the instagram account archiving the world's coolest sustainable fashion
Future Dust will help you source your next eco-friendly fit.
Across the summer of 2019, a series of heat waves across Europe and the US served as a sombre backdrop to strikes and protests that swept through many major Western cities. Largely staged by nonviolent climate activism collective Extinction Rebellion -- the group that within less than a year has become the most visible face advocating for urgent change in how politicians are addressing the climate crisis -- it began to feel as if the record-breaking temperatures were depressingly appropriate.
There are few major industries that have not been forced in some way to respond to the crisis, but (perhaps unsurprisingly as one of the world’s most pollutive trades) fashion has been high on the group’s agenda. Fashion Revolution, an initiative working in conjunction with Extinction Rebellion to lobby for change within the fashion industry, has declared an emergency charter to which conglomerates from H&M to Kering have signed up; long-time sustainability advocate Stella McCartney has launched a UN charter for sustainable fashion; and Nike has published a guide for designers hoping to work more responsibly.
While any action is better than none, these initiatives beg the question: are fast fashion and luxury giants really to be trusted with the responsibility of leading the charge here? Can we truly depend on these profit-driven enterprises to put ethical obligations above corporate greed? To get to grips with how we can make real (and lasting) changes from within the industry, it’s the smaller voices that have often proved to be the most convincing.
One such voice is Alec Leach, a former editor at Highsnobiety, who has a comprehensive knowledge of young and emerging brands, as well as a personal frustration with the industry’s outlook on the climate crisis that he was keen to find a way of addressing. “I was researching sustainability last year, and I kept finding cool stuff online that was responsibly made, but in a low-key way,” he says. “So I thought I'd be useful for people to have this kinda thing in one place, like a resource to go to for cool sustainable stuff: I would have loved it back when I was an editor.”
The result is Future Dust, an Instagram account spotlighting and cataloguing pieces by some of today’s most exciting designers, all of whom prioritise cutting-edge design as highly as responsible production. “I chose the name Future Dust because, whether we like it or not, everything we make and buy will someday be worthless,” Alec explains. “Once you accept that, then the importance of responsible consumption becomes so much clearer.”
The idea of placing innovative design on the same pedestal as environmental impact might not be new. But what has changed over the past few years is the growing number of designers for whom this has become an important, but unflashy, priority, be it through upcycling, deadstock fabrics or the use of less environmentally harmful fabrics. “If you're like me -- fussy, but also worried about what consumerism is doing to the planet -- then there's actually a lot of options out there,” Alec says. “You just need to know where to look and have a bit of patience.”
There are also, he notes, plenty of brands who have been working responsibly for decades that can be used as a blueprint for newcomers, some of them more unlikely than others; high on Alec’s list, for example, is the outdoor clothing label that has enjoyed a new lease of life thanks to the dadcore trend, Patagonia. “Responsibility is in the brand’s DNA,” says Alec. “Every business should be aspiring to work the way Patagonia do.” Also in Alec’s little black book are younger brands like Marine Serre, Story MFG and Bode, all of whom have received significant industry attention for their thoughtful designs as much as for their ethical concerns.
It’s an emphasis on reusing discarded fabrics or garments that Alec sees as the most compelling route for designers moving forward -- or at least the best option of a bad bunch. “Really, we need to transition to a circular model, where everything we make is designed to be recycled, and manufacturing and raw material extraction are done in a way that works with nature, not against it. That's why the rental model is so perfect. It goes hand in hand with circular design because it creates a clear business incentive for sustainability.”
The tricky balance between spotlighting designers who are approaching the problem with resourcefulness and creativity, while also not wanting to contribute further to the relentless pace of the fashion cycle is a conundrum Alec is well aware of, and one he’s trying to navigate responsibly. “One thing I really need to stress is that we cannot shop our way out of the climate crisis,” he says. “Buying even the most ‘sustainable’ product in the world will not solve that. That's why I'm not posting buy links or prices or sales or whatever -- the point isn't to come here looking to buy more stuff, it's to educate yourself. I'm using products as a platform to communicate the bigger issues in a way that's relatable.”
One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the fact that responsible shopping inevitably comes with a higher price tag -- the fast fashion epidemic, where garments can be bought, worn once, then returned or thrown away for little more than the price of an average lunch, has fostered a culture where the true cost of producing clothes has become warped. By putting the emphasis on quality and intelligent design -- and spotlighting desirable garments that justify their higher price tags with their lower environmental impact -- Alec makes a convincing case for the true value of an investment piece. These are clothes that won’t just last longer in your wardrobes; they help the planet last longer, too.
“In an ideal world Future Dust wouldn't even exist,” he adds. “The sort of stuff I talk about should just be the norm. It's crazy to think that this is somehow a niche issue, when the climate emergency is so severe. Why do we buy what we buy? And how have we managed to sleepwalk into a place where our addiction to cheap crap is trashing the planet?”
Set against all the smoke and mirrors of the corporate sustainability programs being rolled out, Future Dust is all about crystal-clear transparency: a refreshingly straightforward platform for the smaller industry voices offering smart, considered alternatives. It’s time to listen up.