Despite having a history that the late GQ Magazine “Style Guy,” Glenn O’Brien described as a representation of all the worst values: “sheer egoism, lack of conscience, instant gratification, [and] mental laziness,” perhaps the biggest blight on the fashion industry’s tainted resume is its reputation as the second-largest polluter in the world after oil. Brands and retailers have been able to get away with unsustainable production, management, and distribution practices for too long by operating under the guise of greenwashed marketing-focused business practices. A lookbook shot in an open field cohabited by wildlife creates the illusion of eco-friendly practices without having to do any work. And frankly it makes sense, why jump through the hoops to actually be an environmentally friendly corporation when you can make more profit by just pretending? Thankfully these phoney marketing schemes and greenwashing practices are coming to light and millennials especially are not willing to participate in the charade anymore. According to the Business of Fashion 2018 State of Fashion report sustainability is now finally at the centre of innovation in the fashion industry. And to ensure that this is not yet another trend there are several sustainable fashion brands, both new and old, who are working incredibly hard to create ecologically-responsible products with total transparency – 42 out of 100 fashion brands now disclose their supplier information. To explore these issues further and in more depth, the following sustainable fashion brands are a few that are setting the bar high in regards to eco-friendly done right.
RE/DONE: CLOSED LOOP FASHION SYSTEM
The Los Angeles-based upcycling brand founded by Sean Barron and Jamie Mazur displays perfectly how vintage and heritage clothing does not need to end up in the landfill but can rather be repurposed to double or triple the garment’s lifetime. According to the report prepared by the Global Fashion Agenda for the 2017 Copenhagen Fashion Summit, 73% of the world’s clothing ends up in landfills, while less than 15% of clothes are recycled and less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing. RE/DONE is challenging these statistics by reusing vintage materials from heritage brands such as Levi’s and Hanes to build beautiful new jeans, t-shirts, and sweaters. Proudly manufactured in Downtown Los Angeles using water conservation methods and no harsh chemicals, it is an example of how sustainable fashion brands can make distinctly one of a kind clothes.
STELLA McCARTNEY: SUSTAINABLE MATERIAL MIX
“A brand’s choice of raw materials can define up to 50% of its environmental footprint.” This is a fact that London-born designer Stella McCartney knows all too well and for the past two decades she has not faltered once in pursuing a more sustainable and eco-responsible fashion industry. Whether the brand is sourcing pulp from FSC-certified forests in Sweden to produce their viscose, refusing to participate in rapid deforestation; utilizing Re.Verso, a recycled Italian cashmere material, to replace the tedious and terribly destructive process of cashmere production to create gorgeous sweaters and tops; or opting to practice renewability in sneaker production through the use of Eco-Alter Nappa, a leather-like product made 50% of vegetable oil – Stella McCartney is blazing a clear path for other sustainable fashion brands, showing how clean and responsible the future could be.
PHIPPS: SUPPLY CHAIN TRACEABILITY
Former menswear designer of Dries Van Noten, Spencer Phipps, recently debuted his new menswear brand Phipps at last year’s Paris Fashion Week and one of the most impressive parts is the designer’s dedication to a transparent supply chain. Whether it’s a shirting mill in Portugal, knitwear from Mongolian yak farms, or un-dyed wool from the UK, Phipps is working hard to not only follow the footsteps of previous sustainable fashion brands, but to push the possibilities of ecological responsibility in the fashion industry even further. “I would like to refine our fabrications, and partner with new technologies in sustainable textiles/materials as well as more digital developments such as blockchain traceability,” says the designer. “Our goal is to create a community that shares our passion, interest and curiosity in the natural world.”
So, let’s all cross our fingers and hope that 2018 will truly be the year that brings sustainability to the forefront of the fashion industry. Whether it is through technical innovation or just honest and fair business practices, brands and companies alike need to take notice of the environmental impact they are having throughout the world. As commercial advantages become more lucrative in eco-fashion, more and more sustainable fashion brands are bound to appear, some of these will undoubtedly show the industry how to innovate and integrate sustainability across the entire chain.