Among the crowds marching at the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. on the weekend was a group of over 30 models who traveled to the capital from New York, to bring attention to issues of sustainability in the fashion industry and beyond.
Although many shoppers are not aware, fashion is a highly polluting industry. Chemical-based dyes, the production of synthetic fibers such as polyester and even growing cotton, which can involve herbicides and oil-powered machinery, can all be hugely harmful to the environment. On top of that, there’s the massive carbon footprint that results from flying tonnes of garments around the world from manufacturers to retailers.
Fast fashion is of course one of the industry’s biggest culprits, since pieces are cheaper and of lower quality, we feel encouraged to throw them away and buy a whole new wardrobe each season. Indeed, Greenpeace estimates that the European Union alone generates 1.5 to 2 million tonnes of used clothing each year. That’s not to say however that luxury brands are without blame and in order to buy responsibly, shoppers must do their research to find brands that put sustainability at the center of their business model.
With that in mind, here are some eco-friendly fashion brands balancing sustainability with style:
Founded in 2004, French footwear brand Veja sources organic fair trade cotton from Brazil, along with rubber tapped from wild trees using a technique that doesn’t damage the plants. The shoes are made in the Southern state of Rio Grande Do Sul, where fair wages are guaranteed. Did we mention Emma Watson is a fan of the brand’s stylish, minimalist sneakers?
A pioneer of slow fashion, People Tree has been producing stylish clothing for men and women for over 25 years. All pieces are made by artisans and producers who conform to the World Fair Trade Organization’s standards, while the brand also ensures that production methods are as safe as possible. This means organic cotton, safe dyes and biodegradable materials.
The new H&M Conscious Exclusive collection launched on April 20, with a gown made from Bionic — a polyester made from recycled shoreline plastic — as the standout piece. Elsewhere, the line features organic silk and cotton and even unisex fragrances made from organic oils. H&M is aiming to use only organic cotton across its whole range by 2020.
British designer Stella McCartney has prioritized sustainability from day one, and her brand is famous for its high-fashion take on vegan footwear and bags. McCartney employs a team that analyzes the environmental profit and loss of every move her business makes, and she has recently released a video encouraging shoppers to keep their garments for longer and wash them less.
Made’s ethical jewelry collections are handmade in Kenya by skilled artisans using environmentally friendly materials. Many pieces are made from recycled brass, which is sourced for a fair price from local communities. Made has collaborated on jewelry designs with brands from across the spectrum, including Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger, Topshop and ASOS.
American outdoor brand Patagonia has made a huge effort to show that their love of nature is about more than just selling clothes. All cotton used is exclusively organic, while fleece, wool and down are all recycled. The brand also offers repairs on its products to encourage customers to keep their garments for longer.
If it’s sustainable running shoes you’re after, then look out for the brand’s Parley editions of its bestselling Ultraboost sneakers. The collection, which launches on May 10 is made from marine plastic, with each pair reusing an average of 11 plastic bottles worth of debris. Adidas also offers Z.N.E, a range of sportswear made from natural dyes as opposed to harmful chemicals. JB