Five Ethical Fashion Labels, Five Interesting Stories

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Fact: no one creates something ‘just because’. There’s always a reason, always a story. And sometimes that story is just as interesting – or even more so – than the creative product itself!

This is definitely true for ethical fashion. What sparks a person to produce something from natural materials, even though these are more expensive? Why would someone choose to work with artisans instead of machines that can do the work so much more cheaply? And what’s the inspiration behind unique designs? These are the questions I asked three ethical fashion labels, and the stories each one told me were quite unique.

1. The Designer With Mystical Influences: Brooke Da Cruz

Brooke Da Cruz’s personal beliefs sparked her to create an ethical fashion label influenced by the mysticism of India. It is on that sub-continent where the designer sources her eco-friendly fabrics and provides work to small-studio artisans from a variety of races and religions.

In fact, India plays a key role not only in Da Cruz’s label, but in her life. She takes great inspiration in her work from Osho, leader of the Rajneesh movement, which is rooted in the affirmation of joy and love. To illustrate the impact on her work, ‘The Untouched One’ pays homage to Eastern philosophies  and their yogic traits of harmony and bright optimism, with fluctuating designs that have an impeccable fit and are aesthetically alluring.

Her second collection, ‘Kindred 2′ stems from Brooke’s analysis of convergence; the likeness between all things. Her call to unity is reflected in a conscious choice of materials that include organic cotton, hemp, peace silk and Tencel.

Unconventionally, Osho advocated freer sexuality, and this is reflected in Da Cruz’s designs, too. Blouses are sensually draped over bare shoulders; the smooth lines of the back are exposed, and a hint of midriff is revealed through her cleverly cut clothes. It all adds up to a bold statement of self-confidence, and when combined with all natural materials, it speaks of a respect for our planet and our connection to it.

Osho’s words: “You should not leave the earth until you have made it a little more beautiful, a little lovelier, a little more loving,” have clearly resounded with Brooke, who is aiming to do just that.

2. Keeping It in the Family: HAN Studios

Some say that you should never work with family, but luxury womenswear brand HAN shows that sometimes keeping it in the family is the key to success.

Father-daughter team JiaYing Han and YiYi Han are highly aware of the perils facing our planet; this is a story of a father who has seen the Earth changing, and a daughter trying to preserve the planet for future generations. And speaking of which, HAN’s story is also one   that merges the different outlooks of the two generations: one is steeped in traditional Chinese ideology and natural materials like silk, indebted to the past; and the other is more influenced by Western ideas and higher-tech eco fabrics like Tencel.

HAN’s style marries Chinese prints with minimalist, asymmetric cuts to achieve unique and flattering pieces. The label’s distinctive clothing collection features intricate drapes and architectural folds that aim to flatter the female figure, whilst remaining sophisticated and perfectly balanced. Their continual emphasis on simple, tasteful style is applied to all elements of their brand identity, from their fabrics to their neutral colour schemes.

Ethically constructed and produced mostly in Italy, their 100% natural materials include linen, cotton, silk and cashmere whilst mother of pearl and corozo buttons add decorative touches.

3. The Practical One: Livotte London’s Tip Top Tops

One material. One kind of fashion item. Two shades. Livotte’s approach to fashion couldn’t be simpler. When you think about it, from a purely practical standpoint – which item do you buy most? I’m betting it’s tops – and so is ethical fashion label Livotte London.

Live In It, Love In It, Lunch In It is the message from this new brand. The concept is that we all have a few staple bottoms, like our favourite jeans, trousers and skirt, which serve us throughout the working week and beyond. We could (and often do!) wear the same pair of jeans for days on end. But what do we change the most? You guessed it – our tops!

Based on the philosophy of ‘keeping things simple’, Livotte set out to create a few of the most comfortable and practical tops around, all created from one yarn – organic cotton, sourced from a sustainable mill in the British Midlands.

With thirteen classic designs to choose from and with each available in highly functional black and white, Livotte’s pieces have been specifically created to pair effortlessly with your favourite leggings, blue jeans or pencil skirt.

One material. One kind of fashion item. Two shades. Livotte’s approach to fashion couldn’t be simpler.

4. Girl Power’s Seductive Comfort: Lara Intimates

Lara Intimates  is the first ever lingerie brand produced in London from  reclaimed, luxury surplus material. Girl power rules at Lara Intimates, since their lingerie items are created in small batches in a factory staffed fully by women. The brand has all body sizes in mind, and creates their designs in one of the widest size ranges in the world. In fact, Lara Intimates is really into body-positivity and they started a series called  The Boob Diaries  to create a platform to allow women to openly talk about their bodies.

5.  Maeri Design

It’s a fact that a lot of waste from the West is sent to the developing world for processing. One sustainable fashion brand, Maeri Design, was aware of how much plastic destined for recycling is dumped in India, and decided to put it to good use – and do good, while they’re at it.

Today, disadvantaged craftspeople in India are paid fair wages to transform scrap plastic into chic, sturdy bags you can use every day.   The disabled and women in old age homes employed by the brand spend between 8 to 22 hours to create a single product, and earn a fair wage from the comfort of their own homes. Styles include totes, satchels, cross-body bags, laptop sleeves and evening clutches.

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
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