Sid Lee joins with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in a book showcasing the potential of circular fashion
Marie-Elaine Benoit, design director at creative agency Sid Lee, walks us through designing with the urgency of the climate crises in mind.
- Roz Jones
- 5 January 2023
Environmental organisation CIWEM announced the winner of its Environmental Photographer of the Year award not too long ago. One of the winning images shows a birds-eye view of the coast of Jamestown in Accra; its shoreline awash with the opalescent toll of fast fashion, the beach would be unrecognisable if not for the frothing white waves. Sustainable practices, for the fashion industry especially, have become imperative. But as the smoke of corporate response statements and pledges clears, what’s left is the clear-eyed, innovative and creative solutions: cue The Ellen MacArthur Foundation's latest book Circular Design For Fashion.
As forward thinking pioneers in this field, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation set out to re-direct the potential energy of this behemoth industry. Creative agency Sid Lee was one of the studios commissioned to “co-create the ultimate guide to redesign the future of fashion”, says Marie-Elaine Benoit, design director at Sid Lee. “This piece of work is a bible for fashion designers,” she details, “leading them to a new way to create and think about their impact." Sid Lee was brought into the fold to design the book and oversee the illustrations. For Sid Lee the book’s design had to reflect the breadth of its intended global reach. To do that “we had to speak their language and appeal to their intelligence with a stunning graphic approach and a new model that gets them thinking in a new way,” she tells It’s Nice That
Despite a swelling awareness of the issue, plastic fibres and toxic dyes still fill the oceans. That’s why the team decided that the project would have to be circular through and through “The book was made using a planet positive printing process which ran on 100 per cent renewable energy as well as zero-waste generated,” Marie-Elaine says. Sid Lee worked closely with The Ellen MacArthur Foundation to craft a visual language that emphasised the “endless possibilities of circular fashion", while “presenting the different co-creators equitably”. This was an idea extended to every nook and cranny of the project. “Every part of the creation and production process was taken into account to reach carbon neutrality, from the page format to maximise paper use to the waterless and alcohol-free offset press,” Marie-Elaine details.
To position the project in direct contrast with the cheap, trendy and ecologically reckless nature of fast fashion while still touching on industry elements, Sid Lee took inspiration from the world of high fashion. “The graphic elements were inspired by sewing stitches, patterns and symbols linked to the world of couture,” Marie-Elaine notes. On the structure, she adds that “readers will notice that each section was designed to reflect a unique fashion collection, using an eclectic and colourful iconography while integrating new forward-thinking practices.” Gotham and Museo Slab type ornament the pages alongside those diagrammatic illustrations, but Marie-Elaine admits “It was a real challenge to find the right balance between both typefaces and to make the grid interesting".
It’s true that much still needs to be done to reverse the fashion industry’s destructive impact on our climate. But Circular Design for Fashion shows that the surest solutions lie in creative thinking and communal innovation. It’s synchronicities like the one between Sid Lee and The Ellen MacArthur Foundation that will help direct the climate fight. “Together, we worked to show the endless possibilities of circular fashion,” Marie-Elaine concludes.
Sid Lee / Ellen MacArthur Foundation: Circular Design for Fashion (Copyright © Sid Lee, 2022)
About the Author
Roz (he/him) joined It’s Nice That for three months as an editorial assistant in October 2022 after graduating from Magazine Journalism and Publishing at London College of Communication. He’s particularly interested in publications, archives and multi-media design.