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 primitively tailored jackets were the norm.
Thankfully, that’s now all changed, with a crop of new sustainable designers emerging each year for women of all ages, sizes and styles. Here’s our selection of 5 Sustainable Designers for Summer – both old and new – focused on making gorgeous summer wardrobes for any fashion tribe.
Arty European: 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 fabrics, the collections are developed and executed in Germany, following a series of very clever zero-waste principles devised by the designer. The final product is a unique piece of women’s ready to wear.
Trained as a both fashion and textile designer, and holding a master’s degree in Sustainability in Fashion, Bojana Draca has a recognizably bold, European style. In her work, she combines strong concepts with technical skills and sustainable design strategies, such as her special zero-waste cutting technique, using only rectangular pattern pieces – all of which look fresh and modern in any European 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.
Image credits: Claudia Klein | make-up Patricia Heck | styling Cristina Chirila | Model Josipa Sonic Models
Beach Babe: Karen Roth
What do you want in a summer dress? Floaty sleeves? A lengthy hem? Something with sexy cut outs, or demure lace? Karen Roth offers it all. Many of her new designs are available with customizable options such as sleeve/hem length, fabric choice, and more, allowing you to create the summer wardrobe of your dreams.
It’s an atypical offering for a high street label, but with a Ph.D. in educational psychology and more than 25 years of experience in the fashion industry as an international model, photographer, and freelance fashion coordinator, Karen Roth is not your typical designer. Her first priority as a player in the fashion world is not to design, but to educate and inspire others in an attempt to elevate the industry through conscious and responsible production practices, as she states here on her website.
Over the course of her career, Roth began to realize the impact of the harmful practices that plague the fashion industry, including unfair labor practices, heavy environmental pollutants, and animal harm. With each collection she designs, her goal is to make beautiful, comfortable clothing that not only benefits the consumer, but the producers as well.
Country Chic: Alabama Chanin
Natalie Chanin, the founder of Alabama Chanin, 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).
Thanks to her sustainable practices and great designs, in 2013, Alabama Chanin won the CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge, a competition in which designers are judged on just how dedicated they are to sustainable design and production, buying ethically sourced materials, and being transparent about their practices, all whilst producing gorgeous clothing.
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 Alabama Chanin 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 rock star herself (although, like the songwriter Sia, she doesn’t enjoy being photographed).
Sophisticated Cool: Eileen Fisher
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, designer Eileen Fisher has made it a priority to create clothing that is not only comfortable, chic, and timeless, but is also environmentally sustainable. Though using organic cotton and other lasting fabrics in her pieces made her more eco-conscious than most major designers three decades ago, Fisher has since gone further to ensure the brand’s sustainability in each garment it produces.
Her most recent collections, which can be found here, center around the idea of being mindful about clothing – she currently offers The Eco Collection, the Green Eileen initiative (where customers can recycle their gently worn Eileen Fisher clothing), and her latest step toward green practices in the fashion industry, the Vision2020 campaign (which promises that all Eileen Fisher products will be environmentally sustainable by the year 2020 and the company’s U.S. operations carbon positive within five years, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Boho Rose: St Roche
This definitively Boho sustainable women’s wear label was launched in 2014 by Sue Stemp and Paud Roche.
Their High Summer 2016 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, demonstrating how the brand likes to mix cultural references and reinterpret them into a relaxed, feminine, beachy collections, using Indian artisanal textile techniques and natural fibers; organic and sustainable locally woven cottons. Perfect for staying cool in the city and looking hot by the pool!