As consumers we’ve become woke to the plight of the planet. Stylist magazine exclaimed ‘single-use plastic has become our newest source of shame.’ The Sunday Times dedicated an entire weekend magazine to sustainable style and we’re all carrying keep-cups.
High street stores are shouting out about their ‘conscious’ collections – loving your wrk H&M – and there are also recycling clothes bins in both H&M and Zara stores to drop unwanted garms.
Fashion is accountable for £28 billion of the UK economy but it also produces greenhouse gas emissions of 1.2bn tonnes a year — which is larger than that of international flights and shipping combined and costs the UK economy an estimated £82m a year to landfill clothing and household textiles.
Stella McCartney and Dame Vivienne Westwood have long been flying the ethical fashion flag, using responsibly sourced materials in their collections, better working conditions, less waste, no animal products and bolshy slogan tees that drive the green message home. Sustainability and style, once strangers, are the new bedfellows.
Earlier this year Lacoste launched a limited edition ‘save our species’ polo shirt replacing the brands’ alligator logo with 10 of the world’s more endangered species. The polos (now collector’s items) sold out in record time.
Pinko has pledged to plant a Pinko rainforest. For every t.shirt purchased (right here), a tree will be planted in the Kenyan rainforest and you can watch it grow.
John Lewis has launched a ‘buy back’ scheme giving financial incentive to us all to recycle unwanted clothes (they’ll even pick up old socks – really). The mobile device Stuffstr calculates the amount you’ll receive for your old items, once £50 or more has been accrued a courier will collect your items and then you’ll receive a John Lewis e-gift card for the amount of the items sold. Brilliant. Download the app immediately, it’s cool.
Ultimately there’s no quick fix for the fast-paced fashion industry that uses 98-million tonnes of oil a year to keep up with demand. So what are we going to do? Recycle, buy less, and buy smart.
‘Whether high street or high end, fashion’s entire business model is constructed around the concept of built-in obsolescence — yet if you’re passionate enough there are ways to make a difference’
– Livia Firth, Founder
Here are five inspiring labels who are taking style and sustainability seriously.
1. E.L.V. Denim
Fashion stylist Anna Foster created her luxury denim label E.L.V. Denim born out of her own passion for good jeans and an overriding awareness of the fashion’s harmful footprint.
“For me, it’s just common sense. It’s not enough to just recycle our daily waste; we have to think sustainably when we are buying material objects,” says Anna.
The label is an acronym for East London Vintage; “East London stands for creativity, and ‘Vintage’ evokes sustainable responsibility.”
The company takes in old discarded denim and transforms it into covetable and sophisticated new styles. They also offer a special ‘made to measure’ service that will appeal to the girls and guys (the brand is ‘gender fluid’) who may not ‘get on’ with peg-bought denim.
This is luxury denim reborn.
The complete design and manufacture process takes place in East London, minimising waste, water, and energy footprints. Did you know that it usually takes up to 2,000 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans? Not to mention the huge amounts of pesticides from cotton production and the toxins associated with the synthetic dyeing process. Not E.L.V.
“We operate from an ideal of ‘no waste’ and we create our jeans with barely any environmental impact, giving a second life to fabric which otherwise could be destined for the landfill.”
Each pair of jeans is made up of two halves of a pair of vintage jeans and is therefore entirely unique in its colour and fit. The jeans are £290, with the made-to-measure service coming in at an eye-watering £490.
If you’re a person who wears jeans every day it could be worth the leap…think about all of the Topshop Jamie’s you’ve already ploughed through in your lifetime.
E.L.V. Denim also make great denim jackets and shorts and style-setters Camille Charrière, Sarah Harris and Monica Ainley are already fans.
Stocked at Net-a-porter, Alex Eagle and direct online.
Bug clothing, founded by Amy Ward is based in a humble Hackney studio where the entire collection is made by hand, on-site with deadstock materials from designer factories.
This means Amy can never be 100% sure of the composition of the fabrics, but she makes every effort to ensure they’re natural and she’s ultimately using up fabric that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Using leftover materials also means Bug doesn’t contribute to the reproduction of new materials that can affect the planet.
Expect super chic cuts and styles that don’t adhere to fast fashion trends, which makes the pieces timeless and worthy investments.
Amy cuts out wholesalers to keep costs of the collections as low as possible and she sells the Bug collection directly online and on ethical marketplace (which you need to check out), Antibad whose aim is to ‘reshape the perception of sustainable fashion’.
Amy’s Bug collection is totally covetable, inspired by “the people we meet, the clothing we wear and the places we find ourselves,” says Amy. Y
ou’ll want to wear these pieces every day, day and night. We’re hooked.
3. The Acey
The Acey is an online store curating stylish pieces from planet-friendly brands plus their very own The Acey collection, which is comprised of five simple and flattering wardrobe staples. “We believe contemporary clothing should be made with a conscience. If we look after the people and planet they’ll look after us. We search for new and innovative brands with integrity – the ones who are doing the right thing, not the easy thing. The people who take responsibility for the processes and purpose of every product and never compromise on style.”
4. Ninety percent fashion
This London-based label launched just this year is based on an inspiring new business model that reinvests profits across a range of organisations that safeguard people and the planet.
The collection is feminine and low maintenance. Expect well-made staples that will form the base of a stylish wardrobe. Relaxed silhouettes, alongside close-fit jersey staples and sumptuous knits. The garments are made in excellent manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh and Turkey, and the brand shares 90% of its distributed profits between charitable causes and those who make the collections happen.
“Most of our jersey pieces are made from organic cotton while Tencel, (made from renewable wood pulp in a closed loop system), is one of the most heavily featured materials in our collection. Sometimes the fabrics required for our more technically demanding designs aren’t quite as sustainable as we’d like. When this happens, research begins on how to develop and improve for future collections. Sustainability is an endeavour that’s high on our agenda; we’ll share our progress and encourage your feedback as we start this journey.”
OK, so Reformation isn’t brand new. This hip L.A.-based fashion label was set up by Yael Aflalo in 2009 after learning about fashion’s negative environmental impact while working on her first fashion brand Ya-Ya in the late 90s.
After witnessing terrible factory conditions in China she became disenchanted, she quit Ya-Ya and started planning for a brand that wasn’t harmful. Say hello to Reformation, with its tagline: ‘Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. Reformation is #2’.
Yael’s beautiful brand repurposes vintage clothing, uses super sustainable materials and rescues deadstock fabrics to turn out clothes we want to wear. Go online and you can see the pictures of the people who make your clothes and how they’re made.
Reformation’s ultimate mission: to make effortless silhouettes that celebrate the feminine figure. Expect extremely flattering and wearable dresses and separates, including denim and swimwear plus beautiful woven bags made from chromium-free and vegetable tanned leather. Yael has even branched out to wedding dresses.
Yael pledges ‘For every jean you buy, we will clean an additional thousand gallons of water,’ and she’s launched an app that lets you know just how much water and energy you’ll be saving by buying their goods – so you can feel nothing but good about your most recent purchase.
It’s time to shop smart Foxes.