C&TH’s new sustainable fashion columnist Tiffanie Darke is reimagining a world where fashion can have a positive impact, starting with Agora, a boutique spotlighting sustainable brands at the Six Senses in Ibiza.
Revisiting Retail: Agora at Six Senses Ibiza
The notion of what luxury is these days is changing. It might mean lying in the warm Mediterranean sun, pool glistening beyond your toes. It might mean a delicious meal, prepared by one of the world’s best chefs. It might mean one of Gabriela Hearst’s gorgeous, plunging, knitted summer dresses. Personally, I’ll take all three, which is why, when we were offered a store at the heart of the Six Senses Ibiza resort, the Vogue fashion director Daniela Agnelli and I said yes.
The store is called Agora, and as fashion editors our plan was always to tell stories. So we filled it with clothes that tell the tale of fashion’s move towards sustainability. Because while the experience of luxury may be obvious, what may also be comforting is knowing that it has arrived at your door as mindfully and consciously as possible. As Gabriela herself puts it, maybe true luxury isn’t an object or even an experience. Maybe it’s knowing that a designer has done the ‘homework’ for you – that they’ve put ethics at the heart of their process, with materials sustainably sourced, local trades and communities supported, and unnecessary waste avoided.
This idea is what lies at the heart of Agora. With the 70 or so brands we have in our store, we like to think we have a showcase of the best examples of sustainability. Many of those are from our community: Ibiza is brimming with artists and creatives. We are particularly proud of the biodegradable shoe brand Of Origin, founded by the late designer Camilla Skovgaard; of the handmade Aho hats, each of which is embellished with a shaman blessed stone, or Hanamer Ibiza, whose ‘peace silk’ slip dresses and kimonos sell out the moment we get them.
To this local mix we add new innovative brands that have been able to build sustainability in from the ground up: Le Kasha, the newly revamped linen and cashmere brand from France, Hunza G, the one size British swimwear brand that produces no waste, or Makal, Italian jewellery that celebrates gold in the form the earth makes it: single, unpolished nuggets.
And then we have the three big super brands that we believe are leading the field in sustainability: Chloé (thanks to its creative direction under Gabriela Hearst), Stella McCartney (who needs no introduction), and Spain’s Loewe, which has a relentless commitment to craft and the communities that sustain it.
Of course, fashion, a bit like holidays, is a nice-to-have. If we really lived mindfully and consciously, perhaps we wouldn’t consume either at all. Instead – you know the facts. Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, a toxic business that uses mostly petrochemical derived synthetic materials, has little to no in built circularity (so most of it ends up in landfill, leaching microplastics into the sea) and employs garment workers in the Global South for as little as £3 a day.
Undoubtedly, the main culprit here is fast fashion (and if you never walk through the doors of Zara again, you’re already winning), but luxury has a pivotal role in leading the industry. It is beginning to come to terms with its impact on the world, and to turn itself around: reframing supply chains, reconsidering materials and protecting the communities that produce them.
Our Agora story is arranged into four chapters: Recycle, Restore, Rent and Reduce. Recycle is about material science, such as CDLP’s econyl swim shorts (econyl is a textile made from waste ocean plastic), Pangaia’s Mirum mushroom leather, or it is about the clever use of leftover materials, such as Loewe’s upcycled leather handbag.
Restore is about mending, yes, but at Agora we also think it is also about protecting the artisanal communities and handicrafts that have been handed down over generations. We love Wehve’s shawls spun, dyed and woven by local women’s co-operatives in Uruguay, or Antik Batik’s championing of Balinese silkscreen or traditional hand weaving in Kolkata.
Reduce is about us, the customers. Learning to buy less but buy better, and building a wardrobe that is modular and flexible, full of pieces that can work harder, for longer.
And finally Rent, which lends itself well to our party-strewn island. We call this our ‘Cinderella rail’, because here we gather the glitziest, slinkiest, sexiest gowns, head dresses and jewelled accessories for a one-night borrow. How many times have you bought something fabulous for a party, then never worn it again? Renting makes so much more sense – allowing you to be more playful in your choices, as your commitment is less.
We believe that luxury 2023 is moving through the world in as frictionless a way as possible. It is not deprivation, or ‘hair shirt’, or ‘less’. As the fashion and luxury industries gear up to the challenges we face in the decades to come, we see amazing innovations, plenty to inspire and much to admire.