Couture Fashion

Ethical Couture Designers Creating Everyday Elegance

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These ethical couture designers make sustainable looks that aren’t just for the drama of the catwalk….

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

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. Of course, the catwalks are just ‘inspiration’ for customers to adapt such dramatic designs to their own needs, but there are some designers who present more quotidian looks that 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.

Here, we highlight a few special ethical couture designers who create elegant couture that’s meant for your closet – not the museum!

5 Ethical Couture Designers Creating Everyday Elegance

1. Sanyukta Shrestha

Famous mainly for her wedding dresses, Sanyukta Shrestha 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.

2. Studio Tammam

Another design house famed for 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.

Influenced by vintage design and the golden ages of glamour and fashion, their bespoke service offers a truly first class experience. Their couture clients get to trial and fit their purchase as many times as they desire to ensure a perfect fit, and clients are always welcome to suggest design alterations or additions.

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3. Daniel Silverstein

This is one designer who’s done it the other way around: he began designing ready-to-wear and has recently broken into the couture market.

Silverstein, who was a finalist on Fashion Star and who is known for his zero-waste techniques, is now making a name for his made-to-order formal wear, which has adorned brides and celebrities, including Jennifer Hudson, Kristen Bell and that greenest of supermodels, Amber Valletta.

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4. Leanne Marshall

Her 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. Each dress is handcrafted 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!

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5. Jiri Kalfar

This is one of our favourite 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! But 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 vegan friendly materials, too.

All pieces are custom made 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, to talk about his unique approach to ethical fashion.

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

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