Since I starting making a more conscious decision to go cruelty free, and vegan where possible (see here), I started giving more thought to what this choice actually meant. It’s one thing to choose products that don’t involve cruelty to animals, but have you ever wondered how your purchase consumption of products impacts on the world?
We’re surrounded by inexpensive and fast fashion companies where sometimes a few wears and washes means that the piece of clothing disintegrates or we buy so many of the same things in different colours that we hardly ever wear them. We’re using so much of the Earth’s resources that supply (raw materials) is struggling to catch up with demand, so much so that we’re causing damage to our ecosystem. If we want to preserve the world we live in, we need to be more aware of what we buy and how we can replenish the world’s natural habitat.
One thing I’ve started supporting ever since I found out about it is using Ecosia as my default search engine instead of Google. Ecosia are committed to planting trees with its ad revenues and transparency with the work they do, so they publish their sponsorship payment receipts and reports of business expenses every month for supporters to see (here). I’ve been gradually making conscious choices to switch to sustainable and cruelty free products, but the one thing I take for granted is my clothing.
There is a lot that I refuse to get rid of because I’ve either a) made them myself, or b) think that I will still wear it at some point. What I really need to do is whittle down my wardrobe to get more wear out of the clothes that end up sitting in my chest of drawers. There are some companies that take used clothing for recycling and upcycling, but at the moment there aren’t enough of these initiatives to reduce the amount of textile waste going to landfills (see here). So where does that leave us?
More designers are starting to recognise the niche that has been created for sustainable, vegan and ethical fashion products. Apart from the usual cotton suspects, there wasn’t initially a lot of choice for vegans in the world of fashion, but that is now changing. Choosing sustainability doesn’t have to mean boring. A lot more designer brands are emerging with fashion forward items that are ethical while also encouraging consumers to think more about the products they are buying.
I’ve scouted out some of my favourite sustainable fashion brands and products below.
The Conscious collection has been around for a while, promoting the idea that the work of the fashion company affects the environment and taking responsibility for maintaining and reducing their impact on the environment.
I’ve tried, where possible, to choose items from their Conscious collection whenever I was in the shop, but in the early days of it launching years ago, I didn’t really find many pieces that interested me. I was recently on the look out for jeans and was pleased to find there are a lot more pieces of clothing (including maternity wear) as well as beauty products included in their range. There are also quite a few different styles and colour choices for jeans too, so there’s no excuse not to give this collection a go.
One thing that came into fashion some years ago that I love are long tunics. I love being able to wear these long tops like a dress with leggings for comfort, without having to worry about exposing my backside in thin leggings that don’t give you much coverage. I normally get quite solid coloured leggings, so it’s not so much a worry, but I do feel a bit exposed with a shorter length top and tunics give me that extra bit of security. The only thing is, tunics aren’t really in style anymore and it can be a bit difficult to buy these days.
Luckily for me, a friend likes Seasalt, based in Cornwall, and told me about this brand. Even better, the company chooses environmentally friendly materials as much as possible and 60% of their cotton collection is organic while also using systainable recycled or sustainable alternatives for the rest. All items are also locally made in Guernsey, the South West and the UK while also keeping a firm eye on their impact on the environment. Sustainable, eco-friendly and fashionable: a girl couldn’t ask for more than that!
Tiller Coat in Deep Sea,
was £140 now on sale for £112
ASOS is a well known British online fashion and beauty retailer that offers affordable (and designer) brands, but did you know they’ve also got their ASOS Eco Edit collection? The big online retailer is aware and conscious of the need for reducing their impact on the environment so they have worked with eco-friendly brands and global initiatives to put together an edit of clothing, accessories and beauty products that fit within their criteria for sustainability.
They also have their own fair-trade clothing label ASOS Made In Kenya, made in partnership with SOKO Kenya which would also be benefiting workers with better working conditions and fair wages. If you’re after clothing that’s made with a lower environmental impact or beauty that’s natural and organic, ASOS will probably have it. I often browse ASOS for that perfect dress I want to wear for an occasion and they don’t disappoint with their Eco Edit collection.
For over 25 years, People Tree has partnered with Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco fashion collections. This brand is thoroughly committed to producing high quality fashionable garments while also looking after the welfare of everyone they partner with. They are also the first company to receive the World Fair Trade Organisation Fair Trade product mark in 2013. They are also the first company worldwide to receive the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification on a supply chain for organic cotton!
The company uses sustainable methods to produce their garments so as to reduce their impact on the environment while also using safe and azo-free dyes on natural or recycled products. The result? Hand knitted, embroidered, printed or woven garments or accessories made from recycled saris. You can also purchase the book Slow Fashion: aesthetics meets ethics written by Safia Minney, founder of Fair Trade and sustainable fashion label People Tree.
Engraved ethnic floral and vine white gold bangle,
was £12 now £9.60
Yael Aflalo first created the brand in 2009 which offers limited edition pieces to limit the amount of resources used to create their garments thus giving consideration to the amount of materials used from the environment. Most of the clothing are designed and manufactured in their company headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, but there are occasions when the company would need to use other manufacturing partners in the US or abroad who employs sustainable methods and materials.
The company sells their products mostly online to reduce the need for supplying department stores and retailers. Carbon offsets are purchased by the company for every order delivered in the US and they are currently working on this with their international delivery service to provide the same. All items in their retail stores are also eco-friendly: from recycled paper hangers to reusable tote bags for your purchases, the brand also offers pre-paid shipping labels so you can recycle your garments when you no longer want them!
Garbo dress in Cerisa, US$248
Florence dress in Wildflower, US$218
The brand was founded in 2014 by Alicia Taylor and Stephanie Hogg, Gather&See was born out of a desire to find beautiful, stylish ethical fashion brands that protect people and planet and don’t compromise on style. Frustrated by what was currently available, the pair began to gather a selection of like minded, forward thinking designers all of which fit into at least three of Gather&See’s 5 founding philosophies: Fair Trade, Organic, Eco-Friendly, Small Scale Production and Heritage. Gather&See has also received recognition from the press with the Telegraph naming Gather&See one of the Top 10 Ethical Brands.
The website offers a variety of products, from stylish to classic, kitschy jewellery to supple leather products.
Nima dress by Osei Duro, £170
Have you ever thought about choosing an organic, ethical and sustainable dress for your wedding? I didn’t think it could be possible, but Minna Hepburn certainly did!
The label has in a short time re-defined what ethical fashion should be. Environmentally friendly production techniques including local manufacturing and zero waste pattern cutting techniques are used for every garment. Minna is always looking into any new ways to minimise the impact to the environment which makes the range of dresses on offer appeal to the wider audience, not just those who are ethical-conscious. I absolutely love this India wedding dress for £950 in full lace with half sleeves and velvet green ribbon. If you’re of a mind to make your own, you can also purchase lace fabric such as this Ashley lace madras fabric in purple with Sedge colourway for £91.48/metre.
Beyond Skin is the first footwear brand I’ve come across that uses 100% vegan materials for all their products. A lot of their recent designs have incorporated recycled materials while also using other eco-friendly materials like polyester rather than viscose in their satin designs.
One of my favourite designs, after following the Wildlife, Not Entertainers campaign (see here) is their Tiger #NotEntertainers slippers and heels. These exclusive designs are in support of World Animal Protection UK to raise awareness that wild animals should not be used for entertainment. 10% of each pair of shoes sold go towards World Animal Protection and raising awareness of tourist attractions that involve animal abuse and cruelty.
Tiger #NotEntertainers slippers, £130
Speaking of ethical vegan brands, Matt & Nat – for Mat(t)erial and Nature was founded in 1995 in Montreal as a way of creating products with recycled and sustainable materials without any leathers or animal-based materials. Their linings have been made out of 100% recycled bottles since 2007 and they’ve also recently introduced a collection made out of recycled bicycle tires!
It’s great that there are now more choices for vegans, to be able to choose a wider range of products that involve innovative technology and materials. I like that Matt & Nat products look like leather, but you know it’s a sustainable and recycled product which has a positive impact on the environment.
Each piece of Made jewellery or accessory is handmade with love by a highly skilled and dedicated artist in Kenya. Using techniques handed down through generations, their jewellery and bags not only look great but also tell a story of lives changed through safe, sustainable employment, training and education.
Made is dedicated to harnessing the talent and skills of artisans in Kenya, whilst providing a safe working environment, long-term job security and training. They only use sustainable and environmentally friendly materials as much as possible: reclaimed brass is used as the base metals for their jewellery while recycled materials are used were possible for their other products.
Basic line necklace, available in gold- or silver-plated reclaimed brass, £40
Speaking of jewellery, there is no way I can talk about sustainable and eco-friendly, ethical designs without mentioning Lilia Nash. Independent designer Lilia works from her home studio creating each piece by hand. Her designs are inspired by nature and modern life using fair trade precious gemstones and recycled gold and silver. Mining gold and silver requires use of chemicals which are harmful to the environment as well as the miners. In using recycled metals, this provides better working conditions for the miners and gold and silver which have been melted for re-use are re-purposed.
One prime example of her beautiful craft is my pink sapphire engagement ring (see here) where you can see she has used a flower as inspiration for the setting, but there are also other designs which are available in limited quantity (no more than 20 pieces are created for each design) and most are custom made to the customer’s requirements.
Umbalite garnet necklace in 18ct yellow gold, from £630
Princess cut sapphire in 18ct gold, from £1050
Since I took silver jewellery making classes a few years back (see here), I’ve had a fascination with how other designers craft their pieces and make their own mark in the jewellery world. Polly Wales is a designer with the affinity to make raw and unusual shaped gemstones into gorgeous and unique pieces of precious jewellery.
Combining her skills as a sculptor, her love of traditional casting methods and her craftsmanship, she began to create one-of-a-kind pieces of jewellery. Using sapphires, rubies and diamonds cast directly into rich gold, the end masterpieces resemble natural gem encrusted forms or sparkling geodes split open. This unorthodox approach to jewellery design has created a new and exciting niche in the world of fine jewellery design.
CRED Jewellery are founder members of the Alliance for Responsible Mining and was instrumental in the introduction of the Fairtrade mark for gold in early 2011. They are also committed to offering full transparency of their work and towards being a Fairtrade organisation. They are passionate about ensuring the miners they work with for their jewellery are fairly treated and that each piece can be worn with a pure heart.
Cred was the first jeweller in the world to label the contents of its product telling our customers every metal that was in their rings. They intend to continue to lead the industry in quality supply chain management and ensure that the materials used in their pieces have the best provenance in the market place. Each piece is beautifully crafted and shows a commitment to affordable jewellery which is also versatile in its use. A lot of their pieces, like the ones shown below, can be worn as an everyday piece or as a complimentary piece to a more formal event.
With a little more thought to who we’re buying from, and what we’re buying, we could be giving back to the world while also ensuring that we’re not doing more harm than necessary. Supporting sustainable and ethical brands also means less waste and a more inclusive society where we consider the welfare of others, animals and workers, rather than the lowered cost of what we’re paying for.
Have you got a favourite sustainable and ethical fashion brand that I haven’t listed above?