Respect to the greenest fashionistas. We take our hats off to these, some of most sustainable designers ever!
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Sure, there are lots of sustainable fashion brands out there. Reformation, Amour Vert, People Tree…the list goes on. And these labels are fantastic. They’re affordable, they’re paying people ethically, and they’re using ecological materials to make their clothing. But…who’s behind those labels? Who actually designs the clothing? The truth is, we don’t really know.
It’s more than likely a whole team of nameless, faceless designers. That’s fine, but sometimes, you really want to know more about the talent behind a brand. After all, they deserve the recognition. The most sustainable designers are often pioneers in their field, willing to put their name out there for increasing scrutiny from ever-wiser and more demanding customers.
For sustainable designers, their entire reputation lies not only on the styles they imagine and produce, but also the clarity and honesty behind their production processes.
Here, we’ve found some of the most sustainable designers ever. They’re notable for not only their chic creations, but also the ethics that lie behind them. They’re talented, and they’re transparent. Which is your favourite? And who did we miss?
10 Of The Most Sustainable Designers Ever
This New York based designer is best known for two things: fabulous wedding gowns, and having appeared on the hit TV series, Project Runway.
Her work defined by its sustainability. She chooses planet-friendly materials like silk and organic cotton to make most of her pieces, and she also employs zero-waste techniques to craft her gowns, some of which look like clouds kissed by the colours of the rainbow. She clearly has a sharp knack for colour and draping – her dresses float around the wearer, like glamorous smoke.
Leanne Marshall ensures her eponymous label is further sustainable by ensuring that every made-to-order dress is produced one at a time, by fairly paid seamstresses. This way, there is no overproduction, surplus inventory, or waste.
This multi-award-winning designer is best known for being a pioneer in sustainable bridalwear. But recently, the talented designer has branched out to create some delicately beautiful pret-a-porter collections.
Specifically, her ‘ready to wear’ capsule collection, titled “The Kind Collection” features romantic blouses, elegant trousers and silky skirts.
“The Kind Collection is a celebration of the long-established conscious effort of our brand to design products that are kind to people and the planet, a selection of wardrobe staples that feel luxurious and are destined to be a ‘forever piece’ in our closet,” says the designer.
Shrestha has always celebrated century-old traditional Nepalese craftsmanship, which is employed in all of her work. Her brand has recently announced that 10% of its profits will support the brand’s ongoing efforts to help vulnerable people made homeless due to Covid lockdown measures. In particular, the collection aims to regenerate many lost livelihoods for women artisans, creating a positive impact on the environmental chain.
3. Mara Hoffman
Mara Hoffman began her career as a regular swimwear designer. But over time, she began to suffer pangs of conscience. First, she became aware of the huge impact the sourcing and disposal of fabrics had on the planet, and she swapped to more sustainable materials.
But then, she also became cognisant of how many animals suffered for fashion. She decided that there was no need to use silk, wool, leather or fur in any of her collections, when there were so many other wonderful alternatives.
Today, this designer reduces her impact on our planet by choosing to create clothing from recycled and organic fibres. Econyl, Repreve, organic cotton, linen and hemp are but a few that feature in her work. And when it comes to manufacturing, Hoffman strives to minimise energy use and waste throughout her entire production line. Of course, she also guarantees fair working conditions and wages to her artisans, too.
Zero Waste Daniel is the brand founded by Daniel Silverstein. We first met this young designer in 2013, just before he appeared on the second season of NBC American reality television series Fashion Star. On that occasion, he gained the third position on the podium and had the opportunity to have Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and John Varvatos as his celebrity mentors.
Since that time, he has continued to marry his great passion for design with his drive towards sustainability.
This New York designer is a pioneer of zero-waste cutting techniques. He also uses pre-consumer textile debris for his line of genderless clothing and accessories. His aim? To send nothing to landfill, ever. His pieces are playful and have a strong urban, hip personality.
5. Jiri Kalfar
Each item of clothing made by couture and ready-to-wear designer Jiri Kalfar has a story to tell.
Kalfar has shown throughout his work in fashion, how luxury, craftsmanship and awareness of environmental responsibility can come together to create outstanding collections.
For instance, in his Spring Summer 2021, Kalfar dreams of the blank canvas of a new world. The entire collection is pure white, created using fully organic and cruelty free materials such as Buddhist-approved ahimsa silk, vegan leather, pineapple and mushroom leathers, vintage laces and banana threads, to name just a few.
Though his designs can be quite elaborate, it’s important to note that all of this Prague-based designer’s garments are made-in-house, following a zero waste policy.
6. L Saha
L Saha is the British based label of Laboni Saha, an extraordinary designer originally from Kolkata. In each of her pieces, she coalesces her origins, through Indian artistry and style, and mixes in the cosmopolitan flair of London.
Slow fashion is the main focus of L Saha, and we love how her latest collection, which focuses on the use of macrame, was made from 100% organic cotton. Ethics, transparency, equality, diversity, pro-planet and pro-people are the philosophies that underlie her spectacular creations.
We particularly love their feminine touch, delicate prints, and keen attention to detail. These garments are designed to last in your closet for decades to come.
This luxury womenswear designer founded her eponymous brand in London in 2018. In almost no time, Hannah Fiedler skyrocketed as one of the best known names in sustainable fashion, thanks to her high-quality clothing that’s made supporting local British craftsmanship.
In fact, in 2019 Hannah’s label was awarded the Eco-Age Brandmark. She gained this accolade in recognition of how she designs exclusively with natural materials. Her cool, minimalist pieces have a worldly nonchalance that instill in each wearer an androgynous flair.
Marvel at the charm and romantic folklore of Estonia in the magical creations of Kristina Viirpalu! She has been making sustainable clothes in her Tallinn based atelier for over ten years. Every piece is a tribute to the historicity of her origins. The embroidery and knitting techniques in this country are highly complex, delicate, and unique.
It takes anywhere from a fortnight to three months to intertwine the lace, wool, beads, pearls, sequins and ribbons of Viirpalu’s creations. Her detailing is equal to any of the most exquisite couture pieces, and all of her materials come from only the highest quality sources.
Kristina Viirpalu is passionate about reviving and maintaining the traditional artisan embroidery techniques of her home country. She blends them with the requests of her clients to produce unique, custom-made, one-of-a-kind luxury garments that reflect the wearer’s individuality.
We couldn’t leave this one off the list of the most sustainable designers, as she is responsible for putting cruelty-free and ethical fashion on the map. Ever since she took her first steps in launching her own label, she has dedicated herself to creating “a responsible, honest, and modern company,” as she states.
In terms of creativity, her pieces glorify precise tailoring, accompanied by the charm of British eccentricity. She has always encouraged wearers to be bold, and develop their own personal style, providing a base of clothing and accessories that ranges from classic trousers to vegan bags.
We love Stella McCartney for her dedication to using sustainable textiles such as Tencel, recycled cashmere, and and rescued plastics. We also laud her relentless search in developing innovative processes that can reduce the waste and energy use that is sadly, too often a part of the fast fashion system.
10. Stine Goya
This Danish designer is one of our new favourites! She seems to know exactly what women want. Retro-style prints, delicate colour, and detailed, feminine silhouettes. The talented designer studied prints at Central Saint Martins before launching her eponymous brand.
She often checks to see there are only sustainable practices throughout her production line, and reducing waste. She ensures she makes each item from eco-friendly materials, such as ECOVERO™ viscose, upcycled deadstock, or recycled polyester.
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