Ethical Editorial

Ethical Editorial

Olivia Rubens is a knitwear womenswear designer and sustainability and sourcing consultant based in London. During her MA at the London College of Fashion she explored innovation and sustainability within high fashion. Originally from Canada, Rubens draws inspiration from her origins. Bringing the outdoors and landscape into her pieces through aesthetics, sustainability, research and methodologies. Her fashion pieces, as well as being sustainable, are kitsch, humorous, colourful and always meaningful. The designer states that she was bullied when she was younger, this made her who she is today. Her pieces stand for women by being thought-provoking. Bringing issues to light through dark humour, while also creating initiatives in helping women, children and communities. 




All of Rubens’ collections take into account environmental and societal sustainability. The materials she uses are certified organic, recycled, ethical and/or traceable, and she also uses innovations within the biodesign field. Collaborating with other creatives and artisans to create pieces that are made from the most sustainable materials, and made in the best way possible. An example of this is how she works with a natural dyer in Ireland and a local yarn spinner, dyer and biologist in London. Some of her pieces are produced by the knit manufacturer Manusa in Italy, who employs skilled African refugees and women with fragilities.


AW20 Duplicitous Lives

The Duplicitous Lives collection sees Rubens explore what it means to be a woman, and how we construct ourselves bit by bit to become who we are or who we think we are. Humorously using metaphorical and literal masks we wear to conceal our identities. She feels that masks can hide who you are, but they also create a sense of unity. When wearing a mask you can be anybody you want to be. The pieces are created from sustainable knitwear and each one takes part in social justice initiatives. This collection calls for us to overcome and embrace our differences, battling bullying and prejudice.


Each piece of the collection is thoughtfully created. The fabrics and methods of construction are important to Rubens. Each knitted balaclava is made by hand from different sustainable materials. The yarn itself is plant based and dissolvable, and it also includes knit scraps/test swatches, all dyed naturally. For example, the lilac colour seen is dyed in Ireland using logwood. Some other materials created for the collection include; bioplastic made from recycled denim, bioplastic felt, and glass beads made from recycled bottles, hand crafted by artisans in Africa.



SS21 Birds of a Feather

The Birds of a Feather capsule collection brings cultural and social backgrounds and upbringings into the garments. Each piece doesn’t just read as one message, but resonates through many. Self-discovery, personal journeys and struggles were explored through interviews with drag queens, queer folx and trans artists. While also looking at resilience and fortitude during quarantine, and these trying times. Rubens collaborated with Post Carbon Lab for the collection, to create climate positive garments. Some of the garments from the collection are living knits, breathing CO2 just like plants, and releasing oxygen. Her hope for these pieces is that they not only work towards circularity but can potentially help the environment. Changing the narrative surrounding why we buy, and how we care, literally, for our garments, to develop relationships with them in the way we might do with our plants. Some of the other materials she uses include; GOTS Egyptian organic cotton to create sheer knit structures, and Tencel/organic linen.


Post Carbon Lab

Post Carbon Lab, founded by Dian-Jen Lin and Hannes Hulstaert, is a transdisciplinary design research studio with a focus on sustainability and Applied Speculative Design. They have created a different approach to sustainability which they have coined Regnerative Sustianability Activism. What this means is that they are looking at proactive engagement in sustainability from an industrial entry point. Making it easy and accessible. Therefore, they have now started working on garments that have photosynthetic or pollution-filtering properties. One way of doing this is by coating garments with photosynthetic microorganisms. This will allow the fashion industry to have an output for carbon negativity (climate positivity) rather than reducing or offsetting the footprint, although this alone would be an improvement to the highly polluting sector.


Olivia Rubens
Johana Kasalická