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Sustainable Sweater Trends We Love For 2021

These sustainable sweater trends will keep you warm for 2021 and beyond!

By Gina Gambhir

As with any other wardrobe must-have, sustainable sweater trends have undergone several stylistic changes over the years.

Once upon a time, wives would knit thick sweaters to keep their farmer or fisherman husbands warm. The sweater wasn’t really considered all that fashionable. But then, fashion’s fairy godmothers – Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli – transformed knitwear in the 1920s. It was thanks to their delicate, feminine yarns and beautifully designed styles that we saw knitwear transform from its more practical uses to the chic staple we know today.

The 1930’s continued the trend for women’s sweaters, and introduced dreamy bishop sleeves and decorative collars. The 50’s had other plans for this cozy attire. Inspired by Christian Dior’s New Look campaign, the female silhouette was to be accentuated once again with more cropped sweater trends. In fact, the ‘sweater girl’ became a thing – it mainly referred to the look of a tight knit (preferably a twin set) over a voluminous, waist-cinching skirt.

Sweater Trends Go Hippy

During the swinging 60’s and 70’s, knitwear took on a much more hippy vibe, using crochet patchwork techniques and employing synthetic fibres for the first time. We love how the likes of Janis Joplin sported crochet vests over bra tops, and how Mary Quant made sexy, sheer crochet mini dresses!

The 80’s mood was a lot more serious. It was powered up by boxy and broad shoulders, often in neon colours. The 90’s and naughties followed with a more androgynous look. Who could forget Kurt Cobain in his grandpa cardigan on MTV Live?

Which brings us to our current chapter. And what a palette of choice we have! We see stories of the old intertwined with the new in the top sustainable sweater trends for this year. Pick from vintage styles, dancer wraps or recycled yarns to be bang on trend this winter!

Image below from @west.ware

7 Sustainable Sweater Trends We Love For 2021

1. Popcorn Knits

Popcorn knits feature circular crochet stitches that make sweaters look like they’re covered in popcorn-esque pom-poms. How cute is that? This trend is warm, effortlessly chic, and pairs perfectly with your go-to pair of mom jeans!

Try: We love the cardigan selection at ethical retailer St. Roche. Most are made from super-soft alpaca yawn, which has been sustainably sourced from Peru.

2. Recycled Cashmere & Wool Sweaters

Cashmere has always been a luxury, but some people have issues with its ethics. Namely, of course, vegans, who don’t want to exploit animals for their fur or hair. But recycled cashmere (and wool) doesn’t harm animals, and also has a lower carbon footprint. It basically involves the unravelling of existing knits and reusing that yarn to create new pieces. Circular fashion at its most luxurious!

Try: Stella McCartney was one of the first ethical fashion brands to use recycled cashmere and wool. The designer has created some exciting styles for this season, as has Reformation, whose recycled fibre sweaters are seen below. If you’re looking for more affordable recycled cashmere sweaters, check out Everlane.

Sustainable Sweater Trends

Sustainable Sweater Trends

3. Puffed Sleeves

The Mutton Chop, the Bishop, the Victorian puff… Whatever variation you like, the point is this: one of the biggest sustainable sweater trends is definitely for voluminous sleeves! And we love that. The look is feminine, and throws back a bit to the 70’s. In fact, why not be super-sustainable and search for an awesome vintage knit?

Try: If you can’t find an authentic 70s sweater, Reformation is making some gorgeous sweaters of all kinds with really interesting sleeves. As you probably know, the brand uses deadstock fabrics, as well as upcycled cashmere and organic cotton to make their knits.

Sustainable Sweater TrendsSustainable Sweater Trends

4. Ethical Crochet Sweaters

This 60’s inspired trend is still beautiful today! Crochet is injected with delicate femininity and eye-catching details. As this season is all about layers, this is the perfect trend to play with. Wear a crochet poncho (such as the one below) over a simple tee or a body suit, for example.

Try: This is another one of those sustainable knitwear trends that can be sourced from vintage and thrifting stores, since it harkens back to decades past. If you’re a bit crafty, you could also create your own crochet sweater.

Alternatively, Maydi is an Argentina based brand that ensures no wildlife is harmed in the ethical farming of their sheep. They create their knits in collaboration with local artisans, who receive a living wage. We love their oversized, crochet cardi – two sustainable sweater trends in one!

crochet luxury knit

5. Huge Cowl Necks

They’re big, they’re floppy, and they’re cozy as heck! The cowl neck is more relaxed than the more typical turtleneck (or Polo neck, depending on where you live), and it’s trendier now than ever! To make this look very ‘now,’ ensure your knit is a nice, loose, thick one, preferably in an earthy hue.

Try: London based sustainable fashion brand Cossac is making some of the most gorgeous winter knitwear we know of. Check out their cowl neck sweater below. Image 2 below from @west.ware

Sustainable Sweater Trends

6. Oversized Androgynous Knits

His? Hers? Ours! This is one of the easiest sustainable sweater trends to pull off, for both men or women. You can easily find a sweater a few sizes up in a thrift shop – just hit the ‘mens’ section! The best part? This trend is also easy to share with the man in your life, be it your dad, BF, brother, son or husband.

Try: Riley Studio makes some of the most luxurious androgynous sweaters around – and they use a lot of recycled yarns, including cashmere, to do so!

Sustainable Sweater Trends

7. Dancer-Inspired Wrap Sweaters

One of the best ways to stay warm this winter is by literally wrapping yourself up in a sustainable sweater! Wrapped styles are reminiscent of wrap dresses; they fit all sizes for the most part, as they’re easily adjustable. We love how a sweater wrap adds a touch of dancer chic to your wardrobe!

Try: Everlane is tops when it comes to making gorgeous ethical sweaters for winter. They’re made from recycled cashmere, and you can see @jessannkirby modelling below. Amour Vert sells a few winners, too, as does Brochu Walker, as you can see in the second image.

Sustainable Sweater TrendsSustainable Sweater Trends

8. Collared Sweaters

Don’t like the casual style of sweaters? You may love the budding trend of collared sweaters. They’re giving a formal vibe to the much loved winter essential and they’re super chic. Whether you like them baggy and oversized or fitted, this style suits everything from jeans to leather pants!

Try: Eleven-Six combines the collared sweater with a poncho vibe, giving an oversized sweatshirt perfect for the colder months.

9. The Sweater Vest

A sweater vest may have you envisioning your grandad, but I promise this style has had a seriously modern overhaul. The sweater vest slipped onto our radar during autumn last year, and it’s a trend that has gotten even hotter in 2021. And the sweater vest is as versatile as it is stylish. Whether you want it with a high neck, low neck, splashed with a bold print or oversized in style, the options are plentiful!

Try: Reformation has some gorgeous sweater vests that are perfect for pairing with oversized shirts for a work-vibe like @christietyler has done below. 

10. Tangerine Shades

When we step into autumn we tend to ditch our vibrant shades for more muted, autumnal shades like olive green, rust red and mid-browns. Well, this year is all about those shades of orange! Whether you want it bright and poppin’ or you prefer to keep it subtle with some burnt orange, embrace the colour and have fun with it.

Try: Babaà for a chunky knit that will be a staple for years to come. Net-A-Porter also has some gorgeous ethical knits that are perfect for your autumn wardrobe.

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