The fashion industry has been one of the world’s largest polluters for decades, especially in the age of fast fashion. With the climate crisis becoming a more and more urgent issue that can’t be ignored, many designers around the world, both established and emerging, are finding ways to create more conscious fashion.
These designers are making significant efforts to foster a new direction for the fashion world through more sustainable processes and ethical practices, such as having a more transparent supply chain, utilising upcycled materials and sustainable fabrics, prioritising local production to reduce their carbon footprint, and providing safe working conditions and a fair living wage to textile workers.
While buying from a luxury label may sound daunting, it’s important to remember the amount of work and effort that goes into the creation of slow fashion. Celebrating these eco-friendly brands and changing our overall view of clothing will not only make our wardrobes longer-lasting and more unique but will also lessen our environmental impact by quite an amount. Here are some of our favourite sustainable fashion designers in the UK and beyond.
While luxury fashion brands definitely have a slower and more deliberate approach to clothing, with many designers releasing new collections only every season as opposed to the damaging micro-trends established by the fast fashion industry, it’s important to note that a luxury brand does not equal a sustainable brand.
While the value of luxury brands come from their air of exclusivity, many established brands have unsustainable models of production. From utilising overseas factories that curtail fair wages and safe working conditions, using animal skins and furs, to wasting and burning excess inventory in order to retain an illusion of scarcity, luxury brands can be just as damaging to the environment as fast fashion brands.
With the need for fashion to slow down significantly and with consumer desires and awareness changing, it’s important for fashion designers to take on a more sustainable manner of producing clothing. Luckily, there are many innovative designers around the world that have made sustainable and ethical fashion their main priority and choose to create with and promote recycled materials, natural fabrics, made-to-order clothing, and a more circular supply chain as opposed to the unsustainable linear production model of today’s industry.
While we have talked about a range of sustainable fashion brands and designers that provide affordable eco-friendly and ethical clothing, there are many luxury designers both in the UK and overseas that create items worth their price. Here are a few of our favourite sustainable fashion designers whose clothing you should get into.
Undoubtedly one of the best-known luxury names in fashion, Stella McCartney is also one of the most lauded and pioneering names in sustainable clothing since she launched her brand in the early 1990s.
The UK designer and sustainability advisor for LVMH is known for her use of natural fabrics and recycled textiles, one example being her Spring/Summer 2020 edit which featured 90% organic cotton 100% organic or upcycled denim.
McCartney also frequently uses recycled polyester, sustainable plastic, Koba (a cruelty-free fur alternative), and other recycled fibres in her clothing.
British designer Katie Jones creates crochet and knitwear that encourage and champion social and environmental change. The designer uses deadstock fabrics and ethically sourced wool for her handmade sustainable pieces and, due to the nature of the craft, none of the materials used go to waste.
British-Nigerian designer Tolu Coker focuses on sustainable design and ethical fashion through the use of recycled fabric and sustainable practices like a denim recycling program that also significantly decreases water use in the dyeing process.
She often uses eco-friendly materials like upcycled shells and offcuts as well as reworking broken pieces like old buckles and prioritises fair wages for workers.
Katharine Hamnett is a household name known for digital printing political statements on tees and has been championing sustainable and environmentally friendly fashion for over 30 years.
Her brand works on creating stylish women and menswear that is responsibly made, using organic materials and natural dyes, local manufacturing, and promoting good labour standards through working with Fair Wear Foundation.
SS Daley is an emerging menswear designer from Liverpool that has dressed the likes of Harry Styles, Josh O’Connor, and Ian McKellen. The young designer creates one-of-a-kind pieces from deadstock fabric from brands like Alexander McQueen and fellow designer Katie Hillier. His latest collection is made from UK-sourced fibrous plant-based materials.
Paris-based designer Kevin Germanier graduated from London’s Central St. Martins before launching his brand in 2018. Germanier’s origins in creating with sustainable materials arose from his use of recycled fabrics and repurposing found objects to create sample garments.
Through his use of deadstock fabrics and discarded embellishments, the designer is able to turn items meant for the landfill into luxurious garments of urban style.
New York-based brand Eileen Fisher is lauded for the use of recycled fabrics like recycled leather and recycled plastic, organic fibres, and natural dyes in the production of her clothing.
Her brand has several sustainable initiatives, such as sustainable secondhand shops Renew and Waste No More. She also collaborates with environmental conservation organisations, supports local artisans, and empowers women through the Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute.
Hungarian brand Nanushka is best known for its use of vegan leather and creating durable items that are sure to last at a reasonable price. Their modern and cutting edge pieces that range from stunning knitwear to beautiful shoes have been seen on the catwalks of Paris and New York Fashion Week, and the sustainable brand utilises local manufacturers to create its season-less, timeless collections.
Because luxury brands and high-end designers have set the standards in fashion for decades, we’re happy to see both major and independent names champion sustainability and make it their priority to change their modes of production.
From British design to international houses, there are more than a handful of creative minds that are making beautiful and durable clothing for us to wear that is also kind to the planet.