The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries on the planet. It’s also wildly unethical. From the 8000 gallons of water it takes to make a single pair of denim jeans to the abuse and financial burden garment workers deal with on a daily basis, the clothes we wear are more than a harmless form of self-expression. Lucky for us, there are designers out there looking to make the world a greener, more ethical, and more fashionable place.
We’ve compiled five innovative sustainable fashion designers that regularly push the envelope when it comes to garment making. While you may not be able to shop these designer pieces at your local mall, their methods and materials are a testament to how clothing can be kinder to the world.
1. SS Daley
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This British design has mastered the art of upcycling. In an interview with Vogue, SS Daley said, “Working in lockdown gave me the time to consider the materials and resources I had.” One of those resources being tablecloths, which he’s transformed into boxy shirts and wide-legged trousers. There’s a bit of fantasy that comes with his designs. Every piece hints at the familiar (like the embroidered floral trim of a tablecloth), but is then turned on its head and made modern and youthful, while still being undeniably classic.
2. Alexandra Sipa
Romanian design Alexandra Sipa is doing incredible things with wires. She sources wires on Facebook Marketplace then works her magic, turning them into lace. At first glance, you might just think the garments are made from threads. The wires are so beautifully woven that it’s only after a second or third glance that you realize what you’re looking at. Her work is delicate, intricate, and cleverly uses color to add dimension. We could stare at her work for hours appreciating the craftsmanship.
3. Katie Jones
This UK designer is known for her over-the-top knits full of color and funky patterns. Katie Jones‘ most recent collection is the Make-It-Yourself Collection the encourages the consumer to try their hand is crocheting as part of her #sofasnotsweatshops mantra. The brand’s sustainable practices address how harmful over-consumerism is and that “making something beautiful from nothing” is the best way to do it.
4. Mara Hoffman
Using pre and post-consumer waste, this New York-based designer is melding sustainably and fashion seamlessly. It’s easy to see clothes as cheaply made disposable commodities, and Hoffman tries to rework that relationship with pieces that you would want to wear every day. However, unlike the classic “basics”, her garments are eye-grabbing and special. The designs coupled with mindfully chosen textiles are stunning.
Mara Hoffman uses compostable packaging, digital printing technology, and provides safe working conditions and fair wages for their workers through transparent relationships with suppliers and factories.
5. Emily Adams Bode
This American designer is using antique fabrics to create fabulously unique designs. Every piece is upcycled, zero-waste, handmade, and made in limited edition quantities to minimize waste. Bode has continued to hire craftspeople in India, Peru, and New York during the pandemic. Her designs include Beautifully tailored striped trousers, eye-grabbing prints, wonderfully artistic t-shirts that will make you chuckle, and cute shorts that look like they belong in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Everything is dreamy and easy to wear.
How Can You Take Part in the Sustainable Fashion Revolution?
These five fashion designers are part of an important conversation about the right and wrong ways of sourcing and manufacturing clothing, but you don’t need to purchase high-end designer pieces to be sustainable. At the end of the day, shopping less and wearing what you already own in the best way to contribute to a sustainable fashion environment. Up-cycling or recycling clothing to ensure garments don’t end up in a landfill is a manageable but important way you can reduce your own waste. Holding large companies who don’t respect the environment and their employees is also crucial, since placing all the blame on the consumer will only hold us back as a society as a we try to heal the world from our destructive capitalist patterns.
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Easy Ways to Help the Planet:
- Eat Less Meat: Download Food Monster, the largest plant-based recipe app on the App Store to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy. You can also buy a hard or soft copy of our favorite vegan cookbooks.
- Reduce Your Fast Fashion Footprint: Take initiative by standing up against fast fashion pollution and supporting sustainable and circular brands like Tiny Rescue that are raising awareness around important issues through recycled zero-waste clothing designed to be returned and remade over and over again.
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- Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote smart, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, donate if you can, grow your own food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!