These ethical couture designers make sustainable looks that aren’t just for the drama of the catwalk….
Let’s face it: it may be beautiful, but couture can be crazy. Some of the most stunning pieces ever created are basically unwearable. Think of Alexander McQueen’s elaborate collections, such as the one inspired by Elizabeth I; Iris Van Herpen’s incredible 3D printed works, or John Galliano’s elaborate geishas, for example.
In this sense, couture elevates clothing to an art form. But the origins of the term refer to the fact that the garments were made to order and fitted individually. The catwalks are just ‘inspiration’ for elite customers to adapt such dramatic designs to their own needs.
That being said, there are some designers who present more quotidian looks that more everyday clients can easily imagine themselves wearing to their next big event.
Because it isn’t mass produced, we always think of couture as being representative of ‘slow fashion’. And because it’s almost always made by hand by well-trained, well-paid artisans, we also consider it ‘ethical.’ But due to some of the materials used, couture isn’t always ‘eco-friendly’. Unless it’s from one of these houses, that is!
Here, we highlight a few special ethical couture designers who create elegant couture that’s meant for your closet – not the museum!
Image below: Jiri Kalfar
Our Top 6 Sustainable Couture Designers
Famous mainly for her wedding dresses, Sanyukta Shrestha is one of our favourite ethical couture designers. She has now branched out hand-woven, hand-embroidered, and handmade couture for all occasions.
Timelessly elegant, the Nepalese-born designer’s collections are always ethically made from sustainable materials, without compromising on luxury and design in any way.
Another design house famed for sustainable bridal wear, Studio Tammam has increasingly been seen on red carpets and black tie events throughout the UK, in particular. All of their ethical couture dresses are created from natural or recycled fabrics.
Tammam was influenced by vintage design and the golden ages of glamour and fashion. Her bespoke service offers a truly first class sartorial experience. Tammam’s couture clients get to trial and fit their purchase as many times as they desire to ensure a perfect fit. Of course, they are always welcome to suggest design alterations or additions themselves, too.
But forget about fancy frocks – this ethical couture designer also makes ready-to-wear clothing, too. Our fave piece? The sequined tee that states: ‘Sweatpants Are A Sign Of Defeat!’
Sure, you can order one of her custom-made wedding dresses, made from eco friendly materials. You could also order a special occasion outfit that would be perfect for the red (or green!) carpet. But designer Deborah Lindquist does so much besides!
One of LA’s most sought after environmentally conscious couture designers, Lindquist also creates everyday apparel, accessories, and home wear from recycled, sustainable, and organic fabrics. We adore her featherlight maxi skirts made from retired parachutes (pictured below), for example.
She has created outstanding outfits for many celebrities, including Sharon Stone, Pink, Jessica Alba, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, and many others.
Trained at Parsons School of Design, the designer launched her eco clothing line in 1989 in Los Angeles. Vintage fabrics formed the basis of her work back then, but of course today, Deborah’s collections remain as eco-conscious – if not, more so.
4. Daniel Silverstein
This is one of the few ethical couture designers who has done it the other way around. Namely, he began designing ready-to-wear clothing, but has recently broken into the couture market.
Silverstein, who was a finalist on Fashion Star, made a name for himself as a zero-waste designer. In fact, his professional ‘nickname’ is Zero Waste Daniel!
But now, he’s expanding his reputation in the realm of made-to-order formal wear, which has adorned brides and celebrities, including Jennifer Hudson, Kristen Bell and that greenest of supermodels, Amber Valletta.
Silverstein is also proud to be one of the few ethical couture designers who specialises in creating stunning outfits for LGBQT+ couples and their guests.
This is another one of those ethical couture designers whose speciality is designing stunning custom-made bridal gowns. But today, Leanne Marshall’s name is becoming well known as a designer of both sustainable couture and ready-to-wear fashion.
Marshall’s sophisticated designs are characterised by their light, flowing lines, feminine details and timeless elegance. She handcrafts each dress in the USA using only the highest quality, sustainable materials.
With touches of modern sophistication and a nod to youth culture, Leanne Marshall has captured an incredible grace and beauty in all of her her collections. No wonder she was such a star on Project Runway!
6. Jiri Kalfar
This is one of the few vegan ethical couture designers. We love how this designer grew up in the countryside, surrounded by pigs, goats, sheep and cows. Quite a humble beginning compared to most couturiers!
Jiri Kalfar is a special talent. Not only does he create the most beautifully embroidered and sequined couture, but he does it all from completely sustainable, ethical and animal-friendly materials, too.
Kalfar makes all pieces locally, with zero-waste techniques. No wonder Donna Karan selected him to speak at her “Change Fashion – The New Guard” event in New York recently. There, he spoke about his unique approach to ethical fashion – and really wowed the audience!