by Jade Newman

The new dawn of fashion design – Bethany Williams A/W 2019

By utilising publishing waste and supporting a women’s shelter through her clothing, designer Bethany Williams is proving that fashion and ethics can go hand in hand. Jade Newman discusses her work, and London Fashion Week’s updated sustainable message.

Activism and sustainability seem to be tightly threaded into London Fashion Week this season.

The fur-free catwalk events, which took place across the city from the 15th -19th February, provided a poignant staging for the amalgamation of art and protest.  The political platform extended from the runway to the streets with models, prestigious designers and environmental campaigners voicing concerns as an impassioned human collective.  Social media and the internet have allowed us to have a snapshot of this monumental heart-centred social clothing shift.

Highlights have included Vivienne Westwood’s anti-capitalist ‘Homo Loquax’ (Man Talking) AW19 collection, with actress Rose McGowan, Director of Greenpeace John Sauven, and models of all ages adorned in hard-hitting consumerist and climate change non-fiction fashion. Westwood’s famed graffiti and punk-esque style silhouettes and slogan prints also sprinkled some extra seeds of rebellion to the piece.  

Model Adwoa Aboah led 72 Justice4Grenfell activists on a powerful stage procession where a simple t-shirt did the talking: ‘72 dead and still no arrests? How come?’. Meanwhile, Spring/Summer 2019’s neon trend lit up the London Strand streets across Environmentalists Extinction Rebellion’s flags, posters and clothing. The cities congested rat race and roads were temporarily blocked as the group demanded that the British Fashion Council address the truth about climate and ecological collapse. The British Fashion Council have so far failed to respond to the group but have teamed up with BBC Earth and ethical luxury brand Mother of Pearl to produce a short film, which addresses the artistry of style alongside the ecological effects of clothing consumption.

All this creative chaos has allowed old paradigms to be exposed to the masses to allow a more enlightened approach to ensue.  One of these fashion change forerunners is art graduate and designer Bethany Williams. Bethany teamed up with Quaker Homeless Action’s The Mobile Library Charity and British publishing house Hachette UK for her SS19, ‘No Address Needed to Join’, which utilised and transformed waste from the publishing industry. The organisation helps provides books to those without access to a fixed address.

Her AW19 ‘Adelaide House’ range (named after a woman’s shelter in Liverpool) has earnt her the Queen Elizabeth II Award for Design.  The clothing fabric has been constructed using waste from Liverpool’s Echo Newspaper and 20% of profits will be granted to Adelaide House. Bethany is keen to incorporate empowerment into her production line and has worked alongside the women of Downview Prison, as well as the San Patrignano rehabilitation centre in Italy.

Quirky, bright, contemporary designs are underpinned to the core with true ethical substance using recycled wool, tent and denim fabrics.  The clothes deserve credit for their innovative craftmanship alone and combine a very cool tweed bohemian, edgy sporty and a patchwork paint pallet aesthetic. Faith is restored in knowing such selfless talent is paving the way for the future of the fashion industry, which is likely only to be contuinally aligned with positive intention.

“As a designer thinking for the future, it’s a case of problem-solving all the issues that face our generation – from the planet to the people – if we don’t do it, who is going to?”

Bethany Williams