Gucci? Prada? Nope. These luxurious sustainable fashion brands are way more beautiful – and ethical!
By Amma Aburam
Luxurious sustainable fashion brands used to be something of an oxymoron. I mean, remember when ‘sustainable fashion’ meant loose, multi-coloured hippy pants and scratchy sweaters? Those days are well and truly over, as the most renowned designers across the fashion industry are producing eco-friendlier and more sustainable collections season after season.
But here’s something that might surprise you: just because you’re paying more for a so-called ‘luxury’ garment, it doesn’t mean the workers who made it are better paid. In fact, some luxury fashion products are made in the very same factories as high street brands! And labels that are firmly associated with Italian-made luxury, such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Armani, are very likely made by low-paid workers in China today.
So, what should you look for in sustainable luxury fashion items? How can you tell a brand is truly ‘luxurious’ – and ethical? I have a few answers to those questions.
What to look for in sustainable luxury fashion
1. Attention to detail
The ultimate in luxurious, slow fashion has to be haute couture. And couture is pretty much defined by attention to detail. That means: hand-sewn details, such as beads and embroidery, as opposed to glued-on, for example. It means strictly aligned stitches, made with thread that integrates perfectly in the design. It also means those workers (called petit mains in the industry) are going to be very well paid. And so prices are going to be correspondingly high.
2. Natural and/or innovative materials
Covetable raw materials such as fur, silk and exotic skins, were once associated with luxury. Thank heavens, that’s all changing! Due to popular demand, major luxury players are quickly dropping animal based products like fur. Instead, they’re beginning to experiment with more high-tech sustainable textiles and techniques. Burberry and Kering are leading the way with the development of new technologies like lab-grown leather and 3D printing, for example.
3. Extraordinary aesthetics
Part of what you’re paying for with luxurious sustainable fashion brands is their design. The aesthetics of any given item should reflect the brand’s signature style, and it should be fairly unique. It’s not for nothing that fashionistas can tell a Tom Ford from a Hedi Slimane collection; each designer has a distinctive approach to their creations.
4. Excellent customer care
If you’ve ever frequented a luxury fashion store, you’ll have experienced incredible customer care. The salesperson will learn your name; record your preferences and shopping history; and send you notices of sample sales, for example. Of course, they’ll also help you select the perfect item, and ensure it fits your body well, with adjustments made if necessary. Should something rip, tear or break, they will be more than happy to help you repair it.
5. High prices
Yes my friends, true luxury doesn’t come cheap! If you’re wearing artisan-made clothing crafted from the world’s most sumptuous fabrics, it won’t be cheap. And that’s a good thing!
Here below, we’ve found some sustainable luxury fashion brands that are dedicated to constructing gorgeous clothing made by skilled hands, from natural, luxe and innovative materials. Anything you buy should last a lifetime!
13 Sustainable Luxury Fashion Brands We Love
1. St Roche
Ruffles. Embroidery. Pintucks. Covered button closures. These are but a few of the meticulously detailed fashion techniques employed by St Roche.
Believing clothing should be made with a conscience, the luxurious sustainable fashion brand works directly with carefully selected partners in India and Peru, who are fully committed to ethical labour practices. They incorporate GOTS-certified, organically grown cotton, biodegradable Tencel, and sustainably produced alpaca into their classically feminine collections.
Best for: Eternally chic, French-girl style
2. Mara Hoffman
Some may not realise that this well-known designer has gone full on ethical and sustainable. After all, she’s been creating collections for almost two decades.
But in recent years, Mara Hoffman has transitioned her label to be as eco-friendly and ethical as possible. She does this by crafting each collection in socially responsible conditions using ethically sourced natural and recycled fabrics. As if that weren’t enough, all of her collections are now fully vegan, too.
Given her incredible design talent and the high quality of textiles she uses, it’s no wonder Hoffman made it to the top of our list of luxurious sustainable fashion brands.
Best for: Swimwear with an edge; flowing, refreshing summer styles
For Mastani, sustainable luxury fashion is defined by close attention to detail and the unique quality that comes with creating garments by hand. By using traditional Indian dyeing, weaving, sewing and embellishment techniques, Mastani aims to preserve and revitalise Indian craftsmanship.
Naturally dyed, hand-loomed peace silk has become the brand’s signature fabric within their much-coveted limited-edition collections.
Best for: Modern luxury clothing made with ancient techniques.
VOZ creates modern heirlooms by working with Chilean artisans to co-design their luxurious sustainable fashion pieces. This partnership provides a sustainable livelihood and free professional educational programs to Mapuche women in Chile.
The brand prides itself on using biodegradable materials such as baby alpaca, pima cotton, and silk. By marrying traditional Latin styles with Western tastes, they create a universal, human connection in their garments.
Best for: Sustainable luxury fashion with a Latin touch
Looking for luxuriously casual, rich girl fashion you can wear almost anywhere? Look no further! Ninety Percent is a relatively new label that uses materials like 100% organic cotton, Tencel and hemp to make leisure wear that’s so comfortable, you can practically live in it!
So…why is it called Ninety Percent when it’s collections are 100% sustainable, you may ask? Well, that’s because a whopping 90% of its profits go to charities around the globe. What’s not to love?
Best for: Comfortable casual wear with a luxurious edge
This luxurious sustainable fashion brand has gone from strength to strength for several reasons. Not only has it been called the ‘American Hermes’ due to its superior quality garments, but it has also gained a plethora of celebrity fans. These include Nicole Kidman, Brie Larson and Demi Moore (amongst many others). They love the label for its all natural fibres, bioplastic packaging, and female artisans, who help to hand-make many of the garments.
Gabriela Hearst is also an innovator when it comes to merging tech and fashion. For example, she ensures her customers are protected from mobile phone and mast radiation by using an anti-radiation fabric that shields against these harmful frequencies. Her previous resort collections even introduced an aloe-treated linen that actually moisturises the skin!
Best for: Innovative, interesting sustainable luxury fashion that A-listers love
Silk, organic cotton, linen and hemp are just some of the eco-friendly fabrics this sustainable luxury fashion brand loves to use. Their style is easy, breezy and beachy, with billowy sleeves, loose waist-lines and flowing, feminine ruffles featuring heavily in their latest collection.
Loup Charmant (which is French for ‘charming wolf’) also makes organic cotton and silk sleepwear that’s almost gorgeous enough to wear outside!
Best for: Feminine, flirty styles with French flair
Stella McCartney is a shining example of how a high-end luxury fashion brand can successfully build an empire based on ethical practices. As the first 100% vegetarian fashion company committed to 0% animal cruelty, the brand has spent years coming up with the best leather alternatives. They’ve done a great job incorporating these into their collections.
Stella herself takes on a realistic approach to sustainable luxury fashion. She understands how achieving full sustainability is a continuous journey that envelops all aspects of the supply chain. As a result, she aims not only to include eco-friendly textiles in her collections, but also to reduce energy use in her stores, factories, warehouses and offices.
Best for: Perfect tailoring; sustainable luxury vegan fashion
9. Flor et. al
This is one of my favourite luxurious sustainable fashion brands! Every time I see their collections, I can’t help but think of what Serena and Blair would wear in Gossip Girl. These tops, trousers and dresses wouldn’t at all look out of place on the Upper-East Side in New York, or in the bistros of Paris.
Made by well-paid craftsmen around the world, as well small artisans in India, these garments feature gorgeous attention to detail. Think: perfect draping; stand-out cuffs and generous frills. And get this: flor et. al’s collections are even more ethical since they’ve partnered with NEST, a non-profit that connects artisans and designers all over the globe.
Best for: Wonderfully designed dresses that are the next best thing to couture
Talk about girl power! Zero + Maria Cornejo is a company owned and operated by women. Chilean born Maria Cornejo founded the brand in 1998 by turning a space in New York city into a personal atelier.
From its inception, the brand has aimed at developing special collaborations with women artisans from around the world to help lift them out of poverty.
Best for: Edgy, urban styles for seriously cutting edge, feminist fashionistas
If you’ve seen more covetable clothing on the red carpets these days, it’s probably because more celebs are being dressed by Amur. Of all the luxurious sustainable fashion brands here, this glamorous label has become a top favourite with the likes of Alexis Bledel, Elizabeth Hurley, Nicole Richie and many other A-listers. They praise not only the incredible draping and feminine frills Amur provides, but the fact that these stunning garments incorporate cupro, hemp, linen and organic cotton.
Best for: Red carpet outfits that make a serious statement
12. Bamford Organics
The 100% natural clothing of this brand has long appealed to the British elite. Founder Carol Bamford uses only the finest natural fibres to create her posh, casual garments. These include cardigans, bath robes, sweaters and trousers.
Her philosophy based on the notions of timelessness and purity, and this is reflected in her classical style. All items are made by some of the best artisans in the world, from materials such as 100% cotton, linen and cashmere.
Best for: Feeling like the Lady of the Manor!
13. Dai London
This recently-launched British luxurious sustainable fashion brand features elegant tailoring of high tech, sustainable fabrics, such as Italian sourced Sensitive ® Fabrics. Their raw materials are Oeko-Tex ® and/or REACH certified whenever possible, too.
In addition to working with these eco-friendly textiles, the brand is also socially ethical. They’ve partnered with Dress for Success Greater London, a chapter of the global non-profit organisation that sartorially helps women in need of employment.
Best for: Impeccable tailoring; innovative materials
Which is your favourite luxurious sustainable fashion brand? Let us know in the comments, below!
All images courtesy the brands. First image: Stella McCartney