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Hungary Helping Bring Sustainability Into Fashion

Now in its fourth year, Global Sustainable Fashion Week is a unique Budapest-based event that combines an international conference, workshops, displays and fashion shows dedicated to sustainable and ethical fashion and art. 

Matilda Jánosi

There are good reasons why fashion needs to become more sustainable. A recent article in Wired magazine profiling Stella McCartney pointed out that “global textiles production emits 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.” Scary stuff.

But the profile of sustainable fashion is rising, championed by people like McCartney who told “Wired”, “The starting point is not design. The starting point is sustainability.”

It’s not all about high fashion. The eighth iteration of high street chain H&M’s Conscious Exclusive collection of premium pieces was launched in fall/winter 2018. ASOS now offers recycled jeans. Cultish brand Dr. Martens makes pretty cool vegan boots, shoes and bags. Sustainable clothing niche brands spring up all the time. The timing is right, then, for GSFW.

Founder and organizer Dr. Gabriella Mányi-Walek has had a long career in the textile, garment and fashion industry. Since 2004, she’s been the President of the Hungarian National Fashion League that she founded. She’s also country representative for the international Fashion Revolution movement whose manifesto includes the statement, “We love fashion. But we don’t want our clothes to exploit people or destroy our planet.”

Through her work as a leader of both for profit and non-profit organizations, Mányi-Walek, “realized the importance of a proper social, ethical and environmentally conscious attitude in fashion. Now I’m one of the people calling for positive change.”

World Class

How has GSFW evolved over the years? “What has changed is the number of world-class speakers and well-known, talented designers taking part. This year, for instance, we’re delighted to welcome designer, researcher, writer and educator Sass Brown and British fashion designer, social entrepreneur, fashion campaigner and founder of Fashion Revolution, Carry Somers,” Mányi-Walek tells the Budapest Business Journal.

Is sustainable fashion growing in Hungary? “Hungary is not a leader of the fashion world, but we have really talented designers who are part of the industry trend towards sustainability. They’re using their own skill and creativity to make sustainable collections. The challenge in Hungary is to find good quality eco-friendly fabrics.”

And what about the future for sustainable fashion? “It’s the only option,” she says.

Dr. Gabriella Mányi-Walek

Mányi-Walek is keen to stress the importance of her GSFW team, who she calls her “family”. Matilda Jánosi, founder of the TildArt brand, is a Hungarian eco-fashion designer based in London. She started her brand back in 2009 and was one of the first Hungarian designers to work with recycled fabrics that included bicycle inner tubes and strips of movie film.

Today, she creates fashion pieces using a combination of recycled fabrics and organic materials. Her motto is “I love it when fabric has a history.” All of her pieces are made to order from her TildArt website and produced in London.

As leader of the Eco Fashion Team, Jánosi’s role is to encourage more high profile sustainable fashion designers, speaker and writers to GSFW. This year she’s secured Jeff Garner of eco-label Prophetik from LA, Katherine Soucie of award-winning Vancouver, Canada-based textile and design studio Sans Souci, and Kenny Jackson-Forrest, British eco-fashion writer and founder of the Style and Trashion blog (styleandtrashion.com).

Ágnes Szépligeti is leader of the Art & Couture team. She manages the GSFW’s catwalk designers from around the world, model castings and oversees work backstage. Although she’s lived abroad for many years, the past two in London, she’s never lost contact with Hungary and fashion design in the country.

Our Future

For Szépligeti, “Sustainability is our only future, in fashion and every other aspect of our economy. We need to change the way we live. I believe if everyone makes the effort to change just one small thing in their lives, we’re already on the right track,” she explains to the BBJ.

How about the future for sustainable fashion in Hungary? “I’m inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg, recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She said ‘We need to be focused on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible. And if the solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself.’ To me, that’s the perfect description of the challenges people face in Hungary.”

Enikő Manzák founded PIZSI, the first Hungarian sleepwear brand, 18 months ago when she realized she couldn’t buy locally made designer sleepwear. She joined Fashion Revolution Hungary a year ago and is dedicated to spreading the word.

Sustainable fashion is important to Manzák because, as someone in charge of her own brand, she sees exactly what’s behind a label.
“I want to show people that local, ethical fashion is worth buying and that there must always be a story behind a brand. For me, it’s not just about the environment but consciousness as well. If I buy something, it must have a value because of the people who made it or how it influences my life.”

And how is her sleepwear ethical? “I use Oeko-Tex certified products. This guarantees a product is safe and has been sustainably produced. But I’m trying to be even more ethical. Edit, who makes my sleepwear, lives not far from Budapest and I pay her fairly. I’m very proud of this,” Manzák tells the BBJ.

Global Sustainable Fashion Week runs from April 9-11 at the Italian Cultural Institute, Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Tildy Palace, the Argentinian ambassador’s residence at Andrássy út 96. Find out more at www.gsfashionweek.com

Matilda Jánosi’s work is on show at www.tildart.com

Check out Enikő Manzák’s sleepwear at www.pizsistore.com