Up until recently, many regarded ethical fashion as a fad taken on by tofu eating barefoot meditating ‘eco warriors’ who meticulously calculated their carbon footprint. It certainly wasn’t deemed as ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’, and was disregarded by people’s misconceptions of what sustainable fashion meant. Generally, it was viewed as nothing more than a subculture. Of course, this is far from the truth. Sustainable fashion has been a significant part of the industry for some time now, bubbling under the surface, until recent years, where it’s started to reach a more mainstream demographic.
It took an incident on such a huge scale like the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, killing over 1,100 workers to really open our eyes to the more sinister side of fast fashion. A world of long hours, low wages and unsafe working conditions. People are now looking past the name on the label when buying on the high-street. That ‘made in Bangladesh sign’ that often went unnoticed, is now bringing awareness to the origins of our clothes –on a far deeper level than the stockistson our high-streets. A new wave of conscious fashion is approaching, and this time it’s far from cool to be clueless.
But does sustainable fashion mean jeopardising style? Does it have a commercial place in the industry? You only need to look at labels such as Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood to see that sustainability is very much at the forefront of fashion – it’s slow growing, but there. And through conscious decisions you can still make a difference and make an impact. To prove it, we’ve a list of lesser-known high-street and high-end labels causing a stir for all the right reasons.
Erin Beatty and Max Osterweis, the Creative directors behind American fashion house Suno, sell more than just clothes. – they sell the notion of change. Originally a filmmaker, it was in 2008 when Max had a vision to help transform the economy of fashion. As a high-end label, the pair have worked hard to put their power and influence in the industry to good use, sourcing production from Kenya and bringing the industry to Africa. Working with Kenyan textile designers, the brand is now renowned for celebrating pattern, print and colour in a kitsch and vibrant style .As if this wasn’t enough they won the CFDA 2013 Swarovski award for emerging talent this June. Watch this space- these guys have a lot more up their quirky printed sleeves! Stockists include Opening Ceremony, Barney’s New York, Liberty, and Bergdorf Goodman.
ASOS Green Room
Image: Asos Greenroom
In 2010 Retail giants ASOS established the Green Room, which they describe as a place where “customers can go to learn about and buy pioneering sustainable fashion…” Since launching in 2010, the Green Room has rapidly surged in popularity, worth £6 million and stocking over 75 brands. Today, the Green Room is one of the largest online sustainable fashion hubs, boasting a vast range of organic and fair trade clothes that incorporate many current trends. ASOS Africa is the hub’s biggest brand, sourcing clothes from Kenya and providing a training initiative scheme for those limited by poverty.
British designer and Royal College of Art graduate, Christopher Raeburn, offers a truly innovative approach to fashion design with his signature utilitarian method of using recycled military fabrics. Designing both men’s and womenswear, Raeburn manages to balance function and beauty perfectly, with a distinctly modern feel. Since 2008 Raeburn’s outside the box approach has been taking luxury fashion in a new, exciting direction, with his work being recognised by prestigious retailer Libertys and the Ethical Fashion forum, where he won the innovation competition, earning him a space at London Fashion Week.
Nicola Woods, founder of British luxury label Beautiful Soul, prides herself on using home-grown manufacturing and promoting sustainable style. Based in Notting Hill, the label has a delicate vintage aesthetic, worn by the likes of Livia Firth, Krisitn Davis and Lily Cole. The boutique also provides a bespoke service where clients can shop the ‘Kimono Collection’ for rare vintage one-of-a-kind kimonos.
NY based label Maiyet proves perfectly that a label can have strong ethical values while being able to maintain a high-end luxury aesthetic. Established in 2011, the label is quickly becoming a runway favourite for its bohemian free-spirited style and forward-thinking initiatives. You really get the sense that the creative designers are trying to evoke a lifestyle, rather than a brand. Founded by human rights lawyer Paul Van Zy, Daniel Lubetzky and Kristy Caylor, the team have worked hard to implement an ethical stance through sourcing skills from artisans in impoverished countries like Nairobi, Kenya and Peru, through partnering with non-profit organisation Nest. Using only one model for their campaigns, the striking Daria Werbowy is pretty much the face of the brand, who can be seen on Maiyet’s website posing for some breath-taking, documented style shoots.
As a new label, Annie Greenabelle has already gained a concession at Topshop, in addition to the label’s own online shop. In attempts to encourage fair trade fashion on the high-street, materials like organic certified cotton and reclaimed fabrics are used to produce sustainable clothes of a high quality. All garments are designed in house, with an aesthetic that fuses country girl and vintage styles with feminine silhouettes. If you’re a fan of polka dots, stripes and florals, look no further – this fledgling label is a certified one to watch.
Launched in January 2012, British designer Bruno Pieter’s label Honest By focuses on transparency through every aspect of the manufacturing process. Pieters is heavily involved in aiding developing countries, and his online shop allows you to browse sustainable categories such as organic, vegan, recycled and even skin friendly items to, as the name suggests, encourage honesty and ethics in garment production. Oh, and if I’m honest, the clothes are pretty special too.