If the oil industry presented its wares as slickly as fashion, perhaps we’d laud BP’s oh-so-sexy pipelines and forget gulls dying on greasy beaches. The glamour of fashion masks its polluting, abusive reality, the exploited workers and spoiled soil it sacrifices to produce our clothes.
But as with any trend, something new is blooming. Disgusted by a model that kills its workers and poisons their children, a new breed of brands is creating fashion-forward clothes with a conscious. This is a modern take on sustainable fashion that respects its supply chains, uses responsibly grown textiles, and produces clothes in timeless designs you won’t want to bin when next season’s trends land. And without a hemp cargo short in sight.
Co-founded by Mia Morikawa and Shani Himanshu, 11.11 crafts its wares from khadi, a handspun Indian cotton. Instead of contracting factories, the brand works with local artisans to support Delhi’s historic weaving communities.
Its signature fabric is khadi denim, which it dyes with natural indigo to avoid chemicals. Unlike production lines, where each worker only knows a single stitch, 11.11’s artisans take a month to produce each stretch of fabric, and the finished garment comes complete with their signature and story.
Because the khadi is handmade, it’s more elastic and breathable than traditional American denim. This means a collection that looks like no other – the indigo dye creates a layering effect that’s ready for day or night.
Unmade’s made-to-order knitwear is part of the Selfridges ‘Bright New Things’ initiative, with a semi-bespoke design portal that produces unique pieces and helps eliminate waste.
The brand works with world-renowned factories to source premium materials like extra-fine merino wool and Pima cotton, which it turns into scarves and jumpers. So far, so ordinary. But it’s also tapped up Amsterdam’s interactive design studio Moniker, which created a series of graphics that you can manipulate online to create your signature knit. The order is then knitted in Somerset House and hand-finished in the studio, with a personalised label.
Because each piece is made-to-order, the brand only has to order enough fabric to create each garment. That means material wastage is next to nothing and you get a design that won’t date. It’s luxury that you had a hand in designing.
Matt & Nat
Material and nature are so central to this vegan bag company it named itself for them. And since 1995, the Canadian brand crafted sustainable faux leathers that look as good as the real thing, winning it fans like Tobey Maguire and Adrien Grenier.
Though the label produces its bags in Chinese factories, they all comply with the UN’s SA8000 standard, which guarantees worker rights. It also conducts regular audits to ensure they remain up to scratch. But it’s the bags themselves that should most impress the eco-conscious, with linings made of plastic bottles and everything from rubber to nylon and cork recycled into faux leather.
The designs are also much sleeker than any jute tote.
Apolis, which translates as ‘global citizen’, is a certified B Corporation, meaning it meets high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
Founded by a small group of social entrepreneurs, the Apolis remit is to create social change through business. The brand has launched seven projects since 2004, engaging with community factories in countries like Uganda, Bangladesh and Peru to create special collections, from alpaca cardigans to market bags.
They’re then sold through the Apolis website, which also showcases the stories behind the products, along with the location, factory code and the project’s advocacy impact – how many days of paid work it provided for employees. So you can wear local designs and not worry about cultural appropriation.
Western consumers toss around 32kg of clothing annually, thanks to changing trends and cheap construction. Tom Cridland launched his eponymous label to reverse this worrying trend, focusing on basics so well-made he offers a 30-year guarantee.
To outflank fashion and friction, the brand crafts timeless pieces, like sweatshirts and tees, from hardwearing cotton, in Portuguese factories that pay special attention to high wear areas, which are often the first points to fray.
Cridland has already outfitted Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Craig, a guarantee that its style credentials matches its sustainability.
Industry Of All Nations
Founded in 2010 by three Argentinian brothers, IOAN aims to bring manufacturing back to where the materials originate, producing and designing with local communities. Take its Kenyatas sneakers, which have been a staple in Kenya for 40 years thanks to their hardiness and stripped-back design, which IOAN is helping the local factory take to the rest of the world.
IOAN has also collaborated with partners in Tamil Nadu, India, to develop wax-printed cotton basics made from 100 per cent natural dyes, helping to alleviate the impact of toxic dyes. The brand wants to give local businesses around the world the right to choose their own destiny.
The result is simple: basic garments and accessories made by artisans, with every purchase supporting the people who made it. Because nothing looks as good as doing good.