No longer relegated to tree huggers or those seen to wear garments closely resembling hessian sacks, ‘clean’ fashion has gone mainstream thanks to high-profile crusaders like Gwyneth Paltrow who’ve proved it’s anything but goopy. Sustainable and ethical luxury fashion is probably best understood and translated by Stella McCartney. If it seems as though she’s been doing vegetarian couture (don’t snigger) for years, it’s because that’s how she established her solo career in 2001. A lifelong vegetarian, McCartney doesn’t use leather or fur in her designs, and her commitment to sustainability is very much part of the brand’s ethos: responsible, honest and modern.
And it’s certainly not just meat-free McCartney who’s the poster girl for ethical and sustainable fashion. Now that more shoppers are starting to question the story behind their garments (‘Where is it made and by whom?’), more ethical and sustainable luxury fashion labels are coming up with the answers. Established players are responding too. Hugo Boss now produces a new men’s shoe using a natural-based material made of pineapple leaves. Harvested as a by-product of existing agriculture, the leaves require no extra resources to grow, thus farming communities are provided with additional income. And it gets better: the textile is coloured using plant-based dyes.
In combination with a recycled sole, the shoe is 100 percent vegan and makes a minimal impact on our planet while looking très chic, we assure you! In the luxury segment of fashion, it’s about a holistic approach, says fashion designer Lisa Storer, founder of lifestyle brand The Storer in Johannesburg. A specialist in sourcing sustainable apparel from around the world, she explains that fast fashion doesn’t have the luxury of using 100 percent natural fabrics like wool, silk and cashmere. ‘Luxury is in the fabric used, and drawing on these fabrics to appreciate the architecture of the piece. Feel the maker’s love for their craft and handwork, as well as the skill passed down through generations.’
Invest in pieces that resonate
Very importantly, each piece is unique because it’s handmade rather than mass-produced, and therefore stitched and dyed by hand, she says. ‘Each garment becomes individual, even though there may be two or three of them because of these processes,’ she says. ‘That gives you more to think about as to where you got your piece from and how long it took to get to you. There’s a certain freedom in sustainable fashion rather than the throw-away kind, although there is a place for that too,’ says Storer.
So what should you be buying right now? Obviously, Stella McCartney… However, branch out a little and support new designers with a stellar (forgive us for the pun) ethical and environmental footprint, such as Maggie Marilyn. The brand’s collection of preppy-infused pieces are jaunty and bright, and can be mixed and matched with corporate wear.
Ultimately, though, invest in pieces that resonate with you, says Storer. ‘Whether it’s a beautiful silk gilet made by a group of women in Cambodia helping to uplift their community, or a garment that has been upcycled and is therefore sustainable, buy something with a story to tell.’
Original article by Helen Clemson edited for online publication.
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