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Fashion

In Our Little Green Book: 21 Exciting Eco-Friendly Labels To Know

While several popular fashion brands and luxury houses have stepped up their game to be more eco-friendly, there is also a slew of emerging designers who are dedicated to producing fashion that can help alleviate the wasteful impact of the industry. To mark Earth Day on April 22, we shortlist the few to keep your eyes on.
Collina Strada
30-year-old Hillary Taymour is the brainchild behind New York-based brand Collina Strada. While the designer launched her label in Los Angeles back in the fall of 2008, Taymour has pivoted to focusing particularly strongly on the sustainability aspect of her business over the last two years. The steadily growing brand is set to enjoy even more success this year, as Taymour rides on the wave of being a finalist of the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2019.   Taymour started Collina Strada as a small collection for her fashion-forward friends emphasising distinctive textures, sharp details, and original styles. Today, the label sees itself as not just a clothing brand, but also a platform for climate awareness and social issues. In the long term, Taymour aims to make her label fully sustainable and radically transparent, while staying true to her craft.   To that end, the brand hand-makes each piece in New York with eco-conscious materials. For Collina Strada’s SS20 collection, Taymour designed every piece using almost 100 per cent repurposed materials. For the recent Fall/Winter 2020 season, the designer continued her sustainability mission by having a majority of the pieces be made out of deadstock fabrics and undertaking a new upcycling project where dresses were created with used, second-hand t-shirts. 323
Los Angeles-based designer Jillian Maddocks set up her label, 323, in 2015. An artist trained in illustration and painting, the 30-year old initially founded 323 as part of her art practice and as a way to connect with other creatives through intimate collaboration. Over the years, 323 has evolved to becoming a clothing brand that is committed to serving a community of conscious-minded consumers who are thinking differently about the way they buy.   The name 323 has two meanings – it represents Maddocks’ birthday and is also her area code. Indeed, the creative and laid-back spirit of LA shines through strongly in 323’s offerings, which range from dresses to undergarments to hair accessories. All the label’s products are produced ethically at Nana Atelier in LA with sustainable materials. For instance, a top is made inventively from recycled plastic bottle caps while a compostable headband is fashioned out of papier-mache.   As the brand grows, Maddocks is thinking of ways to adopt natural dyeing processes, developing products made from used and donated plastic, and finding new methods to incorporate deadstock fabrics into her collections. The designer is also a strong advocate of supporting women – she donates three per cent of sales to the Downtown Women’s Center, a local organisation that focuses on helping current and former homeless women, and also plans to highlight female artists and their crafts in future shoots. Farewell Frances
Based in Rockland County, New York, Carly Scheck founded her independent label, Farewell Frances, about six months ago in late 2019. The designer currently operates out of her house, doing all her sewing and packaging there, though she shares that she will be renting a studio space soon. A self-taught sewer who has been practicing for about 18 years, Scheck’s M.O. is turning old quilts into beautiful new garments such as coats, pants, and vests (there are even options for kids too).   Scheck started Farewell Frances after two of her grandmothers passed away suddenly within months of each other. One of them was an avid knitter and sewer, and really into textiles; hence, the designer and she were always sharing their knowledge and projects with one another. Scheck also considers the brand as a farewell to her youth.   Being eco-friendly and sustainable has always been a big part of Scheck’s life, even in fashion. After consistently coming across several ‘damaged’ quilts that have been left unwanted due to minor holes and tears, the designer was inspired to buy these, mend them, and give them a new lease of life. Scheck believes that quilts have many stories to tell and that the imperfections of a mended quilt makes it all the more unique.   Photo credit: Morgan Austerweil (@morganausterweil) Maggie Marilyn
Born and bred in New Zealand, Maggie Hewitt grew up in the Bay of Islands, a rural and coastal region of the country that fuelled the designer’s love and appreciation for nature. Hewitt’s passion for fashion then led her to art school, where she enrolled in a Fashion and Sustainability degree. Through her studies, Hewitt saw the need for more sustainable practices in the fashion world, and hence set up her label, Maggie Marilyn, in 2016 to pursue this goal.   Since then, Maggie Marilyn has swept up countless accolades, such as being picked up in its very first season by luxury e-commerce site, Net-A-Porter and being shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH Prize in 2017. Sustainability is at the core of things here and the brand abides by this commitment through practices such as being 95 per cent New Zealand-made, with plans to raise this to a full hundred per cent by this year. The label also has a slew of goals to achieve in 2020 in terms of fabrications: to remove virgin-sourced synthetic fibres from their supply chain by the end of the year, to use more recycled natural fibres, to use repurposed materials and more.   Additionally, in late 2019, Hewitt also launched a new luxury essentials line, Somewhere, that provides more affordable and eco-friendly basics such as singlets, sweaters, T-shirts, and leggings in neutral colours like black, white and ivory. This new line emphasises circularity, where the pieces can be sent back to the brand’s HQ in New Zealand to be remanufactured into new garments. All offerings from Somewhere are also traceable through each tier of the supply chain from farm to finished garment.  Envelope 1976
As someone who has cut her teeth in the fashion industry for more than two decades as a stylist, photographer, journalist, editor and now creative director and founder of her own brand, Envelope1976, Celine Aagaard is a multi-hyphenate who is using her extensive experience to help create a more sustainable industry. The label, which she started with her partner Pia Nordskaug, aims to provide more eco-friendly luxury pieces with a minimalist twist (think The Row).   Envelope1976 was first launched in November 2018 for the Norwegian market, and immediately met with great success. Due to the overwhelming popularity, the label quickly moved to debut internationally last year, and is now available on Net-A-Porter. Aagaard sticks firmly to the sustainability ethos with her fabric choices, such as using biodegradable wool and organic cotton, using natural fibres that are dyed with natural colour pigments, and using recycled materials in swimwear.   For Envelope1976’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection, the focus is on seasonal garments that can become part of a year-round wardrobe. Our picks? The classic bermuda shorts in chrome-free vegan-dyed leather (great way to incorporate leather into our looks in Singapore’s hot climate) or the versatile Playa Sol playsuit (pictured) that can be easily dressed up or down. Tach Clothing
Sisters Sabrina and Patricia Tachdjian are the creative minds behind the label Tach Clothing, the brand that has been blowing up on Instagram recently with its bright and colourful pieces in shades like lilac, mint green, and blush pink. While the label offers a wide selection including dresses, pants, and swimwear, the most popular items seem to be its vintage style knit tops, sweaters, and cardigans.   Founded and based in Montevideo, Uruguay, the sisters started Tach Clothing in 2017. Their grandfather, an Armenian immigrant, opened a clothing store in their neighbourhood, and their father designed children’s clothes. Hence, the duo learned about fabrics and patterns from an early age.   Sustainability is a big part of Tach Clothing, and the sisters are committed to making sure that everything is still made and designed in Montevideo, handmade by ladies in their homes in a fair-trade environment. The designers produce in small workshops and create products on a small scale to ensure there is no leftover stock. Each piece is ethically constructed, and the duo try to use the best materials that the country’s suppliers can provide, such as wool and leather. The Arlo Studio
Friends Julianne Propsting and Charlotte Terry first met when they were studying Fashion Design at the Fashion Design Studio in Sydney. After working on projects together through school, the duo decided to partner and start their label, The Arlo Studio, which officially launched this March with the debut of its Fall/Winter 2020 collection at New York Fashion Week.    The Arlo Studio works around the concept of ‘slow fashion’, which means that each piece is crafted to be timeless to encourage more sustainable consumption. To discourage the production of new textiles, the Sydney-based label produces nearly 80 per cent of its garments from designer dead-stock material. Propsting and Terry also work exclusively with textile companies that share this sustainability ethos, such as Think Positive in Sydney, which is a print company that recycles their inks.   As for future plans, the duo is currently developing one-off exclusive pieces with designer dead-stock fabrics that they sourced while in New York. They are also in discussion with several artists to collaborate on the label’s upcoming Resort range, and are working on a made-on-demand business model to further avoid unnecessary wastage of materials. To reduce their environmental footprint in as many ways as possible, the designers will work with Land Care Australia to plant upwards of 50 native trees once Covid-19 isolation restrictions are lifted.   Photo credit: Kristina Staal (@kristinastaalphotography) Soft Focus
Since most of us are WFH during this circuit breaker period, it is likely that we are all on the hunt for some comfortable yet fashionable loungewear.. Well, here is one loungewear brand you should check out: Soft Focus. Founded by designer Sammi Smith in Nov 2017, Soft Focus produces loungewear with contemporary silhouettes made of quality, natural fabrics.   Based in Toronto with more than a decade of experience working for some of Canada’s top fashion brands, Smith found herself questioning the standard home office uniform of sweats and T-shirts when she decided to leave her nine to five life behind. Working from home for the first time, the designer sought out easy, casual clothing that didn’t sacrifice personal style for comfort. Soft Focus does just that – with the brand’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection, pieces such as the lounge shirt, pants, and classic robes are actually stylish enough that we can imagine wearing them out of the house.   In terms of sustainability, Smith works exclusively with plant-based fabrics. Tencel, one of the materials Soft Focus most frequently uses, is made from sustainably sourced eucalyptus fibre and milled in a closed-loop manufacturing process. The result? A breathable, soft, and almost silk-like fabric that is perfect to laze in the whole day. Bonus point: all of the fabrics that the brand uses are easy to care for and can be washed at home. KES
New York-based brand KES has garnered a lot of attention recently as it is producing sustainable and biodegradable face masks in response to Covid-19. These masks are made from 100 per cent cotton or silk, and are washable and can be reused. Those with children: KES also just introduced masks specially for kids that have been cut to fit little faces. Additionally, the label will be donating a mask for every mask sold and has just pledged to donate 10,000 masks to healthcare workers and charities.   The person behind the brand? Lia Kes, who founded her namesake label in 2014. A native of Kibbutz Afikim, Kes grew up in northern Israel and was surrounded by nature in her childhood. At the age of 12, Kes learned how to use a sewing machine from the women who staffed her community’s communal sewing workshop. Fast forward a few years, the designer received a degree in fashion design from Shenkar College in Tel Aviv and, soon after graduating from the program, relocated to New York City.   Inspired by her close connection to nature since young, Kes ensures that sustainability is at the top of mind for her brand. KES manufactures all its products in factories located in NYC’s Garment District. The brand applies eco-friendly practices such as recycling garments and partnering with local dyers to create a plant-based process, while items are made from natural and organic materials and 100 per cent silk textiles. During production, the label cuts down on waste by using leftover fabric scraps in recycled style pieces. Christy Dawn
The brainchild behind the brand is designer Christy Dawn, who set up her eponymous label in 2014. A former model, Dawn credits her fashion design beginnings to Placerville, California, where she grew up. A small town with the nearest mall being hours away, Dawn relied on thrift shopping to style herself and this sparked her love for vintage clothing that is timeless and classic.   Christy Dawn has production centres in Los Angeles and India, and the brand is working towards creating a fully regenerative fiber shed. In terms of materials, the label largely uses deadstock fabric alongside new, organic cotton to minimise its environmental footprint. While Christy Dawn offers a range of products including tops, bottoms, and outerwear, it is perhaps best known for its romantic and vintage-inspired dresses that are all made using upcycled fabric and sewn in LA by its team of dressmakers. Instead of creating thousands of garments at a time, the brand only creates a limited number of pieces, numbering every dress that it makes. OffOn
Although husband-and-wife duo Simona Valiune and Paulius Valiunas started their clothing brand OffOn back in 2012 (she’s the designer and ‘creative soul’ of the label), we’re including them in this list because they are doing something truly unique. Inspired by their two daughters Elze and Smilte, the family-oriented brand does not produce clothing just for women, but also for girls. Perfect for those looking to don cute matching mother and daughter outfits in natural fabrics such as cotton and linen.   Based in Vilnius, Lithuania, the brand seeks to reduce its carbon footprint by having all garments be handmade locally in the couple’s studio. The fabrics for all clothing are also produced in Europe, and are certified free of harmful chemicals. To reduce wastage, OffOn strives to cut patterns more cleverly and upcycles excess materials to make other products like smaller garments and accessories. The label also does not create seasonal collections but only customised, made-to-order pieces in a bid to encourage more mindful consumption.   For 2020, OffOn hopes to further develop its mother and daughter matching sets line, and also create more fabric prints by collaborating with creative artists and textile designers, for whom sustainable production choices are a priority. The brand will stay committed to its mission of sustainability by continuing to donate un-reusable fabric pieces to schools where children can use them for various activities. Patrick McDowell
British designer Patrick McDowell is a Central Saint Martins graduate who has garnered the blessings of industry giants such as Burberry and Swarovski, cementing his status as one of the most promising new designers on the sustainability front.   McDowell’s sophomore collection, titled Firefighting Aunties, was an homage to his family (his father is in the profession), skilfully mixing elevated utilitarian staples such as playfully oversized boilersuits and parkas with voluminous knits. In other words, it’s a trendy aesthetic that would not be out of place of say, Rihanna’s wheelhouse. Singers Rita Ora and M.I.A already count among his early fans. For Gen Z designers (he is 23), sustainability is not so much a marketing gimmick than a natural way of things. The collection was fashioned completely out of upcycled materials – as well as deadstock fabrics donated by Christopher Bailey during his tenure at Burberry; McDowell had previously interned at the British label and asked if he could use their leftover fabrics.   Likewise, the crystals used in his accessories were sourced from unsellable stock belonging to Swarovski. Every piece is made in England to minimise his carbon footprint. We say, for making street-photography-friendly pieces that defy the “beige” reputation that continues to plague eco-fashion, McDowell is one of your best bet. How to get his pieces? Hit up conceptual retailers such as the rent-based purveyor Higher Studio, or visit his website directly to get in touch with the designer himself, as he only makes one piece per design to minimise wastage. Marine Serre
The Marine Serre story is well-known to industry players by now – the Balenciaga-trained designer first came onto the scene via her scoop of the LVMH Prize in 2017, despite having only one collection to her name at the time. Three years on, she’s become one of the hottest tickets at Paris Fashion Week, beloved for her futuristic, sporty-meets-utilitarian aesthetic filled with alien-like bodysuits printed with her signature crescent moon motif and dresses fashioned from vintage scarves.   Though plenty of designers – established and emerging alike – have hopped onto the sustainability bandwagon (often with dubious lip service), Serre has been serious about the topic since the get-go and her message only continues to strengthen with each season. For her FW19 collection titled Radiation (Serre’s take on a post-apocalyptic world), she told WWD that more than half of it was crafted via upcycling – the practice of reimagining and refashioning existing fabrics and materials into new designs. Her SS20 and FW20 collections have reflected the same ethos.   Serre has also divided her label into four categories, one of which is the 100% upcycled Green Line. She brings her upcycling magic even to the rarefied realm of couture via her Red Line – her version of haute couture. If Stella McCartney represented the early stage of environmental responsibility (within high-end fashion), Serre is a leading name in the sphere now – upcycling remains the purview of mostly small labels yet she’s at the stage where she’s producing more than 10,000 pieces per season. Here’s the good news though; you can readily buy Serre’s couture designs at select stockists such as Matches Fashion. Elliss
Among the environmentally-conscious, cutting down on consumption is the ideal – it nips the problem of hyper-consumerism in the bud. The next best option? Buying second hand or vintage. But as founder Elliss Solomon points out to Vogue UK, “I believe the most sustainable way to shop is to buy vintage – but that’s not always possible for underwear and jersey pieces.” The Central Saint Martins alumna established her eponymous label, which specialises in swimwear with a highly graphic edge, four years back and has since become a stalwart in the scene. The label only works with resource-efficient fabrics such as hemp and bamboo and better yet, recycled ones such as Econyl, which takes waste such as discarded fishing nets from the oceans and purifies it to become nylon. (FYI, fishing nets and other related equipment form the majority of the Great Pacific Garbage patch aka the world’s largest collection of floating trash.) On top of that, most of Solomon’s manufacturing is done in the same building as her studio, which significantly lowers her carbon footprint. Her highly visual prints, which resemble a pastiche of ‘90s glamour shots, are digitally printed (which greatly cuts down on the amount of water needed compared to more traditional methods such as screen printing) with certified non-toxic dyes. Which just goes to show – being environmentally friendly isn’t just about using recycled materials – it’s about improving processes at every possible stage in the manufacturing chain, and for that, Elliss gets our nod. Besides which, her swimwear (available on her own website) can also easily double up as stretchy, body-conscious party gear – a win-win all around in our books. Duran Lantink
Remember the unforgettable trousers that pop singer Janelle Monae donned in her music video for the single ‘Pynk’ in 2018? Well, that was the brainchild of 33-year-old Duran Lantink, the Amsterdam-born, bred, and based designer who also helms his own eponymous label.   Lantink is passionate about producing clothing using innovative, sustainable, and ethical practices. His specialty is in upcycling, particularly with designer overstock that he sources directly from charity shops and fashion houses. Using collage techniques, the designer cuts up these discarded materials and mix and match them to produce wholly new garments. An example: a custom-made trench coat fashioned out of vintage Max Mara and a 1999 Dolce & Gabbana suit.   Although the designer has been around since 2016, 2020 is set to be his big year as he comes off of being shortlisted for the prestigious 2019 LVMH Prize. Impressing Loewe’s Jonathan Anderson and Kenzo’s Humberto Leon at the shortlist event early last year, Lantink already counts the upmarket Galeries Lafayette in France as one of his stockists. Now, Lantink is busy heading up a Talent Program as part of the upcoming Amsterdam Fashion Week, where he will be mentoring promising new designers.   Image: Instagram @duranlantinkyo Priya Ahluwalia
Possibly the newest cool girl on the block, 27-year-old Priya Ahluwalia has quickly carved a niche for herself as a sustainable menswear designer. Working exclusively with recycled deadstock, the British designer produces sustainable menswear under her label Ahluwalia Studio, which she runs out of her studio that was converted from a bedroom in her mum’s house.   After trips to Lagos, Nigeria and Panipat, India (where her father and mother are from respectively) in 2017, Ahluwalia was inspired to commit to ethical fashion after coming across the huge volumes of donations and secondhand clothing being exported to these countries – Panipat, in particular, has been described as the garment recycling capital of the world.   An alum of Westminster University’s first Menswear MA cohort and the winner of the H&M Design Award 2019 – where she showcased her sustainably-sourced graduate collection – Ahluwalia’s colourful designs have even attracted the attention of Pharrell, who commissioned her to redesign the iconic Adidas SC Supercourt. The sneakers were subsequently presented at a PFW show where the designer got to mingle with the likes of David Beckham and Yohji Yamamoto.   Image: Instagram @ahluwalia_studio Ancuta Sarca
For shoe fiends, keep the name Ancuta Sarca in mind. Though the Romanian-born designer debuted her namesake label only last September during London Fashion Week, Sarca has already accumulated a strong fanbase due to her distinct and novel creations: sneaker-stiletto hybrid shoes that are fashioned out of discarded Nike trainers and secondhand and vintage heels sourced from resale sites and charity shops.   Currently based in London, Sarca has an impressive CV: she graduated from BA and MA programmes at The Art and Design University of Cluj-Napoca in her home country, cut her teeth at British label Meadham Kirchhoff, before subsequently honing her skills under the tutelage of fashion designer Ashish Gupta. Sarca’s designs are instantly recognisable – her colourful hand stitched kitten heels have gained considerable traction on Instagram over the last few months.   Unsurprisingly, the designer – who is also a member of the Fashion East family – has managed to stock her designs at the exclusive East London concept store LN-CC. Having found an Italian factory that has agreed to keep to the designer’s environmentally-conscious upcycling motto, Sarca is now working on her second showing at LFW this month.   Image: Instagram @ancutasarca Bethany Williams
An alum of the well-regarded London College of Fashion, Bethany Williams established her eponymous label in 2017, though her star is really set to shine in 2020. Committed to the business of ethical fashion, the British designer collected a slew of accolades last year: recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design 2019 and the British Emerging Talent Menswear 2019 Fashion Award, a finalist of the 2019 LVMH prize, and being named as one of Business of Fashion’s 500, an index of the most influential people in fashion.   Identifying as a gender-neutral designer, Williams sources book waste, second-hand denim, and hand-woven textiles to create completely recycled pieces. Along the way, the 30-year-old has collaborated with organisations such as the women’s shelter Adelaide House to provide employment for departing female inmates, as well as casting models from the TIH homeless modelling agency. In her work, Williams often addresses socio-political issues such as homelessness and the environmental impact of fashion.   Passionate about sustainability and social change, Williams most recently just showed her F/W’20 Men’s collection at London Fashion Week, where she collaborated with The Magpie Project, a London-based charity that supports women and children under the age of five in temporary accommodation. The collection was also entirely organic or recycled, with materials ranging from recycled bedding to old blankets to toy ribbon waste.   Image: Instagram @bethany_williams_london Anais Dautais Warmel
Parisian stylist Anaïs Dautais Warmel established her eco-friendly label Les Recuperables back in 2016, but it was only last October when the founder and artistic designer opened her first brick-and-mortar store in the trendy 18th arrondissement in Paris. Before, Warmel made do with hosting “secret sales” in different Parisian apartments to unveil her biannual collections.   Like so many others in this list, the designer has a passion for upcycling materials such as old household linens, upholstery, and discarded fabrics from haute couture workshops to create her pieces. Warmel does not use any new textile fabrics and also keeps the production to the French ciy of Marseille in order to reduce the carbon footprint generated from manufacturing.   The Les Recuperables boutique is a chic, minimalist space, showcasing the curated collection of original and stylish garments ranging from jackets to sweaters to skirts. Furthermore, the space also doubles up as a permanent gathering ground where consumers can meet to exchange ideas about sustainable fashion, and DIY workshops are also hosted where those interested can learn how to alter or embroider their own clothing.   Image: Instagram @lesrecuperables Rahemur Rahman
Since his debut show at London Fashion Week Men’s in 2019, Rahemur Rahman has been labelled a ‘breakout star’, and deservedly so. The British-Bangladeshi designer is holding up two torches: one for the sustainabilty movement in fashion, and one for more South Asian representation in the industry, which admittedly still suffers from a lack of inclusion of minorities.   A graduate of the renowned Central Saint Martins, Rahman takes his inspiration mainly from old family photos, where his father’s love for immaculate British tailoring is juxtaposed against the bold colours of his home and the fashions of his mother’s native country. For his debut A/W’19 collection, the designer also decided to go with not just a South Asian cast, but an entire South Asian team, from the stylist to the musician.   Rahman’s garments are made in Dhaka and uses natural dyes, which are far better than synthetic ones as the former are not only biodegradable, but can also be obtained from renewable sources that can be harnessed without harming the environment. Looking forward, the designer aims to repurpose discarded fabrics and transform them into textiles that can be used for his next collection.   Image: Instagram @rahemurrahman   Pia Schiele
Also a fan of upcycling is London-based Pia Schiele, who founded her home-grown brand Loutre just last year. Born in Germany, the designer and artist is a one-woman show operating out of her East London home studio, producing small batches of handmade garments and accessories made from materials such as old curtains and organic virgin fabrics.   An active skateboarder, Schiele’s designs are largely inspired by skate culture, with practicality being a foremost criteria. Hence, Loutre’s offerings are all comfortable and easy to wear, from the oversized jackets and loose fit pants to the hands-free bum bags that will allow skaters ease of movement.   Though young, Loutre has already attracted considerable attention: Schiele was invited to join Spark Progress, a new initiative by sneaker brand Converse that aims to support and spotlight young female creatives in London. Recently, Loutre also collaborated with Doyenne, a women-run skateboarding label from Glasgow, to design limited edition trousers for the brand’s S/S’19 and F/W’19 collections.   Image: Instagram @loutre.co