Fashion isn’t known for its green credentials. It’s an industry largely driven on the idea of excess, hype, trends, throw away culture and a sort of empty, circular search that’s never really satisfied: more shoes, must-have shoes, new season shoes, shoes on sale and the all-important latest drop shoes.
According to the Global Fashion Agenda—an organisation supported by the likes of Nike, H&M, Kering and ASOS whose mission is centred on making sustainability more fashionable—across the next decade the fashion industry’s carbon footprint will increase to 2,791 million tonnes and it looks set to create something like 148 million tonnes of waste.
These staggering figures exist in spite of the efforts of young designers, brands and retailers working hard to reverse fashion’s excessive nature. Established brands that haven’t thought sustainably before are implementing deep changes, while new brands, initiatives and store sections are advocating, producing and promoting innovative style that has a whole lot less impact on the environment and support community for the better in some meaningful way. Think consignment and resale concepts, the rise of archival fashion and charity-led collections, innovation like adidas Futurecraft Loop closed-loop recyclable sneakers, global summits championing a circular economy and sustainability editors appointed at major fashion magazines—it’s all happening in 2019.
However, a sustainable future relies on a collective effort, and this couldn’t be more spot-on when it comes to fashion. The real power to reduce that hefty carbon footprint, insane amount of waste, water use and irreversible environmental damage lies with the consumer: we have the power to choose what we buy as well as how much we buy.
With all that in mind, here are seven incredible sustainable fashion brands that definitely deserve your dollars. Style shouldn’t cost the Earth, so now’s the time to adopt a new mantra: buy less and choose well.
Pangaia has a super long list of environmentally-friendly, technology-forward qualities to rave about. The Moscow, NYC and London-based initiative launched in late 2018 at ComplexCon and currently features wardrobe essentials like tees, hoodies and track pants. Everything is made from bio-based and post-consumer-based materials and plastic bottles— for example, t-shirts are made from harvested seaweed from waters surrounding Iceland, and that seaweed is only harvested every four years to allow for full replenishment in between. Pangaia also uses vegan-friendly flower down over regular goose down, which is made from natural dried flowers.
The brand is committed to developing new tech by buddying up with scientists and researchers, and each piece has been made so you don’t have to wash it every day. Lastly, 1% of every purchase price is donated to 5 Gyres, a non-profit organisation that empowers action against the global health crisis of plastic pollution through science, art, education and adventure. Did we mention Pangaia also offers free worldwide delivery?
“Sustainability has always been at the core of [my] jewellery,” explains Brisbane born, Sydney-based artist and jewellery designer, Holly Ryan of her eponymous jewellery label. If you’re already a fan of Ryan’s stunning minimalist and art deco silver and gold, you’ll be happy to know she is big on using both recycled metals and found materials.
Last year, she revealed the Holly Ryan Recycling Initiative, which encourages owners of Holly Ryan pieces to return items they no longer wear, so that they can be fashioned into something new. For her most recent (absolutely stunning) HR 19 collection, Ryan has incorporated both found and locally sourced agate, pearls and amber—and the results are stunning.
This incredibly cute, gender-neutral line of streetwear, tees and basics is made entirely from 100% organic cotton, because they believe “conventional cotton sucks.” Founded by New York City-based designer Jacob Castaldi, t-shirts feature empowering positive graphics and slogans like “Teach Peace”, “Love Your Mother” and “Believe Women”.
Each factory CHNGE works with is listed on their website, with everyone in the supply chain being fairly paid and working in comfortable conditions. And to top it all off, 50% of the label’s profits are donated to charity.
It would be remiss of us to skip Patagonia on this list. A label for the ages—sustainability and respect for the environment are deeply woven into the threads of this brand. It was created very organically by a band of American rock climbers and surfers back in the 1950s and became a label of choice, slashed in bright colourways by the 80s.
Its retro appeal is strong, but these guys have been making deep inroads when it comes to realising their place in a better future. They’ve been organic since 1996—and even now, they are still working on a picture of the perfect sustainable company. Their company mission statement concludes: “In the end, Patagonia may never be completely responsible. We have a long way to go and we don’t have a map—but we do have a way to read the terrain and to take the next step, and then the next.”
Melbourne-based designer Jade Sarita-Arnott put her label on hold in 2012—she was fed up and disheartened by the relentless cycle of the fashion industry. After some time out, she relaunched Arnsdorf in 2017 with a totally sustainable framework, doing away with excessive waste and business centred on mass production.
Basically, Sarita-Arnott designs about 15 pieces every 10 or so weeks, instead of full seasonal collections. Everything is made in Melbourne using bio-degradable fabrics like organic cotton, hemp, linens, wool, silk and bamboo. Designs are considered, trans-seasonal, effortless and beautiful limited runs. Transparency is key in the brand’s new ethos too: each product features a list of its makers alongside fabric and care instructions, as well as full transparency on the cost of making it, step by step. This year, the label became one of a few Australian womenswear labels to hold B Corp status, a certification awarded to businesses successfully balancing profit and purpose.
Artclub is a far cry from Sass & Bide co-founder Heidi Middleton’s earlier ventures in fashion. Launched just this year and housed in a Sydney warehouse that’s home to eco-friendly businesses like Koskela and Three Blue Ducks, Artclub is not about mass-produced, trend-based denim. Instead, it’s a hub for atelier-made art, environmentally-conscious fashion and vintage designer pieces.
Middleton wanted to flip the industry framework on its head, and through Artclub she’ll be peddling slow fashion that’s centred on creative freedom, longevity and respect for the planet. As for the clothes, expect billowing gowns made from remnant taffeta, pleated metallic skirts made with remnant lame—it’s an elegant Italian summer vibe and we are very into it.
If you’re after denim that’s not going to destroy the planet, LA-based label Boyish should be your go-to. Specialising in vintage silhouettes (that cropped denim bomber jacket, for example), Boyish use about one third of the water typically used to produce a pair of jeans, and they recycle all the water they do use. They have a zero-waste policy and use Intertek to ensure their factory partners use safe practices. Boyish also use recycled cotton, recycled metals for buttons and clasps; their hangtags are made with recycled paper and care labels are made from recycled plastic bottles.
This one is for all you hype beasts and 90s style fiends out there. In a fashion world fuelled by hype and drop culture, Frankie Collective has an equally inspired, sustainable alternative. The Vancouver-based label repurposes and reworks 90s streetwear—adidas, Nike, Champion, Fila, Tommy Hilfiger and more into new, covetable styles. With a very much outside-the-box, boundary-pushing approach to fashion design, they’ve reworked vintage Supreme and Glossier makeup bags. All scraps are recycled through Fabcycle and production is kept entirely local. We are currently coveting their reworked mini bags.
Make your beauty cabinet more sustainable too. Here are 12 incredible eco-friendly Aussie beauty brands you need to try.
Image credit: CHNGE.