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The sustainable fashion brands we’re keeping on our radar in 2021

Fashion. The glitz and glamour, supermodels and fashion-weeks do not conceal its big, ugly secret: It’s one of the largest polluting industries in the world. Sustainable fashion has become something of a buzz-phrase in recent years — worst-case-scenarios have seen issues of green-washing and all-talk-no-action realities. The good that have come out of this, however, are great. Transparency. Accountability. Real, actionable change.

Net-a-Porter‘s Net Sustain. Matches Fashion’s Responsible Fashion edit. Farfetch’s Postively FARFETCH. Selfridge’s Project Earth. Sustainability and considered responsibility in the fashion industry have slowly trickled down to make an impact on how retailers market their buys — most now with curated edits that feature brands that have passed specific eco-conscious standards. For the eager shopper, Good on You’s directory is a trusted, third-party source for rating brands’ sustainable and ethical efforts.

The most sustainable thing to do is to shop less. Revisit old favourites. Go thrifting. Buy better. If you are, however, in the market for a few new pieces, here are a few sustainability-mind designers (beyond Stella McCartney, of course!) to keep an eye out for…

Header image courtesy of Chloé Bruhat for MaisonCléo.

MaisonCléo

The fashion industry is no stranger to a dynastic legacy; after all, we have the Pradas. The Versaces. The Armanis. The Ferragamos. The Castiglionis. The Olsens, even.

Marie Dewet founded MaisonCléo after a three-year stint at Vestiaire Collective; it’s no wonder sustainable practices within the fashion industry — notorious for being a terrible contributor to human rights and environmental issues — are an important motivator for her. MaisonCléo is named after Dewet’s mother, who just so happens to be the brand’s sole seamstress.

Deadstock fabrics lie at the heart of MaisonCléo’s designs; each named after women in the family and handmade-to-order by Cléo in France. The mother-and-daughter duo sources excess textiles from couture houses and factories — never ideating their own. These fabrics, then, inform the shape of the design, which align beautifully with the brand’s one-off capsule drops. When a design sells out, this means the fabric is, too, gone for good.

Shop MaisonCléo on Net-a-Porter.

Ganni

An editor favourite, Ganni — while no stranger to the industry — sits at the forefront of innovative practices, be it their Ganni Repeat Rental Platform, their archival off-season store in Copenhagen or their use of post-consumer fibres. Their designs are excellent to boot.

Take a scroll through the brand’s secondary @ganni.lab Instagram account for an education into how Ganni achieves their sustainability goals; how their business continues to evolve for the better, whether it be tuned to environmental or socio-cultural issues; and how Ganni hopes to improve. This Danish ready-to-wear label does not shy from their flaws — they currently have a ‘Not Good Enough’ rating on the Good On You directory; something Ganni explicitly addressed in detail — and sets the gold standard for what ‘transparency’ means with regard to authenticity and accountability in the industry.

Shop Ganni on Lane Crawford.

Bite Studios

Quality and durability are key if we are to reduce our impact on the planet’s resources.

BITE Studios

Environmental progress? It says so in their name. BITE is, in fact, an acronym for ‘By Independent Thinkers for Environmental Progress’. Long gone are the days when an ‘environmentally-conscious’ piece of clothing would conjure up starchy hemp fabrics and design-secondary silhouettes. BITE Studios — with pared-back, beautifully tailored ready-to-wear separates akin to those at Phoebe Philo-era Céline or The Row — levels thoughtfully-designed clothes alongside ‘uncompromisingly sustainable’ practices.

Each design is hand-crafted, with 95% rendered out of natural organic fibres and recycled, low-impact fabrics. Beyond sustainable fabrics, buying better also means buying trend-agnostic designs that stand the test of time. Clothes meant to be worn, treasured and, someday, passed down.

Shop BITE Studios on Net-a-Porter.

Rentrayage

To mend; to make whole again. That’s what ‘Rentrayage’ translates to in French, setting up the foundation for a brand philosophy that gives second lives to thrifted clothes and deadstock textiles. When we think of an ‘upcycled’ aesthetic, Rentrayage’s designs immediately come to mind with their ruffled-trimmed sweatshirts — vintage, of course — and splice-and-diced T-shirts, stitched together from two-halves to make a whole.

Rentrayage’s signature upcycled aesthetic is not only served for the sustainable brand’s fashion ready-to-wear; their interiors portfolio consist of patchworked pillows and restored ceramics. One-of-a-kind guaranteed.

Shop Rentrayage on Farfetch.

Deadwood

The production of leather products raises many red flags, from its environmental impacts, it’s exorbitant carbon footprint and its existence as evidence of animal cruelty. Working to change the narrative, Deadwood — instead of resorting to ‘vegan’ leather alternatives that may cause more harm; especially if made out of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) — makes use of recycled leather. This is leather that has had past lives; ones that perhaps weathered storms as a motocross jacket that fell out of style.

The rescued skins have the benefit of being ultra-soft, too, with that worn-in, vintage feel that only comes with age and patina.

Shop Deadwood on Net-a-Porter.

Carcel

Sustainable fashion brands often shout about their eco-initiatives; rightly so, considering the industry continues to be held accountable for the myriads of ways in which it can improve. While Carcel is a sustainable brand at heart — their main materials-of-choice are high-quality silks, lyocell and alpaca wool — this facet is by no means the most interesting part of the brand. Their ethics, however, is.

Carcel employs incarcerated women in Peru and Thailand; most if not all with non-violent charges relating to implications of poverty.

Accountability is top-of-mind for this brand’s unique business model, as the labourers in question are in positions that can easily be exploited. Fair compensation is therefore something Carcel explicitly publishes; the women are paid liveable wages — each with an opportunity to develop their craftsmanship skills while incarcerated in preparation for life after imprisonment.

Shop Carcel on Farfetch.

Boyish

Our non-toxic dyes and gentle processes protect water, keeping it safe for people and the environment.

Boyish Jeans

Trade out indigo for green, anyone? The wardrobe stalwart — while so easy to wear and pair — would not want you to be privy to this information, but its existence has meant the unimaginable use of 7,500 litres of water. All this for a pair of jeans!

Despite their vintage-inspired with fits that lean more classic than trendy, there’s nothing old-fashioned about Boyish Jeans. In fact, the Los Angeles-based brand subscribes to one of the most robust standards for sustainability, from the materials they use — all Oeko-Tex Standard 100 approved — to their membership in ‘The Jeans Redesign‘ project from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which commits to a circular economy.

These are jeans that feel good and do good.

Shop Boyish Jeans on Farfetch.

Joey Wong
Editor
Constantly in pursuit of a multi-hyphenated career, Joey has written her way through fashion trends, youth culture and luxury retail in New York and Hong Kong. Beyond internet adventures tracking down the perfect vintage find, you can probably catch her sipping on her third oat milk latte of the day in the city’s newest café. She’s currently mourning the loss of TikTok in Hong Kong.