains Hewson.
Unfortunately, these campaigns are still as necessary as ever – despite ongoing progress, the lives of garment workers continue to be claimed by factory fires, whereas the issue of environmental protection is still crucial yet frequently ignored. This project looks not only to raise awareness and understanding of these issues by questioning the fashion industry’s supply chain, but also to actively nurture the careers of brands committed to working sustainably. There’s still work to be done, but Selfridges’ ‘Material World’ is once again cementing the company’s reputation as a luxury retailer willing to lead by example.