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future dust sustainable fashion sustainability alec leach

The IG account curating sustainable fashion you actually want to wear

Spotlighting brands from Eckhaus Latta to Marine Serre, @future__dust is the platform for environmentally conscious high fashion fans

“I just don’t think it’s realistic for us to expect that the world is going to transition to wearing plain white t-shirts just because of the looming environmental crisis,” says Alec Leach, former fashion editor and founder of sustainability-focused Instagram account @future__dust.

Sustainable fashion may have been propelled from the fringes of the industry to the forefront in recent years, but a preconceived idea of what its aesthetic actually comprises still pervades. Thanks in part to the fashion media’s conflation of ‘sustainable’ and ‘staple’ (plus a homogenised cohort of sustainable fashion influencers) white tees, straight leg jeans, and boxy linen have become the bland visual markers for a design shift that is actually rooted in innovation.

“I think what’s being promoted in the mainstream right now isn’t really fashion,” Leach explains. “A lot of the so-called sustainability stuff out there is just product design. It’s environmentally-friendly solutions to what people already know.”

Spotting a void where genuinely interesting, sustainably made clothes should be, Leach started @future__dust – named as a nod to circular design – at the end of last year as a platform to showcase his best sustainable finds. “I figured it would be really useful for the industry for there to be some kind of place where innovation could be put into one place without a corporate interest and without any preaching either,” he says. Sticking to his promise not to preach, the posts’ accompanying captions are strictly factual, referring only to manufacturing methods and fabric content. “I wanted to show how things can be exciting and responsible at the same time.”

Coming from a “very socially and politically aware background”, Leach says he’s always had the kind of principles that underpin sustainable fashion, and of the “privileges that come with growing up in an affluent, Western democracy that has historically exploited everywhere else”. But it was a trip to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2017 that made him realise he could reconcile his “love of cool stuff with (his) love of social justice.”

The account is in its early days, but since going freelance, former editor Leach has been investing more time in the platform and a definitive direction is emerging, with independent designers taking focus. “When you get to the corporate level it becomes difficult to see through the smoke and mirrors, so I basically just want to talk about small designers doing their thing,” he says.

“I wanted to show how things can be exciting and responsible at the same time” – Alec Leach 

How does he decide who makes the cut? “Ultimately it’s just about products that have been made using recycled or very environmentally-friendly materials,” he explains. “I wouldn’t feature anything that was owned by a fast fashion company. If there’s a really clear corporate interest, then I’m not so interested.”

“A lot of it is actually my own aesthetic preference as well,” he continues, referring to the products he features, from Marine Serre’s cut-and-splice dresses to Noah’s low-key separates and GmbH’s club-inspired pieces. It’s not about categorising sustainability as a singular look, rather collating great clothes that just happen to be sustainably made. “What binds them together is ultimately invisible, which is the way it should be in my opinion.”

While it is product-focused, the aim of @future__dust isn’t to fuel yet more consumption. “I’m not encouraging people to buy the stuff that’s on there,” he stresses. “I’m not saying, ‘Now reduced! 50 per cent off!’ or whatever – I don’t want to encourage people to buy new things. It’s an inherently difficult subject, because we all know that nobody actually needs any more stuff, but I don’t think we can expect people who are into fashion to suddenly stop looking for newness. So if you absolutely must buy something new, then here are some things that are gonna do a little less damage to the planet.”