by Elise Carr from Paris
Paris fashion week roared, as the city burst at the seams with creators, models, fashion workers and fashion lovers. To stand out in the crowd and be recognised in Paris at this key moment in the fashion calendar is a dream come true for any designer.
Fashioning the “Parisienne dream” is now a reality for Western Australian textile artist and designer, Charlene O’Brien. While stunning fashion is her talent, ethics and eco come first, even in Paris.
Revolutionising fashion from the roots up, O’Brien’s eco creations have captivated fashionistas internationally. The only Australian designer to be showcased at the Paris Ethical Fashion Show, her Eco Logika Luxe Collection is paving the way for ecological and ethical fashion around the world.
The Paris Ethical Fashion show promotes and supports the need for environmental fashion and ethical textile awareness. By endorsing sustainable designs internationally, creating a global space for fashion education, consumer support and opportunities for unique designers like O’Brien, it is leading the fashion world, as well as expanding Australia’s connection to the fashion market.
Bringing eco Australian textiles into the French fashion arena of Paris’s Ethical Fashion Show for the third time, the Perth hills based O’Brien established Eco Logika in 2007, and since then has been dedicated to refining her label and company to create a fusion of eco fashion conscious and environmental awareness. From working with pure, natural elements, buying discarded materials off fellow designers to use as embellishments on her garments, to creating her own dyes and running her entire production from home with the support of solar energy and rain tanks, Eco Logika is one hundred per cent pro-environment and ethical fashion production.
Described as poetic and romantic, the brand’s support for the environment and ethical values has been made easier thanks to the certification of organic material which in turn is becoming more readily available.
“I have friends who own local restaurants and supply me with pomegranates. Once I dry out the skin and use the tannin for colouring the fabrics, a beautiful natural, pesticide free colour is created. Other friends who make wine give me grape juice, which I also use to dye the fabrics. It is an extremely effective, none harmful and entirely environmentally friendly way of colouring the materials.”
Born in Rhodesia, Africa, O’Brien studied at the London College of Fashion, and was inspired by the Body Shop founder Anita Roddick’s commitment to no animal testing and ethical business.
“I thought, how could I bring that into fashion, because the industry is notoriously known for its negative influence on the environment with harsh chemicals and lack of ethics. Seeing the Body Shop’s campaign was my catalyst to make clothing and do it ethically.”
Living in Vietnam, and working with local artisan women’s groups to create fashion textiles, was another driving force behind the designer’s vision to support global fashion ethics. Working as a textile artist and designer in Vietnam between 1997-2002, she focused on reducing the waste from denim. ‘”Instead of allowing remnants of denim material to go to landfill, I had the cut-offs shredded and re-spun into a yarn, and then rewoven into a recycled denim textile. But I was still creating waste, so my next step was to eliminate that. Working in Vietnam, I was supporting a local community of women, with incredible textile skills, to create hand knitted bags and jumpers etc from this re-spun denim. This was not only supporting fair trade and local industry, but also contributing to ecological fashion.”
Coco Chanel is another driving force behind Eco Logika. The French designer’s desire to strip back tradition, and allow women to express their individualism, is still a source of inspiration for O’Brien’s designs today.
“I believe my dresses express an individual style which was pushed by Coco Chanel in her creation of textiles. Each Eco Logika garment is an expression of the woman who wears it. They create a confidence, an elegance and grace. One of my French clients told me the dress she just bought was like poetry to her and she was searching for something like it for fifteen years.”