These sustainable summer styles are light on the skin and easy on the planet!
By Diane Small
Once upon a time, eco-friendly fashion designers offered what can only be termed as ‘hippy clothing’ for summers. Neutrally coloured, shapeless dresses, ubiquitous organic cotton tees and and wide-legged ‘genie’ pants were the norm. But over the past decade, ethical fashion has improved by leaps and bounds, and today, sustainable summer style is downright chic.
In fact, many eco-designers are, quite frankly, outdoing their more traditional counterparts. They’re producing beautifully cut skirts, pants, dresses, tops and even handbags that match or rival designers like Chanel or Fendi.
The main difference? They’re all crafted from natural, eco-friendly, and often vegan friendly fabrics. And, they’re ensuring all these garments are ethically produced, too.
Here’s our selection of some of the best sustainable summer styles by top designers we think you’ll love – no matter what fashion tribe you belong to.
Super Sustainable Summer Styles You’ll Love!
1. Farrah Floyd
Summer in the city? This chic label is for you! It isn’t actually created by a designer of the same name – Bojana Draca is the talent here. Using innovative, eco-friendly fabrics, her collections are developed and executed in Germany, following a series of very clever zero-waste principles devised by this designer. The final product is a unique brand of women’s ready-to-wear with a slightly artsy touch.
Trained as a both fashion and textile designer and holding a master’s degree in Sustainability in Fashion, Draca has a recognizably bold, European style. In her work, she loves to combine strong concepts with technical skills and sustainable design strategies. Specifically, her special zero-waste cutting technique (seen above and below) uses only rectangular pattern pieces – all of which look fresh and modern in any global capital.
By challenging the limits of fabrics and playing with various shapes and colours, she has earned herself several awards, including the bronze in the Creative Conscience Award:UK in 2012 and being a finalist at the EcoChic Design Awards in Hong Kong.
Best sustainable summer styles for: Arty, European style
Image credits: Claudia Klein | make-up Patricia Heck | styling Cristina Chirila | Model Josipa Sonic Models
2. Mara Hoffman
What are you looking for in your summer wardrobe? Floaty fabrics? A lengthy hem? Swimwear with sexy cut outs, or bold prints? Mara Hoffman offers it all.
Hoffman was once a famed designer who didn’t give much thought to sustainability. But over the course of her career, she began to realize the impact that the harmful practices that plague the fashion industry have on the planet.
She became increasingly horrified by unfair labour practices, heavy environmental pollutants, and animal harm. Now, with each collection she designs, her goal is to make beautiful, comfortable clothing that not only benefits the consumer, but the producers as well.
She uses vegan-and-planet friendly fabrics and dyes to create all of her ethically made garments. And since she made these changes, her career and brand have simply skyrocketed in popularity!
Best sustainable summer styles for: Designer beachwear
Natalie Chanin, the founder of Alabama Chanin, is a country girl at heart. She creates uniquely textured summer dresses, jackets, tops and skirts inspired by broderie Anglaise that are made from 100% organic cotton as well as repurposed and reclaimed materials. Every garment is sourced sustainably, from seed (grown in Texas) to fabric (hand-sewn in the designer’s hometown of Florence, Alabama by a group of talented artisans).
Chanin, a textile artist and pioneer of organic cotton couture, worked for two decades as a junior sportswear designer in New York and as a stylist for music videos and advertisements in Europe before moving back to her hometown of Florence to start her label in 2006.
Her designs, sewn by local artisans and reflective of the flora and fauna of Florence, began to attract the attention of the singers she admired whilst making music videos, and they spread the world about her brand. With her shock of white hair, dark eyes and wide smile, Chanin looks like a bit like a country music star herself (although, like the songwriter Sia, she doesn’t enjoy being photographed).
Best sustainable summer styles for: Country girl chic
Loose, sophisticated and easy, Eileen Fisher’s designs look as glamorous on the beaches of Ibiza as they do in the riads of Morocco.
Since launching her brand more than 30 years ago, the designer has made it a priority to create clothing that is not only comfortable, chic, and timeless, but is also environmentally sustainable by using 100% natural materials like organic cotton and linen.
She also offers the Green Eileen initiative, where customers can recycle their gently worn Eileen Fisher clothing, for in-house discounts, and her Vision2020 campaign promises that all Eileen Fisher products will be environmentally sustainable by the year 2020, and that the company’s U.S. operations will all be carbon positive within five years. This is definitely a woman with an eye on the future!
Best sustainable summer styles for: Sophisticated classics; wearing to the workplace
5. St Roche
This definitively Boho sustainable women’s wear label was launched in 2014 by sustainable luxury designers Sue Stemp and Paud Roche.
Their summer collection was influenced by the Camargue gypsies and their eclectic bi-annual festival in Santes-Maries where Romanies gather in the South of France from all over Europe. It features romantic Flamenco ruffles with contrast piping, beautiful antique broderie Anglaise from Provence, traditional Rajasthani embroidery and hand printed textiles with hints of influential designer Giorgio di Sant’Angelo.
It all demonstrates how the brand likes to mix cultural references and reinterpret them into a relaxed, feminine, beachy collections. We love how Indian artisanal textile techniques are applied to organic cotton and sustainable locally grown linen. Both fabrics are perfect for staying cool in the city and looking hot by the pool!
Best sustainable summer styles for: French girl chic; sweet blouses
6. Vitamin A
Founded in 2000 by California native Amahlia Stevens, Vitamin A combines feminine design with sustainable innovation. Though the brand is best known for its bikinis, the brand has branched out into a casually chic line of playsuits, shorts, skirts and tops.
Most of its its range of summer clothing is also produced locally in California, but if they can’t make something locally, they partner with Fair Trade artisan groups to promote women’s economic empowerment in the developing world.
For her most recent collection, Amahlia was inspired by ‘70s beach glamour and the modern muses who collect her designs. “We’re all about effortless, natural sexiness and that laid-back West Coast vibe that is in our DNA,” she says. In keeping with her ethics of responsible production. Amahlia always gives back a portion of proceeds directly to environmental organizations that help to protect our oceans.
Best sustainable summer styles for: Carefree beach babes
If you love being stopped in the street by people asking “where did you get that?” about your clothing, then you need to check out Maggie Marilyn’s collections!
Defined by a fresh point of view on fashion, this young New Zealand-based designer’s clothing is all 100% ethically made from sustainable materials, including GOTS certified organic cotton, organic wool and recycled polyester.
We love her flirty dresses, beautifully cut jackets and tops and playsuits with a twist – literally!
Best sustainable summer styles for: Serious fashionistas
It’s a beautiful fact that most sustainable fashion brands are run by fashion-forward minded women. But there are some exceptions, and Ninety Percent is one of them.
Former Buying Manager for Net A Porter Ben Matthews is the designer behind Ninety Percent, a sustainable luxury brand best known for transforming eco-materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester, Tencel and EcoVera into casual wear with a sophisticated edge.
The London-based label also distributes a whopping 90% of its profits between those who make each collection happen and four charities – you even get a chance to decide which causes the funds are donated to.
Best sustainable summer styles for: The girl who loves her athleisure
Created with women of all shapes, sizes, ages and colours in mind, Gudrun Sjoden is the perfect label for women who love a bit of brightness in their wardrobe! This colourful brand was launched in 1976 by the woman herself, and has evolved to become one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly clothing manufacturers in the world.
Today, the Swedish designer’s clothes are sold all around the world via her webshop, and Gudrun has received many accolades as a designer and entrepreneur, including the King of Sweden’s Litteris et Artibus Medal and ELLE Sweden’s Sustainability Award.
And of course, she has also amassed a dedicated following of devoted women who adore her unique prints and bold use of colour.
Best sustainable summer styles for: Arty, quirky style
It’s an unfortunate fact that sustainable fashion isn’t always within everyone’s budget. So thank heavens for the ASOS Responsible Edit!
Here, you’ll find a wide selection of clothing by different brands that has been selected for its sustainability. Choose from organic cotton jumpsuits, Tencel trousers, hemp tees and recycled plastic bottle shoes, for example. Styles are often modelled by ASOS customers themselves, allowing you to see what these outfits will look like on ‘real’ people.
And the best part? Most items are $50 or less!
Best sustainable summer styles for: Trend loving gals on a budget
Headed by model-turned-designer Liya Kebede, LemLem was launched with the aim of preserving the centuries-old weaving techniques of her Kebede’s native Ethiopia, thus simultaneously creating jobs for local artisans.
The result is meticulously handcrafted dresses, tops, kaftans, skirts and pants created from locally sourced cotton that’s detailed with vibrant embroidery. No wonder so many celebs, including Leandra Medine and Eva Chen, are fans of label’s breezy style.
Best sustainable summer styles for: Frills and feminine touches
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