Sustainable Fashion - Not All About Hemp
If the term ‘sustainable fashion’ makes you think of unwearable fabrics and outfits that are only acceptable in Goa after a very strong happy shake, think again. The years of sustainable design being out in the fashion wilderness are well and truly over thanks to those who have the brains to see that style doesn’t have to be cruel or damaging.
At the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2014, Orsola de Castro (founder of From Somewhere) gave an interview in which she said, “The reality is that sustainable fashion really is fashion. It’s everything else that isn’t sustainable that should be called as such,” raising an interesting point about why we consider ‘fast fashion’ to be real fashion whereas sustainable fashion – designed and made in a way much more akin to how fashion really began – has to be bestowed with a tag that separates, and perhaps alienates, it.
Given the wealth of forward thinking modern materials and production techniques, plus the vast resource of innovative and creative talent in and around the industry, (we hope) the day could soon come when slow fashion, sustainable fashion, ethical fashion – whatever you want to call it – is all there is.
And to demonstrate that you don’t have to wear something tie dye – or pay through the nose for bespoke – to support this movement, here are some sustainable fashion designers leading the charge.
Former chemistry student Martina Spetlova started her eponymous brand in 2011 and there's something of the scientist in the way that she goes about her work. Designs are colourful and super cool but the process of creation is precise and methodical - in particular the signature weaving that produces such striking looks. Collaboration with Ecco - the world's most environmentally friendly tannery - establishes green credentials and the brand is working towards zero waste production.
Designers Rebecca and Vedran produce a limited number of garments in each Rikya London collection, offering a selection of well made basics that are pin sharp. The designs are put together by a fair-wage, sustainable atelier in Bulgaria, using reclaimed/organic/british made fabrics where possible. We particularly love their denims - made from reclaimed denim pieces already in the studio, ensuring that every piece is unique.
Ok, this is a hemp product but this exceptional eyewear brand is about as far from the dated hippy look as you could find. The brand rightly points out that hemp, the fabric, has some pretty convincing properties, including being stronger than cotton, more eco friendly than plastic and completely sustainable. Their ultra modern Hemp Eyewear sunglasses make it look pretty aesthetically pleasing too.
Freedom of Animals
Established in 2013, Freedom of Animals designs luxury bags that are cruelty free and sustainable, using materials such as post-consumer polyurethane and organic cotton to create their beautiful pieces. Even the linings are sustainable and the zippers are recycled. We love the ultra elegant design (and the fringing) and the name is rather wonderful too.
A French designer with an East London atelier, Faustine Steinmetz is a pioneering force in giving sustainable fashion its deserved dose of cool. She is also a perfect example of 'slow' fashion, investing in traditional production techniques that bring a solid sense of quality, combined with innovative experiments, such as micro-pleated denim. Hand weaving and avoiding electricity use give the label its sustainable creds.
US brand Amour Vert is the work of two former engineers whose world took a serious shift after they discovered that fashion is the second most polluting industry after big oil. Now they work with non-toxic dyes, carbon neutral fabrics and engineered textiles and have adopted a zero-waste philosophy. Their collections of cool, casual and affordable styles are irresistible, not just because they are ethical and sustainable, but because they look insanely good too.
Hands down one of the most colourful and creative brands we have ever come across, there is something totally irreverent and inspiring about Katie Jones. #wastenot is the brand's motto and the collections use designer surplus, as well as returning to more traditional handcraft to construct the colourful, textural delights. This brand really is a family business - Katie's mum even works on the team. Each piece takes between 10 and 100 hours to make so you always know you're getting something truly individual.
Svilu is a brand that creates environmentally sustainable and socially sensitive cool girl basics, from effortless dresses to super cool shorts suits. Silhouettes are a mix of feminine and slightly androgynous and the unfussy approach to colour and line is balanced with an expert eye for detail.
What we love about Auria London is that they state without a murmur of doubt that style and substance can easily coexist. This boldness, we love - and we hope bigger brands will also follow suit (swimsuit..see what we did there). Their swimwear is created from recycled fishing nets but you'd struggle to see that as the flattering cuts and super cool prints are luxurious, comfortable and cool.