A few years ago, sustainable fashion was a trendy topic. For some brands it stuck and for others it didn’t. As consumers, we have the power (and obligation) to demand change. Prioritising the environment and respecting employees should no longer be a choice for brands, but essential to their survival. The marketplace is saturated with talented designers, so why not put your money towards the brands that are as sustainable as they are stylish? We’ve picked out five that we think deserve extra attention for their efforts in ethical and sustainable fashion.
Edun championed sustainability before it became cool. Founded in 2005 by Ali Hewson and her husband Bono, the brand’s mission is to stimulate and support the African economy and artisan community. Through their collaborations, campaigns and production practices, Edun takes a holistic approach. Rather than looking at Africa as a charity case, the founders appreciate its resources, craftsmanship and creative community. In addition to their company-wide efforts, they’ve joined forces with the multiple partners including the Ethical Fashion Initiative, Better Cotton Initiative and Weavers Worth.
Designer Aurora James founded her shoe label in an effort to share her love for traditional African footwear. Like Edun’s founders, she values the craftsmanship and creativity of African artisans. A majority of the brand’s production is completed by hand, thereby reducing energy consumption. Leather and bone beads are frequently used in the designs; this would typically raise concerns but Brother Vellies uses animal byproducts of government-mandated culling (a practice in place to deal with overpopulation), while the meat from the animals is sold in markets or donated wherever possible. James also uses vegetable dyes for colouring and recycled brass padlocks for buckles.
While many brands list their efforts towards sustainability in a short paragraph and rarely go into the details of what makes their practices sustainable, Stella McCartney provides in-depth information about the variety of ways it practices good conduct. In detailed sections on the website, titled “Respect for nature”, “Respect for People” “Respect for Animals” and “Circular Solutions” , the brand breaks down their designs and explains their materials and methods. Not only are the facts there, but they have invested substantial effort into making the information digestible with chic videos and imagery. They’re a standout example of sustainable fashion and should be looked to as leader in the industry.
Rather than creating more fabric to eventually add to our waste, Ksenia Schnaider turns unwanted clothing into up-to-date looks. The duo focus primarily on repurposing denim; they created 3000 pieces from unwanted jeans in the past year alone. The aesthetic of the collections is edgier and the non-denim pieces feel more in line with streetwear than previously. This brand is a far stretch from the majority of sustainable fashion. It was only founded in 2011 but has already gained an impressive roster of fans, including Eva Chen and Lady Gaga.
Many pieces from Seek Collective are block-printed with a natural substance composed of clay, wheat flowers, guar gum and lime. They are printed at a specialised water facility outside a Rajasthani village where the water is recycled and electricity is not needed. The fabrics are also woven on a handloom – another part of production that does not require electricity. Each order takes approximately two months to be woven on the loom; this is the definition “slow fashion”. Designer Carol Miltimore includes many images of the process on the brand’s website, including the facilities, equipment and artisans. She believes it’s our responsibility to be considerate of resources and conscious of our effects on the environment and people globally – taking care of the planet is paramount.
Cousins Anna Singh and Rachael Wood started up Chinti & Parker in 2009, with beginnings in ethical cashmere clothing for children, quickly followed by womenswear. Justifying the cost of the products with the ethical process behind them, the brand produce their clothing in carefully selected factories. In places where production involves long travel, Chinti & Parker actively offsets carbon emissions the ultimate advocates of a “buy better”philosophy.
US brand Eileen Fisher’s pieces are elegant, minimal and – ding, ding, ding – sustainable. The brand publicly shared its commitments to improving social and environmental impacts of their supply chain, and have pledged that all their cotton and linen will be organic by 2020. The company’s eco-aware initiative, Green Eileen, collects and recycles previously worn Eileen Fisher clothing. Equally green is the brand’s free repair service, which is offered on all their clothing.
This pioneering brand placed ethical and environmentally sustainable fashion at its core from its inception. People Tree has always put an emphasis on fair-trade practices and was the first international clothing company to be awarded the World Fair Trade product label. All People Tree items are made from environmentally friendly fabrics – think organic cotton and wood-pulp-derived Tencel – to create decidedly relaxed yet stylish (and affordable) pieces. Seems evidence enough of their dedication to transparency, progressive product cycles and standard setting.
“Made in Italy” is a stamp of approval in quality, and one which is increasingly expanding its meaning to “quality of care”. Made by hand, YATAY unisex trainers are created from eco-friendly materials. Clean lines and minimalistic details, these ecologically friendly ethical kicks are inspired by classic 1980s trainers and high-tops. With an aim to safeguard the environment, Yatay have partnered with ONETREEPLANTED, a non-profit organisation focused on global reforestation. For each pair of shoes sold, Yatay will plant a tree in a deforested area. These are a stand-out choice for conscientious sneakerheads.