By Suhayla Ibrahim
I really like the idea of eco-friendly fashion. Until recently though, I wasn’t very clued up on what constitutes eco-fashion, (how can a cotton t-shirt be eco friendly?) My other issue was how to dig through the advertising to find the truth behind the jargon. I decided to do a little digging and try to contact some people who are making waves in the industry. We hear a lot of phrases: ‘eco-friendly’, ‘green’, ‘sustainable’, ‘fair trade’ and ‘ethical’. They are thrown at us from all angles; but do we really know what they mean? The most basic definition of eco-friendly is; not harmful to the environment. In a wider context eco-friendly can extend to the ethical treatment of workers, including conditions of the workplaces and health and well being of the workers within the industry. It also considers fair trade which means that companies in the developed world pay fair prices to producers in developing countries. We could also add locally sourced materials and production which would lower the carbon footprint of the item. For some people cruelty free is a central concern. Eco-friendly fashion usually has one or more of these green and sustainable attributes:
- Made using reused and recycled materials
- Made using raw organic materials i.e. cotton that has been grown without pesticides
- High quality so items last longer
- Made without harmful chemicals i.e. in the dying process.
So if my cotton t-shirt was made using cotton that had been grown in a sustainable manner, without using pesticides and had been dyed using natural dyes and the farmer who grew the cotton was paid a fair price then my t-shirt would be super eco-friendly!
With this in mind I decided to look further and to find out why the concept of eco-friendly design is so quiet in mainstream fashion and which brands are really working to break this silence. One of the most obvious things that makes it so difficult to create an eco-friendly brand is the cost of manufacture.Some elements of making an item eco-friendly or ethical could cost up to double to manufacture. This is especially true for fast fashion as these clothes are made cheaply for quick consumption in a short space of time. This is sadly one of the main reasons for brands not going eco-friendly or ethical in the first place. It would just cost too much and be bad for business. Having said this though, the fashion industry has improved and continues to do so. We no longer live in a world where eco-friendly clothing is strictly hippy. We have seen the rise of many brands, such as Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood, who do not use leather or fur in their products. We have also seen brands like H&M make a move to create more conscious clothing. So here are some more eco-friendly and ethical brands to watch:
When you don’t want to use leather but want something that has the same value and finish check out Matt and Nat. Founded in the 90s in Montreal, this brand makes vegan handbags made from sustainable materials. What I love about Matt and Nat is their total commitment to experimenting with materials to find new and innovative alternatives to leather. Their goods look so nice and slick – we love them here at Coco-Nut! www.mattandnat.com
Another favourite for non-leather goods is Freedom of Animals founded in the USA, this brand are intent on making luxury bags that are cruelty free. www.freedomofanimals.com
For clothing watch out for Mayamiko. Based in the UK specialising in ethical clothing, all their products are made ethically in Malawi and the company helps with training in the textile craft which allows the workers to have a craft to sustain their own living. Mayamiko make unique, colourful pieces using traditional African fabrics. www.mayamiko.com. If you want cool clothes with detailed tailoring that are guilt free then check out Study NY. This New York based brand oozes cool. Founded by Tara St. James, Study NY is definitely a brand to check out. www.study-ny.com/shop. KowTow is another great clothing brand creating fairtrade staple wardrobe pieces that we all need. Bringing us clothes from New Zealand, we love this brand and their sleek approach to fashion and want to see more. www.kowtowclothing.com/collections/womens-tops
A t-shirt brand that has also caught my eye is Les2Coquettes. Based in London and founded by L’ali Silvestri and Carolina Galeazzi, two friends from Italy. This brand is really taking ethical clothing seriously so I decided to interview them and see what they saw in the future of this.
Me: What made you go down the eco-friendly route? Why organic?
We truly believe in our core values. We are sensitive to environmental and human conditions.Garment manufacturing is one of the most environmentally damaging industrial sectors of the planet. We use fibres such as bamboo viscose and recycled polyester and 100% certified organic cotton. Also, organic products are softer and easier on your skin. We can still have high-quality products but not at the detriment of style and fashion.
Me: Who are your influences?
We are barely influenced by other brands or icons.
We like to follow our heart and instinct. We want to make people smile and we always try to create something that reflects our values and represents our style. Our main influence is our everyday life and friendship. […] Obviously people like Stella McCartney who created an institution with her brand, throwing an ethical message, Hermes, which launched its first line “petit h” entirely eco-sustainable, or Natalie Portman [as a] vegan and style icon, just to say few names.
All of them, without sacrificing the glamour and fashion side [are inspirational].
Me: What are the difficulties your brand faces? And does your brand face any difficulties because you are eco-friendly?
Ahhh! We face many difficulties as many brands do but absolutely not because it’s eco-friendly!! People admire our ethical choices and love the quality of the design of Les2coquettes.
Me: Do you think that collaborating with other brands such as Weekend by MaxMara helps to get the message of ethical clothing across? Do you feel it has an impact on the fashion industry and its market?
It definitely does! We had the chance to meet lots of people and share our ethical thoughts, proving that high quality products such as our brand can also be eco-friendly.
In our small way, we do have an impact. We are still a new brand compared with the pilasters of fashion but we believe that if we all try to commit a little to make Planet Earth better we can have a way better impact.