It’s true that eco-friendly and stylish haven’t always been natural bedfellows, but with more and more brands considering their impact on the planet, that’s all changing.
To be honest, even though we’re immersed in the world of fashion, we’re still learning what it means to be truly sustainable. Perhaps because there are so many different ways for a brand to minimise their (negative) impact on the planet. Some brands are all about using recycled materials; others focus on social enterprise, supporting the communities who make their clothes and accessories with fair practices; others look at the beginning of the production process, going so far as to farm their own fabrics and textiles. Here are a handful of designers on our radar for producing stylish clothes and accessories, underpinned by sustainable initiatives. Start voting with your wallet.
MOTHER OF PEARL
For her SS19 show, designer Amy Powney filled a deconstructed church in Fitzrovia with plastic balls, drawing attention to the problem the fashion industry has with micro-plastics in synthetic fibres – every time you wash them, they release plastic into our oceans (which is why Mother of Pearl uses natural fibres). There’s also ‘No Frills’, a fully sustainable line of core classics for everyday wear. And loads of transparency: when you visit motherofpearl.co.uk, there’s an online filter that tags each garment with its sustainable attributes.
One of the things Laura admired about Otiumberg when she met founders (and sisters) Christie and Rosanna Wollenberg was their commitment to the ethical sourcing of high-quality materials and planet-friendly packaging. They want their customers to be able to treat themselves with true peace of mind. That means small batches (so less waste), recycled gold where possible, and packaging made without oil-based plastic materials or foam. Instead, pieces come in cotton pouches (that you can recycle).
We were thrilled to learn the sustainable story behind some of our favourite woven bags. Siblings Belinda and James Wu launched Wicker Wings as a kind of homage to their grandmother, after learning she used to hand-weave bags for a living. And they’ve made it completely sustainable too. Using rattan grown from a single seed and vegetable-tanned leather from Tuscany, each bag is ethically made in England using traditional handwoven methods.
Every time a cosmetic runs out, we feel a pang of guilt throwing the empty package in the bin. That’s just one reason why we love Kjaer Weis’s sturdy, metallic packaging, which you buy once, and then refill when you run out. The formulas are densely pigmented and made with organic botanicals, which means they feel great going on and look good too. We’re huge fans of her red lipstick collab with Caroline Issa – Sucré is a make-up bag essential.
Readers with eco-conscious parents may have grown up with Dr. Bronner’s. Perhaps best known for its cult product, Magic Soap, a natural, oil-based cleanser that’s gentle enough to used on the face, but also doubles as a laundry detergent, household cleaner and shampoo, this brand is the real deal. The main ingredients are both organic and fair trade, the brand’s commitment to social justice has been present since Dr. Bronner’s launched in 1948, and the company dedicates a third of its profits to environmentally friendly causes. Side note: Laura uses the toothpaste at home.
POUR LES FEMMES
Founded by Robin Wright (yes, that one) and designer Karen Fowler, sleepwear label Pour Les Femmes is a socially conscious line produced by Congolese women who are survivors of violence, giving them the opportunity to learn a trade and provide for themselves and their families. We love the super-soft Indian cotton these vintage-inspired pieces are made from – and would happily wear one or two of the beautiful nightdresses in the bright light of day.
Next time you work up a sweat, you could be doing as much good for the planet as your pectorals (sorry, we couldn’t resist). This Aussie brand launched by two best friends a few years ago uses a custom-engineered fabric called CompressLite, which is made from recycled plastic bottles. Each pair of leggings in the range uses four recycled plastic bottles and every sports bra uses one. All other fabrics are ethically sourced. And as an aside, we’re obsessed with their chic, forest-green workout wear.
Most well-stocked bathrooms with a focus on clean formulas (including ours) will have at least one of Tata Harper’s chic, green-glass jars or pots. The woman behind this natural skincare brand with a cult following has taken mindful sourcing to the next level, growing many of the ingredients in her luxurious (and innovative) formulas on her organic farm in Vermont. We love her resurfacing mask and lip and cheek tints.
In just four years, Gabriela Hearst has become the go-to designer for sophisticated tailoring. In fashion circles, she’s just as well known for her belief that luxury should be sustainable – and that if given the choice, women want to make an environmentally friendly investment. Her efforts are numerous: she uses compostable packaging, recycled and upcycled fabrics from previous seasons and wool from her own ranch in Uruguay, and she works with women’s not-for-profit co-op Manos del Uruguay for her signature cashmere fluff pieces.
SOAP & CO.
If you want to invest in beauty products underpinned by social enterprise, start here: Soap & Co’s formulas certainly tick all the sustainable boxes. The formulas are eco, vegan and bee-friendly and the packaging is recycled and recyclable, but they’e also crafted in small batches by people with a range of disabilities. The brand has been set up as a not-for-profit with the aim of providing meaningful employment that changes people’s lives for the better. And while the end goal is to change perceptions, along the way they’ve created luxurious, vitamin-enriched bath and beauty products in chic, minimalist packaging.
Instagram sensation Herbivore Botanicals has come a long way since married couple Julia Wills and Alex Kummerow launched their first bars of soap on Etsy in 2011. What we love about this brand is that it’s not one of those that calls itself natural but is only ‘sort of’ there. The formulas are truly natural, toxin-free and cruelty-free, all the packaging is recyclable and reusable and since the ingredients can’t be created on-demand, as they would be in a lab, they actually have to discontinue products if they run out of something. Shout out to the Lapis Facial Oil, which we love.
The idea is as simple as it is sustainable: recut vintage men’s Levi’s into figure-flattering, women’s silhouettes. Since launching in 2014, designers Sean Barron and Jamie Mazur have seen their label go from strength to strength, primarily reworking 501s into everything from flares to jackets. And while their offering has grown, they remain conscious of their environmental impact. In addition to repurposing denim and leather, they source everything within 15 miles of their Los Angeles factory.
A few years ago, Mara Hoffman relaunched her brand with a new, sustainable mission and has since become a leader in this Earth-loving space. She’s not only passionate about the environment, women’s rights and spirituality are up there too, and the way she runs her business is aligned with these beliefs. She creates each collection in socially responsible conditions using ethically sourced and recycled fabrics. Side note: her feminine silhouettes and printed swimsuits are among some of our favourites for this summer.
AURELIA PROBIOTIC SKINCARE
When Claire Vero began work on her age preventative skincare line, Aurelia Probiotic, in 2013, she had a laundry list of the things she (and many of her friends) wished she could find in a brand, but couldn’t. In a nutshell: formulas that were underpinned by smart science and made with sustainable practices and ethically sourced ingredients. She also wanted formulas that were free of the many questionable ingredients that were in most skin products (having worked in pharmaceuticals, she knew exactly what they were). If you haven’t tried these amazing formulas, we can attest that they really do make your skin feel amazing.
MELISSA JOY MANNING
Jewellers are part of the sustainable conversation too, and a handful of makers are paving the way with their designs – and their ethical initiatives. Melissa Joy Manning is one such designer, who launched her brand in 1997 underpinned by a set of eco values long before they were trending hashtags. She makes everything by hand, uses sustainable materials such as recycled 14-carat gold and silver, as well as responsibly sourced gemstones, and her New York and California studios are completely green.
Since Sandra Sandor launched her Hungarian label in 2006, she’s prioritised sustainability, but it was perhaps her decision to switch to cruelty-free, vegan leather in 2016 that bought her the most acclaim. Her quilted puffer jacket became an instant bestseller, adored by the most stylish members of the street-style set (it’s all over Instagram). However, it’s her neat vegan-leather staples we love, from midi dresses to pared-back shoes – you honestly can’t tell they’re not real leather.
This luxury fragrance house was founded by Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed, social worker turned fragrance entrepreneur. From the beginning, she wanted to make socially conscious fragrance house that would economically empower of women – starting with female harvesters in Morocco who hand-pick floral ingredients for Sana Jardin’s perfumes. Traditionally, this work is seasonal. However, the initiative gives indigenous women the skills (like literacy, business and marketing) to use harvest and distillation waste to create products like scented candles and orange blossom water, which they sell under their own brands.