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Q&A: LUNAR designers say out of crisis comes much needed change

by | Oct 23, 2020

LUNAR is a South African eco-conscious fashion and lifestyle brand that was founded in the mid 1990s by Karen Ter Morshuizen and Dominique Gatland. Fast-forward to present-day and designers Nicola Luther and Sonja Stanislaus-Kaw Di-Aping have picked up the baton from Karen and Dominique.

Wherever possible, LUNAR makes use of natural fibres like linen, hemp, silk, wool and bamboo, as well as pigment dyes. Classic, simple designs ensure longevity of the brand’s creations and reduction of waste to landfill.

“Our main ethos is to create by doing as little harm to the planet as possible. We cannot live in this world today and claim to be ‘conscious’ without a certain level of understanding of catastrophic events like climate change unfolding right in front of us,” says Sonja.

We caught up with LUNAR via Zoom where Nicola and Sonja weighed in on whether they think the global pandemic has reformed our value system and how we view nature.

LUNAR is currently showcasing their trans-seasonal range at SA Fashion Week. 2020.

Adapt or die…

The Covid-19 pandemic and the state of lockdown we were in for several months taught us the importance of agility and adaptability. That old saying ‘adapt or die’ was really driven home. Through the pandemic, not only did we learn this but also just how quickly humans are able to adapt in a crisis situation which is ironic because the pandemic has proven that this is possible which speaks to the wider climate crisis we find ourselves in.

What exactly does being a ‘conscious fashion label’ mean?

The values of eco-consciousness have been at the fore of LUNAR since it started 21 years ago. Packaged as an ‘eco-conscious fashion label’, this ethos is even more important now than before with the effects of climate change we see everyday. Responsible production, looking after our staff, making sure they have decent working conditions and fair wages are very important to us.

The founder of LUNAR, Karen, was ahead of her time in many ways. She was just naturally informed by the landscape and from that flowed the fact that nature and creating natural clothing is really important.

We have lived in a bubble driven by ‘progress’ since the 1950s which set the tone for convenience and mass consumption. During this period, people became separated from making things, from growing and from gathering food without realising how important relationships with nature are and how these activities informed appreciation for what was around them.

We have become completely separated from what we wear, what we consume, and what we eat.

Tips to shop sustainably?

 

Shop local

The easiest way to know the environmental and ethical consequences of what you purchase is by finding out about the people and processes behind the item. This is where buying local becomes hugely important. When you buy local, you can ask the person selling you the item questions like where the material is from, how it was made, who made it and where exactly it was made.

There is a lot of greenwashing out there but a good rule of thumb is: the further away from the process geographically you are, the more difficult it becomes to determine the item’s environmental and responsible consequences.

Read the label

Our main focus is using natural fabrics that last but can return to the soil gently when their life eventually comes to an end. Look at what the fabric is made of, see if you can find out who made it and where it was made, and what processes were involved.

Self-inform

Different countries have different labour laws and that’s where self-education and research is a really important part of being a consumer. If the consumer insists on certain things then the supply chain will eventually have to fill in the gaps.

Quality and style control

We encourage our customers to think hard about an item before buying it. If you buy a product that is good quality – we aim for 10 years – then that is a logical purchase. Stop seeing shopping as a sport or as a pass-time. We have come to a point where we need to be thinking about the consequences of each purchase and what comes ‘after’ before we make the purchase.

What inspires the colours and structural elements of LUNAR design?

It is a bit of a dance between practical things like what is available to us, its cost and our ethos. It is a circular process in many ways. There is a real cost to developing an idea both financially and in the natural environment that we tend to forget about. You’re making samples, using fabric and time and you don’t want to lose that work.

After we started working together, we knew we were keeping to the LUNAR spirit when a client would say: ‘Wow, that’s amazing, I know I won’t find that anywhere else because it is classic enough to not be pegged to a specific trend but rather to an aesthetic over time.’

Is your manufacturing process environmentally sustainable?

There is a lot that goes into sustainability. Although our fabrics are natural, unfortunately we still import them which we constantly try to avoid. Natural fabrics together with working with factories that have good working conditions are our two major focuses.

All our packaging bags are paper. We avoid plastic as much as possible. This is a huge challenge with courier bags. Our cutoffs are recycled or reused. We have been in touch with Rewoven where we send our offcut material, if we don’t reuse it in another garment.

In the future, we want to buy recycled fabric back from Rewoven so that it closes that loop completely.

Has the pandemic shifted how we understand fashion’s relationship to the environment?

Indian author, Arundhati Roy in a speech talked about how historically, pandemics have always been a point in time when a rupture is created in humanity and in the time continuum. We shouldn’t let a crisis go to waste because often, change happens in a crisis.

We hope is that there is a deeper acknowledgement and commitment to creating a new way forward. The thing to be aware of is that unfortunately, there are always vested interests in the status quo and we need be aware of this.

We can not carry on with the current destructive, polluting models of production and consumption. Not for our environment, not for our people and not for our societies.

  • For more information visit LUNAR’s website
  • Images: Supplied

 

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