We all want to dress well. This site wouldn’t be here if we didn’t, right? The problem is, keeping up with the latest trends often comes at a grave cost. Admittedly, not a financial one – fast fashion is relatively cheap fashion – but therein lies the problem.
Cheap clothes mean cheap production, which often means subpar labour conditions for workers. It also means low-quality, which equates to less time in your rotation before it ultimately ends up in landfill. Researchers have estimated that we’re buying 60% more garments than we were in 2000, but wearing them less. According to consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, 60% of the 100 billion garments produced each year end up in landfill or an incinerator within 12 months. And the global textile industry produces more CO2 in a year than international flights or maritime shipping.
It’s something that brands are slowly beginning to think about. However, with some of the biggest retail chains in the world churning out endless imitations of every fleeting fad, paying not a blind bit of notice to the consequences, it’s clear we still have a long way to go.
We’ll take sustainable style over momentary trends any day, though. It’s better not just for the environment but for your wallet and wardrobe too – and there are those brands for which sustainability is at the very core of what they do. Labels that were either founded with the planet in mind or are doing everything they can to change their production methods and materials to reflect a more environmentally harmonious fashion future. Allow us to introduce you to them.
Built in the image of its founder, bedraggled 79-year-old mountain man and activist Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia is a brand that has had the planet’s best interests at heart since day one. All of the Californian climbing label’s hard-wearing and well-fitting products are made from recycled materials and it has even run advertisements telling consumers not to buy a new Patagonia jacket, but to have an old one repaired instead. It’s also unapologetically political, often weighing in on ecological issues. Most recently, this extended to filing a lawsuit against president Donald Trump for reducing natural land. It doesn’t get much more hardcore than that.
You don’t have to be a pro surfer to know the south-west coast of England probably isn’t the warmest place to catch a few waves. Still, that doesn’t stop thousands from flocking to the edge of the Celtic Sea every year in search of the perfect break. One of those people is Finisterre founder Tom Kay, whose love for the south-coast surf prompted him to create a line of clothes geared towards the people riding it. Naturally, when you love the sea this much, you’ll do everything you can to protect it. Finisterre is living proof of that, creating long-lasting garments (that are colourful, comfortable and technical) with sustainability and the environment at the very core of everything it does.
Fashion Week shows aren’t traditionally the most eco-minded events in the calendar. However, when Christopher Raeburn is parading his seasonal collections down the runway, it’s a very different story altogether. The award-winning designer’s entire approach to fashion is centred around sustainability, with high-ticket items made from recycled materials and others that are simply old garments reconstructed. Raeburn calls it REMADE. It’s an approach that’s seen him celebrated as a revolutionary within the fashion industry. And now, with a creative director position at Timberland under his (probably recycled) belt, the Christopher Raeburn ethos is filtering into the mainstream, too.
In 2003, Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion were left shocked after conducting a social audit on a factory in China for a French fashion brand and witnessing first-hand the poor conditions workers were being forced to live in. They decided to dedicate their lives to doing something about it and in 2005 launched Veja, a Parisian sneaker brand devoted to ethical trading, eco-friendly production and materials, and sustainability. Ever since, the label has been a runaway success, favoured by everyone from vegans looking for leather-free footwear, to the fashion crowd, drawn in by the products’ sleek minimalist designs.
From offering free denim repairs to detailing its extensive commitment to fair trade and sustainability in a 30-odd page annual report, Nudie is a brand that takes saving the planet seriously. The Swedish label is well known the world over for producing some of the best jeans outside of Japan or America, and when you couple that with its commitment to being ethically and ecologically sound, it’s a wonder anyone buys denim from anywhere else. Keep an eye peeled for fairtrade organic cotton, raw denim (or ‘dry’ as Nudie calls it) and one of the best customer care programs in fashion.
Everyone cares about their home, and given that 11-time World Surf League champion Kelly Slater practically lives in the ocean, it’s no wonder he feels so strongly about protecting it. After a two-decade sponsorship deal with one of the world’s biggest surf brands, Quiksilver, Slater veered off on a quest to prove that it’s possible to create clothing that’s both stylish and sustainably made. He enlisted the help of fellow surfer and award-winning menswear designer John Moore and the two put their heads together to make it happen. The resulting label is Outerknown – a subtly styled beach-lifestyle brand with a strong code of environmental ethics at its core.
There are many things 2018 will be remembered for when it comes to fashion – fleece, the brown trend and the continued rise of the chunky trainer to name a few. Another is the chest rig – a suspicious-looking pocketed vest that would see anyone wearing it at an airport swiftly apprehended by armed police. The brand behind this curious accessory is breakthrough streetwear label Alyx and when it’s not decking out Kanye and the like in its signature brand of warcore, it’s flying the flag for slow fashion by upcycling pre-loved clothes into new garments via its ‘Visual’ collection.
Ask any climber, backpacker or skier what the best brand of outdoor apparel is and it’s highly probable their answer will be Arc’teryx. The Canadian outdoors label has been leading the industry for almost 30 years with its boundary pushing technology and surgically precise craftsmanship. Then there’s sustainability. The Arc’teryx approach to reducing its environmental impact is simple: create products that last a lifetime and offer an extensive repairs program in the rare cases they don’t. By taking this straightforward approach, the brand has drastically decreased its footprint while creating top-of-the-line outdoor equipment at the same time.
Sustainable vegan footwear with hemp laces. Sounds like something you might find a harem-pant wearing stoner flogging ‘herbs’ out of a stall at WOMAD Festival, doesn’t it? Not particularly appealing in the style department. Or at least that’s what you might think. However, that’s exactly what promising startup Yatay is doing and its shoes are serious lookers. With minimalist styling a la Common Projects and animal-free uppers that look and feel just like high-grade leather, this young label is reshaping the the footwear industry, one hemp shoelace at a time.
In spite of regular praise in the media, former Supreme creative director and founder of Noah, Brendon Babenzien, is quick to stifle claims his New York-born brand is “sustainable”. His reasoning is that true sustainability would mean turning back the clock on over a century of clothing consumption and production trends. Obviously, that can’t be done now, but Noah is still doing everything within its power to make fashion a more environmentally and ethically sound industry. The brand regularly donates money from purchases to charities such as Sea Shepherd and uses recycled materials to make clothes. As Babenzien says, there’s still a long way to go, but Noah is one brand that’s striving to do more with each passing season.
After gaining attention for its handcrafted skateboards made from recycled wood, it wasn’t long before Brixton’s Satta turned its attention to the guys riding them. And more specifically, what they were wearing. Founder Joe Lauder was influenced by the time he spent travelling the world and visiting Buddhist retreats in Nepal, shamen in the Amazon rainforest and Zen gardens in Asia. The resulting clothes are laid-back, simple and spun from organic cotton in earthy tones. Couple this with a focus on small-scale production and the use of natural, sustainable materials and you’ve got a line of clothing you can feel good in for more than mere aesthetic reasons.
Founded on the idea that when it’s done right, business can create social change for the better, Apolis is a clothing label on a mission to make the world a fairer and better place for everyone. The brand was set up to support organic farmers and native artisans in the most rural corners of the earth, and in the 14 years since it was born it has done just that. Apolis has achieved this by creating positive change and opportunities through action as opposed to charity. Expect trans-seasonal staples in muted colours for maximum wearability.
The outsourcing of clothing manufacture to cheap-labour countries brings with it a number of issues – poor working conditions, unfair pay and increased production output, which leads to pollution, to name just a few. This is something Manchester’s Community Clothing is well aware of and so strives to keep things local. The label is on a mission to restore pride in Britain’s textile industry by producing high-quality garments in low volume, using skilled workers. It does this by making use of British textile factories’ spare capacity, during quieter periods of the year when seasonal lines aren’t being produced. The resulting clothes are then sold direct to consumer, eliminating the high retail markup that can often put people off buying British.
Vikings aside, Scandinavia isn’t exactly known for waging war. However, Swedish minimalist clothing brand Filippa K is an exception to that rule, armed to the teeth with sustainable materials and ready to do battle with fast fashion. The label works on the principle that choice of fabrics can have a major social and environmental impact. This considered, it pours huge amounts of time and thought into what materials it uses and where it gets them from, with some garments in the works that will be completely biodegradable. Others you can lease from and return to the company. The end goal is for Filippa K to be using entirely sustainable materials by the year 2030.
Spencer Phipps is no newcomer to the world of fashion. After cutting his teeth at Marc Jacobs and the School Of Fashion in NYC, Phipps embarked on a three-year stint at Belgian fashion house Dries Van Noten as a menswear designer. However, after becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of stylish, environmentally-friendly clothes, Phipps set about creating his own solo project. His label’s pieces are made predominantly in Portugal, a country known for the rigorous environmental and human rights codes that govern its factories. There’s also a focus on sustainable materials and pushing boundaries to see how much can be done with them. The resulting garments aren’t cheap, but it’s the price you pay for saving the planet and looking runway ready at the same time.
The White T-Shirt Co.
The perfect white T-shirt. It’s the Bigfoot of menswear. Some people say it exists; others even claim to have found it. Still, you’re yet to see any convincing evidence for yourself. Well, obviously you haven’t heard of The White T-Shirt Company – a brand that believed in the perfect white tee so much, it just went out and created it itself. As if that wasn’t good enough, the Newcastle-based label has a deep-rooted commitment to sustainability, too, using ethically-sourced materials and keeping its footprint to a minumum by producing clothing that’s built to last.