By Amma Aburam
Remember when ‘sustainable fashion’ meant loose, multicoloured hippy pants and scratchy sweaters? Those days are well and truly over, as designers across the fashion industry are taking the leap to produce eco-friendlier and sustainability conscious clothes. Their luxury factor is found in their commitment to create beautiful styles constructed from the most exquisite of natural materials such as vicuña, peace silk and Orange Fiber, all assembled by fairly paid, highly skilled artisans.
Talk about girl power! Zero + Maria Cornejo is a company owned and run 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 aimed at developing special collaborations with women artisans from around the world and it worked. Not only does the brand empower women, 70% of its garments are produced in the heart of New York’s garment district while the rest is produced in independently owned factories in Italy. Zero+ Maria Cornejo is a self-professed fabric geek and uses ecological and sustainable fabrics like cotton and voiles.
Unique is an understatement for Maiyet. The brand draws from some of the rarest skills and traditions in garment making to create fashion like no other. One of its signature garment making technique is the appliqué, a textile embellishment skill mastered in various regions of India. Maiyet partners with global artisans and works with NEST a non-for-profit organization dedicated to developing artisan businesses. The brand has a real dedication to true craftsmanship, design and excellent service. Their garments are popular for the use of Varanasi silks, silk organza and twills to mention a few.
Merging classic silhouettes with vintage-inspired details, Margu delivers a range of luxury fashion that plays with both femininity and quiet sophistication. All fabrics, notions and trims are sustainably sourced from all over the world, and each individual garment is handmade in a tiny studio belonging to designer and creator Emily DeLong in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Margu’s FW17 collection is borrowing a touch of the glamour from 1930’s fashion with a bold colour palette, dramatic lines and subtle motifs and will showcase brand new fabrics, including organic cottons, hand-dyed silks and a vintage-inspired custom floral print.
Silk, bamboo and organic cotton are the main fabrics used by German brand Kemp Gadegard, a design studio that celebrates aesthetics, craftsmanship and of course, sustainability. The luxury label produces all of its garments by hand in Spain, with great attention to detail. Want a description of what this brand does? They say it themselves quite beautifully:
“All of us are activists and investors in the present and future we want to build. By buying slowly, for the long haul, and wearing slowly and meaningfully, we are actively questioning the current system of disposable objects with built-in obsolescence and creating awareness about the environment, global labour standards, and their political implications.”
Stella McCartney is a shining example of how a high-end luxury fashion brand can successfully build an empire based on sustainable 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 and has done a great job incorporating these into its collections. The brand is inspired by a realistic approach to sustainable fashion and understands how achieving full sustainability is a continuous journey that will eventually envelop all aspects of its supply chain. These efforts cannot be ignored and the brand’s beautiful pieces show that not giving up pays off.
Cienne’s minimalistic, universally flattering styles are created from globally sourced, all natural materials. Championed by Nicole Heim, the brand works with artisans from around the world and ethically assembles its collections at the heart of New York’s garment district. Nicole is known to travel the world to meet and learn from the artisans her brand works with. For example, a trip to Bolivia to unearthed the secrets of the country’s locally sourced alpaca, as well as traditional Bolivian weaving practices.
This is a brand that’s on a mission to help artisans around the world by giving them the necessary tools and finances to preserve their garment creation skills and art forms. Harare is radically transparent about how and where its garments are made, from Sri Lanka and Peru to Guatemala. In each of these nations, the label nurtures relations with expert artisans and textile producers to create their beautiful handmade batiks and exquisitely hand woven designs, with a slightly ethnic flare.
Siizu is a luxurious and affordable sustainable brand which boasts clean, beautiful designs that wouldn’t be out of place at say, Hermès or Donna Karan. But unlike those two labels, this one is focused on sustainability in various ways; for example, by choosing fabric manufacturers and factories close to each other to minimize the carbon footprint from shipping. Of course, their soft, perfectly draped fabrics are all 100% eco-friendly – merino wool and cashmere sweaters are sourced and manufactured the Italian countryside and inner Mongolia, respectively.
Tome’s founders Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin wanted to go beyond typical sustainability. The brand used one of its key items, the white shirt, to as its standard for social and environmental sustainability in its production. The White Shirt Project started in collaboration with Katie Ford’s foundation: Freedom for all which fights human trafficking and slavery. This challenged the designers to re-examine their supply chain and standard of production. Since then, they incorporate sustainable practices throughout their supply chain by visiting the women who work for them in factories, consistently monitoring their supply chain and producing locally to reduce pollution. The collections feature modern dirndl designs, beautiful silks and cottons.
We’ve always loved this independent label, but this year, Annaborgia’s creative director and founder, Daniela Degrassi, discovered two sustainable vegan leathers that she’s incorporated into her range, making it all the more interesting. The fabrics are a supple black eco-leather (made in Italy) and a beautiful taupe vegan suede. Both materials were employed in the design of several skirts, bags and accessories, all of which were ethically made in small batches by skilled seamstresses in the San Francisco Bay area or in Italy. We love everything in Annaborgia’s collections, but especially their recent vegan leather capsule collection – a rare offer from a sustainable luxury brand.
Edun has a great mission: to source production and encourage trade in Africa by supporting manufacturers, partnering with African artists and artisans, as well as creating community-based initiatives. The brand is backed by LVMH and was founded by couple Ali Hewson and U2 frontman Bono in 2005. It’s done a great job producing over 80% of its collections in sub Saharan Africa. It’s last head designer Danielle Sherman was greatly inspired by the continent. 100% cottons, silk and wool are features in various collections.
Ankura is a luxury sustainable brand that’s rooted in beautiful Peru. It is committed to sourcing high-end natural materials like Baby Alpaca and Pima cotton. Its materials are certified by the likes of Global Organic Textile Standard and the USDA Organic. The brand also makes it a point to work closely with artisans and collaborators to ensure fair wages and safe labour. Ankura created the Artisan’s project, an initiative that focuses on creating fair jobs for skilled artisans in Peru. It’s easy to fall for their beautiful alpaca knit dresses or their bracelets put together with baby silk fibres.
The 100% natural clothing, as well as skin and body care products of this brand appeal to the British elite. Founder Carol Bamford is inspired by and uses the finest natural fibres from organic and botanic ingredients for both clothes and body care products. Their philosophy is serene is based on the notions of timelessness and purity and this reflects completely in their collections. Items are made thanks to and through some of the best artisans in the world with materials such as 100% cotton, linen and silk.
This is definitely a brand for all travel lovers. Globetrotters Dana Alikhani and Tatiana Santo Domingo created the brand in 2009 with the goal of promoting fair labour practices and showcasing artisan crafted goods. Today, the brand offers ethically-sourced handmade luxury goods produced by 16 artisan communities across the world. The award-winning (UN Fashion for Development Award) brand uses 100% alpaca wool, traditional black silk from Peru and rayon for their garments (to name a few).
This recently launched British 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 materials, the brand is also 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.
Brazilian born, London based designer Mariana Jungmann uses a variety of sustainable techniques and fabrics in her intricately designed clothing. Hand stitching and zero waste cutting is used to create luxurious pret a porter collections that are unabashedly feminine and sexy.
Cashmere, wool and cotton are but a few of the rich, elegant materials used by this jacket-specialist brand. Each one of a kind piece makes a strong statement, and this British design house is only too happy to take bespoke orders. The philosophy behind the brand is to offer only a few items each season, meaning there’s no deadstock waste.
Amma Aburan is an ex fast-fashion shopaholic turned sustainable fashion enthusiast and founder of StyleandSustain.com