Taking the world by storm with their sustainable pieces, pioneering fashion eco-warriors, VIN + OMI, have worked with supermodel Jodie Kidd, pop star Debbie Harry and even Prince Charles, while fans of their revolutionary outfits include Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Charlie XCX, Miley Cyrus, Kate Moss, and Michelle Obama.
Angela Sara West chats with the multi-award-winning designer duo about their war on plastic, their innovative creations, working with famous faces and royals, and their new eco-friendly partnership with The Savoy London hotel.
From Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra to Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, the historic Savoy has played host to countless celebrities and royals over the years. James Corden spent a side-splitting time with the bellmen and head butler when he took over a few roles for the day for his ‘Late Late Show’ filmed there last year, while American rapper, Future, is among the many musicians who have shot videos in The Savoy’s beautiful Royal Suite.
Michael Ball will be presenting his live BBC Radio 2 Show in aid of BBC Children in Need this Sunday morning (17th Nov) at the state-of-the-art Savoy Theatre, with Alfie Boe and special guests James Blunt, Status Quo, Rick Astley, The Rock Choir and members of the cast of Les Misérables, before hosting an exclusive Radio 2 Fundraising Gala Lunch, at the luxurious 5-star Savoy hotel.
From music icons to fashion icons
And ever since the legendary fashion designer, Christian Dior, showcased his first collection in the beautiful ballroom of London’s superlative Savoy Hotel, famous faces in fashion have also flocked here. Dior’s ‘New Look’ shaped fashion throughout the 20th century, with many of his designs being shown at the stylish Savoy and, coupled with the fact that the home of London Fashion Week is 180 Strand, The Savoy, also located on The Strand, is the ideal location for all things fashion and style during the buzzing fashion-filled days of Fashion Week.
This year, 130 years since The Savoy first opened its grand doors in 1889, the prestigious luxury landmark has become the official hotel partner for the London Fashion Week brand, VIN + OMI, seeing the swanky establishment continue to be one of London’s finest deluxe destinations, where history is made and innovation happens.
As a leading luxury hotel placing sustainability efforts at its forefront, this partnership with VIN + OMI sees a series of collaborative sustainable initiatives over the forthcoming years, ensuring the hotel brand remains quintessentially British.
Waging war on plastic pollution
With Stockholm canceling its fashion week this year to seek out a more sustainable approach to promoting their industry, attitudes towards the fashion industry are rapidly shifting. Fast fashion is fast falling out of favor with many, seeing countless labels having a radical rethink. In fashion, forever, it is at the forefront of many brands’ minds.
Leading the way in environmentally-friendly fashion and design practice, world-famous fashion brand VIN + OMI has been ticking all the green boxes, waging a war on plastic pollution, and working relentlessly on eco-innovations for quite some time.
Inspiring fast fashion fans to start taking it slow, the international award-winning fashion designers, artists, and creative directors have been developing unique eco textiles and processes since 2004, working holistically with their textile products based on science, social and environmental awareness and problem-solving. All of their unique textiles are borne out of a social or environmental project and, alongside bringing the sustainable WOW factor to the catwalk, they work internationally to reduce the environmental footprint of the fashion world.
Focusing on sustainable approaches to business, design, and textiles through eco-innovations and social impacts, the pioneering eco-fashion warriors have been recognized with numerous awards, including a NESTA award for their innovation in fashion, research, and their unique business models, making VIN + OMI one of the leading pioneering eco-fashion brands today. Producing ready-to-wear collections, as well as limited-edition releases throughout the year, the creative pair has collaborated with countless other designers, including Dior and Louis Vuitton.
STING Collection with Prince Charles
The design duo recently joined forces with HRH The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, collecting nettles from the gardens at his Highgrove home to create outfits for their SS20 STING collection, showcased at London Fashion Week in September, with models including Jo Wood (former wife of The Rolling Stones’ guitarist Ronnie Wood) proudly wearing the pieces down the runway. They created not only showstopping clothes but jewelry and headpieces made from the Highgrove Estate’s tree trimmings!
“Prince Charles suggested we use the nettles from Highgrove and the whole process was smooth and really aided by his great team of gardeners, headed up by Debs Goodenough,” VIN + OMI tell me. “The collection was very well received by all involved and we’ve had over 150 favorable reviews.”
VIN + OMI X SAVOY
The inspiring, multi-award-winning fashion and multi-media designers behind the world’s leading contemporary sustainable brand recently embarked on a long-term relationship with The Savoy London, where they will be exploring new sustainable projects. “Our first one was the development of a scarf from the hotel’s plastic bottle waste.” The design, based on fun elements of the hotel and London, as well on The Savoy’s checkered floor patterns, was well very received.
The launch coincided with their SS 2020 catwalk show during London Fashion Week in September, successfully held in The Savoy’s iconic Lancaster Ballroom and following in the footsteps of the aforementioned Dior, who made his British debut hosting his runway show here in 1950. “We held our last show in their wonderful ballroom, which had the majority of the world’s leading publications in attendance. The show worked really well there, and the Savoy’s team was wonderful.”
Their fantastic BIN 2 BODY concept, recycling the by-product of a major fashion event, earned them further kudos plus a nomination for a National Recycling Award. “We’ve have had a lot of press interest in the project. We worked with The London College of Fashion to help educate the students in sustainable projects.”
Collaborating with famous faces
Their aptly-named collections, such as Planet Rewind and Stop F*cking the Planet, send out a strong message and they’ve worked with many high-profile people, including supermodel Jodie Kidd (who opened the February 2019 London Fashion Week Show on London’s world-famous Piccadilly Lights in a floral VIN +OMI dress made from salvaged plastic), who have also helped to project their plea to help save the planet. “Each of our shows has a selection of high-profile models. The last show featured five Olympians walking, plus Jo and Leah Wood, ‘Love Island’s Camilla Thurlow and José Teunissen, Dean of the School of Design and Technology at London College of Fashion. All are passionate about eco issues and perfect for the show. We also have an ongoing long relationship with the wonderful Debbie Harry – she is fun and eco-savvy and passionate, which is perfect!”
Through their distinct style with mixes of strong prints, bold silhouettes, and textures, the in-demand designers’ innovative, contemporary and sustainable approach often gives a nod to music and pop culture.
Their revolutionary outfits have also been worn by global trendsetters and influencers, including Kate Moss, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Charlie XCX, Miley Cyrus and Michelle Obama, and VIN + OMI have a wide-ranging portfolio of collaborations, including with The Historic Royal Palaces, Daler Rowney, Fox, and Apple. Radio DJ Jo Whiley has also walked the runway in Vin + Omi, during a previous London Fashion Week at the Sanderson Hotel, and the eco designers dressed actress Jane Horrocks for her role as Bubble, renowned for her outlandish outfits in the hit ‘Ab Fab’ TV show, for ‘Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie’.
“We’re very lucky to have a wide fan base which includes many famous people. But we are equally thrilled when students contact us with their support,” say Vin + Omi. “Our ‘thing’ is to work with brands that benefit from our creative sustainable approach. We consult and offer creative solutions – we like to keep a fluid portfolio of brands. The connection we have with the brand and their commitment to sustainable change is a priority. We’re working closely with art brand, Daler Rowney, who are really open to new sustainable interventions, Jägermeister, who are really exciting in their approach to sustainability, and Patch Strips, a wonderful new bamboo adhesive strip brand which is totally open to new ideas and ways of working. Our main partner is Ocean Outdoors, a wonderfully-forward thinking advertising company which is totally committed to sustainability.”
How do they feel to be such huge influencers? “It’s very hard work ensuring all of our practices, processes and outcomes are as near to 100% sustainable as possible… we haven’t had time to reflect on how we feel!”
They say their proudest moments come from personal eco achievements. “Such as when we’ve cleaned up a river and turned the discarded plastic into textile or developed a new social impact project that benefits communities.”
Saving the planet
Another example of their good work sees them wage war on microfibres, which pollute the planet’s waterways. Continuing studies are identifying the devastating effect they are having on marine life and, consequently, the negative impact this has on our own food chain. With approximately 1-1.5 grams of microfibres released into the water system every time we wash a new microfibre-releasing garment, VIN + OMI have three approaches to greatly reducing the impact of microfibres from their rPET garments – encouraging the use of their microfibre catcher when washing them (the collected microfibres can then be disposed of away from the water system), they produce rPET fabrics that are bonded with a tighter weave which release fewer microfibres when washed (garments that are produced with looser weaves produce more microfibres), and they also offer a ‘buy-back’ scheme to customers, encouraging them to sell their garments back to VIN + OMI for recycling.
They’re also proud of their ‘No-Kill Fleece’ textiles and garments. The process involves obtaining their fleece from llama, alpaca and rare breed sheep from the UK that are kept as pet animals on organic smallholdings. The animals live a natural full life and are shorn once or twice a year. The organic, non-chemically treated, fleece is placed in open cages and left overnight in river water. The fleece is then dyed with natural dyes and converted into garments and fabrics using traditional methods.
Ten years ago, VIN + OMI invested in a latex plantation in Malaysia and developed sustainable chemical-free eco latex, whilst ensuring the caretaker village was cared for and financially compensated for its work, and the plantation was replanted with rubber trees and care taken to ensure organic approaches were used. The liquid latex is used in a variety of textiles, including hybrid latex, breathable latex, and Amalgam fabric.
They’re currently working with an exciting natural development as an alternative to latex, and are also focussing on organic plants and naturally-occurring components to make a range of plant-based leathers and fabrics, experimenting with a wide range of raw materials including chestnuts, fungi and algae, nettles, brassicas, and by-products of the food industry. The raw material is readily available in the UK, has minimal impact on the environment, is sustainable, organically produced and has a low carbon footprint from source to production of finished textile, garments, and accessories. They featured their chestnut leather on the catwalk with their ‘We Are Not Sheep collection AW18.’
VIN + OMI has directed and produced a very personal music video in collaboration with US actress and musician, Ruby Modine (daughter of actor Matthew Modine), to raise awareness of Asperger Syndrome. ‘Living in a Bubble’ is a video through the eyes of Omi, one half of fashion the fashion brand, who has Asperger Syndrome. It highlights the daily challenge he and others with the condition go through every day. The video is shot mainly underwater, a place that is devoid of social interaction and a place where his thoughts can be heard without any outside noise. When Omi heard Ruby Modine’s version of ‘As Tears Go By’, he was inspired to make a film about his illness and to help raise awareness for Research Autism, the leading UK research charity for the disease.
The designers have also supported Sightsavers, donating their design for a shirt symbolizing a globe of millions of colors, inspired by the great photographer Rankin’s work ‘Eyescapes’, (Rankin also supports Sightsavers). The shirt they designed is printed on a great fabric made from recycled bottles by the US company Rethink Fabrics and is made in Guatemala, providing local employment.
Cleaning up the Hudson
What’s next for VIN + OMI? “Our project with the Riverkeeper Organization in NYC, which cleans up the Hudson River, is almost complete. We’ve taken plastic from the river and turned it into clothing for the organization. Debbie Harry introduced us to the project and she is a passionate supporter of their work. We have also just heard that we have received an award for our last collection, which is nice.
VIN + OMI on Netflix
What’s more, they’ll be on our screens showing their sensational work. “We are midway through a Netflix documentary and have 12 new social impact projects in production – six new eco textiles in development and, of course, we are working on our next show in February.”
And VIN + OMI will soon be sported by members of The Savoy team! The designers are creating bespoke uniforms for The Savoy’s symbolic doormen, to be debuted in spring 2020.
Their message in their much-needed mission to save the planet? “Quite simply, we think everyone working in the craft industry should question the origin of their materials and have a look at each of their processes to see if they can be made more eco, more sustainable. Everyone needs to recycle properly – but even better if they can recycle their own waste into usable things, as we currently can’t rely on the recycling system to do that for us!”
Discover more about The Savoy hotel: www.upscalelivingmag.com/famous-fashion-icons-get-set-for-the-first-world-fashion-awards/