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The global fashion industry is one of the largest, most influential industries on the planet, generating an estimated EUR €1.5 trillion a year. It is also one of the most impactful on our environment – but it has the power to change. From reacting to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to new advancements in recycled fabric technology, here are our favourite brands creating an eco-friendly future of fashion.
1. Brother Vellies
The luxury accessories brand celebrates traditional African design and craft by supporting artisans in South Africa, Kenya, Morocco and Ethiopia, as well as in its studios in New York and Italy. Founded by Aurora James in 2013, Brother Vellies became known for its unique footwear: raffia pumps, peace-sign boots, crochet clogs. Expanding into handbags and belts, the label never lost sight of its values and intentions to protect local communities and the planet, using vegetable-tanned leathers, soling from recycled tires, hand-carved wood and other by-product materials sourced from farmers across the globe. James also re-evaluates her brand each season to lessen the impact of production practices.
Prices from about £180, brothervellies.com 2. Monika the Label
London-based Monika Young’s brand centres around her love of Seventies California and East London cool. Proving that sustainable fashion can be sexy, the label stocks neon-pink zebra skirts, flirty cherry-print mini dresses and
Clueless-style silk scrunchies. Most pieces use Regenesis Light Satin, a material made from recycled plastic bottles, and are produced in limited quantities to avoid waste. With a factory in North London, Monika the Label reduces its carbon footprint and, best of all, items are delivered in recyclable packaging or signature tote bags. Prices from £10, monikathelabel.com 3. Bottletop
Brazil-based Bottletop started life as a small-scale business to upcycle ring pulls and promote fair pay for workers. Its Brazilian artisan team, most of whom are women, are trained by the brand and each one receives about 45 percent more in wages than the country’s average industry worker. Since being founded in 2012 the accessories label has become an international leader in the sustainability conversation. Bottletop has partnered with the UN; its leather supply chain is guaranteed to have zero deforestation impact in its production, working alongside the National Wildlife Federation; and its packaging is plastic-free. Plus its Regent Street store in London is made from upcycled ocean plastic.
Prices from £35, bottletop.org 4. Marazul
This brand was built on the belief that clothing should be made to last. While living in Costa Rica, founder Harri started making items for herself, and slowly grew her business using ethical producers in Bali and recyclable, non-plastic packaging. The range of easy-to-wear linen and canvas dresses and jumpsuits are made with natural dyes, and come in a mix of stone grey, yolk yellow and denim blue.
Prices from £100, marazulclothing.com 5. Whale of a Time
British founder Ellie Wales launched the clothing line in 2016 to combine her loves of art and textiles within a sustainable business model. Raised on the Norfolk coast, Wales draws on her seaside lifestyle for the nautical leisurewear, which is made from 100 percent organic cotton, minimising the use of chemicals. The brand is also plastic-free, and everything is created in the UK to reduce the carbon footprint from production to retail.
Prices from £15.95, whaleofatimeclothing.com 6. Lemlem
This artisan-driven collection of women’s, men’s and children’s clothing is made entirely in Africa. Supermodel Liya Kebede was inspired to launch the brand following a trip to her native Ethiopia, where she met a group of traditional weavers who no longer had a market for their craft, and the brand is committed to elevating craftsmanship and creating jobs across the continent. The cotton fibres used in handwoven collections are sourced in Africa, and dyed yarns are free from harmful chemicals. Lemlem has also designed a limited-edition collection made from biodegradable merino wool blends and has plans to introduce swimwear made from polyester fibre created using recycled plastic bottles. Packaging takes the form of recycled paper and compostable poly bags, and cutting scraps are incorporated into accessories.
lemlem.com 7. Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney has always been way ahead of the curve in her commitment to focusing on ethical practices without compromising on style. From leather alternatives to recycled nylon, cruelty-free and responsible fabrics have always been crucial – this includes the materials used to create her store in London’s Old Bond Street – and she now uses textiles from past collections to improve the brand’s self-sufficiency. Her latest campaign included members of the climate-change activist group Extinction Rebellion. stellamccartney.com
8. Mother of Pearl
Since being appointed creative director of UK-based brand Mother of Pearl in 2006, Amy Powney has refocused its ethical practices, working to trace and improve the production and sale of every item of clothing from start to finish. The use of organic and natural materials, as well as a transparent supply chain, ensure the company remains socially and environmentally responsible. From the Core collection of staples to the No Frills diffusion line, sustainability is front and centre of the brand.
motherofpearl.co.uk 9. Isabel Manns
Isabel Manns’ aim is to deliver both quality and affordability, and to do this she offers customers two outfits for the price of one with reversible fabrics. The company works with seamstresses in London who ensure the fabric is cut economically to minimise waste. Each item comes with a plain side and printed side, so you can match your look to your mood (or, indeed, your accessories). The aim is to reduce the number of pieces we collect, as everything is designed to last a lifetime, not to be thrown away after one season.
isabelmanns.com 10. Stine Goya
For the 10-plus years that she has been in the fashion business (following a successful career modelling for the likes of Chanel), Stine Goya has meticulously grown her brand of separates and dresses decorated with art-inspired prints. Now her eponymous label, which originated in Copenhagen, has reached the racks of London. This year, Goya tackled new horizons with the Sustainable Capsule collection of showpiece looks. Ethics are important across the brand, but for this collection the aim was 100 per cent sustainability: silk used was woven from only the empty cocoons of silkworms, prints were created without the need for water use, and sequins were made from recycled and recyclable PET polyester mix.
stinegoya.com 11. Ninety Percent
Launched in 2018, Ninety Percent was born out of the spirit of giving back. Ninety per cent of the brand’s profits are shared between both those who have worked on the collection through every stage of its development, and a number of charitable causes. Customers are invited to vote for their chosen cause using the unique code found in the care label of the piece of clothing they’ve bought. The charities include two environmental causes, Wild Aid and Big Life, two focused on children, Children’s Hope and War Child UK, and an organisation that empowers women, BRAC. Pared-back luxury basics are made from organic cotton and merino.
ninetypercent.com 12. Mara Hoffman
New York-based designer Mara Hoffman has become the industry standard in her field. She sources natural and organic fabrics from trusted mills and has championed fibres made from recycled plastics – in February 2019, she became the first ever person to receive the Champion of Sustainability Leading the Change award from recycling innovators Unifi. Hoffman stresses the importance of transparency within supply chains and her company frequently assesses working conditions from factory to sales. The brand’s mission statement is to prevent materials from ending up in landfill, and Hoffman says there is no end point to achieving sustainability.
marahoffman.com 13. Maggie Marilyn
Aligned with the New Zealand government’s plan to be a carbon-zero country by 2050, Auckland-based Maggie Hewitt is pioneering the standard for sustainable fashion with her brand Maggie Marilyn. There’s a mission statement of sustainability aims for 2020 on the company website, which includes using at least 30 per cent recycled fibres in garments, aiming to ensure responsible water and chemical usage and working with freight partners to minimise carbon emissions. Wholesale packaging is compostable, and there are plans to roll this out across consumer sales too. Hewitt has also launched Somewhere, a seasonless collection of wardrobe staples that are all fully traceable through the supply chain from farm to finished item. The line aims to create circular fashion – pieces are designed to last a lifetime, but if they’re no longer wanted they can be remanufactured into new garments.
maggiemarilyn.com 14. Kayu
Championing women is at the heart of Kayu’s brand ethos. The California-based company eschews mass-produced designs and instead works with cooperatives and artisans in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, using locally sourced, eco-friendly materials including natural straw, shell and reclaimed wood. The straw is woven by women’s cooperatives and is assembled in a family-owned factory in Manila. Often the weavers work from home, allowing them to look after their children as well as work, while monogramming is embroidered by female immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area.
shop.kayudesign.com 15. Caralarga
Caralarga was launched in 2014 in Mexico when the brand’s founders realised that raw cotton threads and textile offcuts discarded because of production errors offered the possibility to rethink waste and used it as a medium to create unique sustainable jewellery and clothes. As the company grew, it employed artisans who had preserved the knowledge and techniques involved in working with other natural materials such as the fibres extracted from the sansevieria plant and recycled bull horn. Now Caralarga creates a wide variety of designs using an array of materials – from textile statement earrings to raw-cotton clothing and large-format pieces designed for interiors.
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