Fashion Month: meet sustainability pioneer Bethany Williams

February 19, 2019

While Milan Fashion Week is about to kick off, today will see a royal finale in London, where the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design will be presented to the emerging designer Bethany Williams, by the Duchess of Cornwall. Now in its second year, the Award recognises those showing creativity in design, while embedding sustainability and community practices within the business. 

Considered a pioneer in sustainable menswear, for her ethical commitment, Bethany Williams is also one of the young designers awarded a place in The Next Green Talents 2019 talent showcase, run by YOOX and VOGUE Italy. Bethany and the six other talents of this year’s edition will present their collections during an exhibition and event hosted in Palazzo Morando in Milan from 20 February.

Ahead of her whirlwind week, we sat down with Bethany to discuss her sustainability journey to date.

You have been awarded a place in YOOX’s Next Green Talents programme, and your collections will be available in over 100 countries. What are you most looking forward to?

I am so excited to be included in this programme, and am looking forward to meeting the other designers and seeing their amazing practices from around the world.

Tell us a little bit about how you got into creating a Sustainable fashion brand and why this aspect was so important for you?

I strongly believe that social and environmental issues go hand in hand, and through exploring the connection between these matters we may find innovative design solutions to address the topic of sustainability.

Fashion touches all areas of our world, from agriculture to communication, with one in six people being employed in the industry. However, it is no secret that our endless consumption is having a monstrous impact on our planet every day, as 80 billion new garments are produced each year.

It is time to change, and by providing an alternative system to today’s social structures and services, the vast fashion industry could be used as a force for good and create social change as oppose to exploitation.

What is the inspiration behind your collection and the exclusive item you designed for YOOX?

For the collection I worked in collaboration with Adelaide House, a women’s shelter based in Liverpool. This is one in only six such facilities in the country. Adelaide House provides a safe place for women leaving prison with various needs including domestic violence and homelessness.

It was here I met and worked alongside illustrator Giorgia Chiarion, who has illustrated the women at Adelaide House and created abstract paintings inspired by Liverpool’s landscape.

Liverpool was the first city in the UK to have social housing. The city forms inspiration for the collection, as well as the number of female, socially engaged politicians that have helped support their community. In an interesting twist on the ongoing discourse around gender, when a man buys a piece from this collection, the proceeds go to supporting some of society’s most vulnerable women.

When the collection goes on sale, 20% of all profits will be donated to Adelaide House.

As with every season the collection will be sustainable, and is produced from recycled and organic materials. I have worked alongside Liverpool’s, The Echo Newspaper, utilizing their waste products and supporting the local business.

What advice would you give to brands looking to become more sustainable?

Collaboration is key and when working together anything is possible! Fashion is a global force with incredible influence – if we each use this influence for the greater good we have a huge capacity for growth and change.  We also have to safeguard our industry for the future – through my lecturing I’m able to work with first year students at London College of Fashion and help open their eyes to an alternative future – one where fashion doesn’t have to follow the rules. 

About Bethany 

Bethany Williams is a pioneering British menswear designer committed to exploring social and environmental change within her work and working with marginalised parts of society to bring about positive change and social enterprise. At a time in which socio-politics are at the forefront of many designer’s minds, this pioneering designer isn’t just protesting bur rather offering solutions and call-to-actions. After collaborating with a Vauxhall food bank and a supermarket giant to explore solutions to the UK’s hidden hunger problem in her previous collection, Breadline, Bethany Williams, a London-based sustainable fashion designer, focuses our attentions onto women’s rehabilitation for spring/summer 18. In Women for Change, she has worked closely with female prisoners and the San Patrignano drug dependency program.

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