I don’t know about you, but I’ve barely shopped for clothes since lockdown. I did buy a pair of slightly-less-scummy PJs and some comfy loungewear at the beginning of all this, but other than that, my spending has been pretty much limited to books and endless snacks.
So, astronomical Tesco bill aside, I’ve actually been able to reassess my spending and seen that, despite my best efforts to be a conscious consumer, I’m definitely prone to more spur-of-the-moment purchases than I thought.
There’s a lot about the pandemic that’s allowed us all to rethink and reassess, and as we prepare for more localised lockdowns and more time indoors than ever this winter, this is an ideal time to change our shopping habits for the better.
But sustainability needn’t mean sackcloth, nor should it mean being infallible. Buy things you love that will offer you longevity, seek out ethically and environmentally-savvy producers and you’ll quickly find yourself on the right track.
With that in mind, here are five of our favourite brands offering everything from made-to-order to clothing recycling schemes, all in the name of proving clothing can be kind .
Mother of Pearl
Creative director Amy Powney started out sweeping the cuttings floor at Mother of Pearl, but over the last 13 years, has risen to the top of the company and succeeded in making the brand one of the ethical fashion scene’s most recognised and revered.
“There’s no handbook on how to make a brand sustainable, but I wanted to know from start to finish where our product was grown or derived, who was making it and the social impacts along the way,” she says. “I’ve journeyed to find the best factories, suppliers and farmers who care about the planet and its inhabitants as much as we do.”
Every item in the collection is fully traceable and the brand’s ethical and eco credentials are second-to-none. We love.
Sézane’s founder, Morgane Sézalory, entered the fashion world with a suitcase of vintage clothing. Having happened upon the treasure chest, Sézalory initially began by customising and adjusting her finds for a discerning Parisian audience, before setting up her own brand to meet the desire for vintage-inspired, sustainable fashion.
Today, her Paris-based brand creates more than two thirds of its garments in Europe, selecting its ateliers based on the origin of raw materials, expertise, working conditions and production capacities of each. From vegetable-tanned leather sneakers to recycled wool sweaters, its production processes are fully transparent, its clothes utterly desirable and its prices pleasingly accessible. This is your go-to for pretty pieces that’ll last until long after you’re allowed to venture out into the world again.
“We create clothing for women who dress in protest,” says London-based label Birdsong – thought the resulting wares are often more whimsical than militant.
From delicate wrap dresses to jewellery, via the ever-popular ‘Still I Rise’ T-shirt, the brand’s garments are created by skilled makers in London who face barriers to employment, working within women’s groups and charities. From a group of low income migrant mothers who paint at their children’s school in Bow, to a group of migrant seamstresses who act as a support network for each other in Limehouse, each is paid a living wage, which stays with them or within their charities.
“Wearing our collection of original wardrobe staples is a protest in itself– against the fast nature of the fashion industry, against the obsessive pursuit of trends and against the systematic abuse of women in the production line,” Birdsong says. “We know that women want more from their wardrobe but that the world of ethical, sustainable and local fashion can be a minefield. So, we’ve ticked all the boxes for you.”
They get an extra high-five for their refusal to use Photoshop in any of their real women advertising campaigns too…
One of the bigger companies on this list, Baukjen’s sustainable credentials are nonetheless impressive. Every year, the brand gives at least ten per cent of its profits to charity, while it also donates clothing to a selection of women’s shelters, Women’s Aid and Save The Children.
Baukjen also measures all CO2 emissions throughout its production process and is committed to using a circular business model – customers can return their old garments to the brand to ensure they are recycled to remain within the production loop. It also does 90 per cent of its production in Europe, offering living wages, safe conditions, regulated working hours and a no child labour guarantee.
London-based Bulgarian Lora Petrova runs a small atelier in her homeland, guaranteeing good working conditions and living wages to her staff.
Because the brand focusses on making items to order, it offers a full size range from zero to 28, and can customise garments for those requiring specific tweaks. It also focusses on using dead stock and surplus fabrics, meaning not only are the garments entirely sustainable, they’re also limited.
In addition to creating a second capsule collection with ethical fashion writer and campaigner Aja Barber, featuring a linen dress (pictured), cardigan and jumper, all sustainably created in a wide size and colour range, Petrova is also involved in a scheme to help revive Bulgaria’s once thriving sustainable silk production industry, and is working towards a closed loop system. “I want to show that we can provide comfort and style without the confinement of the fashion framework that feeds consumerism,” she says. “Our customers are stylish, they’re elegant, they want to look and feel good in what they wear, but they also care about what’s going on behind an item.”