Around the globe the ‘green’ movement is gathering pace. The growing preoccupation with environmental issues has led designers to look at new ways of creating by merging luxury with sustainability. While not often thought of as being similar, sustainability and luxury are more alike than we might suppose. They share the same core values with emphasis on the origin, artisanship and durability of each item. A new class of luxury has emerged and green fashion is now more desirable than ever.
With an increasing number of designers adding eco-friendly creations to their repertoire, going green does not mean compromising on luxury. In fact the splurge is made all the more enjoyable as each purchase comes with a clear conscience. François-Henri Pinault of Kering states that sustainability “gives us an opportunity to create value while helping to make a better world.” Included among Kering’s brands are Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga all of which conjure up images of decadent luxury. When asked what sustainable fashion means to her, high end fashion designer, Stella McCartney, states that “the way to create sustainable fashion is to keep asking questions [about origin and materials] while making sure to make desirable, luxurious, beautiful clothing and accessories that women want to buy.”
Eco-friendly purchases, whether it is from high end fashion brands like Edun or artist Owen Mortensen, allow those with a penchant for the luxurious to live the stylishly sustainable life Pinault refers to. Even fashion tycoon, Vivienne Westwood has advocated on behalf of sustainable luxury with the launch of her collection of upcycled handbags in partnership with the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation. This collaboration is a prime example of ethical fashion as it has helped to generate employment for some of Africa’s most impoverished women.
Global fashion brand and LVHM backed, EDUN is a prime example of celebrity-come-fashion designer at its best. Founded by Ali Hewson and U2 frontman, Bono in 2005, EDUN promotes long-term, sustainable growth opportunities in Africa by supporting manufacturers, infrastructure and community building initiatives. The aim of the company is to increase trade throughout the continent of Africa. Their ethical framework is highlighted by the fact that “85% of the EDUN collection will be produced in sub Saharan Africa” for their ethically sourced ready-to-wear spring 2014 collection.
The merging of fashion and sustainability is emphasised by the brand’s latest designer, Danielle Sherman who gets much of her inspiration from Africa. Sherman pays particular attention to “flattening” the female silhouette through collarless shirts, blazers and coats, giving the collection a minimalist vibe. Prices vary within the collection and starting at about $400, you can be guaranteed to find something to suit most budgets.
4. Stella McCartney
The sustainable fashion designer is renowned for role in decreasing the carbon footprint in the world of fashion. Amazingly, her company’s UK based studios and offices are all powered by wind energy. McCartney believes that companies are responsible for the resources they use, something that is clearly reflected in her respective collections. As much organic cotton as possible is used when designing new collections and the company continues to source new, recyclable materials. According to McCartney, “it’s really the job of fashion designers now to turn things on their head in a different way, and not just try to turn a new dress on its head every season.”
McCartney’s sustainable collection includes eco-friendly eyewear made from over 50% natural and renewable resources. They are comprised of raw materials from natural origins such as castor-oil seeds and citric acid. Eyewear prices range from $350 to $230. Also in her collection are biodegradable soles that are made from a bioplastic called APINAT. Finally, her eco-friendly faux leather handbags were launched in Autumn of 2013. This innovative material has a coating created with over 50% vegetable oil, enabling the company to use less petroleum in their products.
New York based designer, Eviana Hartman is another champion of sustainable fashion founding the sustainable fashion line, Bodkin in 2008. The goal of this company is the merging of a particular aesthetic with an emphasis on sustainability. The company uses recycled and organic fabrics as well as non-harmful dye in the production process. Bodkin “actively seek out and promote materials that use vegetable-based or zero-effluent dye processes.” Made in the U.S., good treatment of employees is of great importance at Bodkin. Hartman has spoken out on the controversy surrounding the expense of eco-fashion, stating that demand for organic cotton outstrips supply, making it more expensive. Additionally, “beautiful things made with care and detail by skilled people” as opposed to mass manufactured clothing will always cost more. Vivienne Westwood echoes this sentiment encouraging shoppers to choose quality over quantity when making purchases.
Every purchase from VogueVert guarantees $1 and 10% of the profits of a donation to the VogueVert Charitable Foundation. Not only does the ‘Fashion for Development’ foundation fund scholarships for green design students, but it also supports causes that advance the protection of the environment, animals, and women on a global scale. The mission of VogueVert is to bring conscious luxury to the consumer, their tagline states “Giving Back is the New Luxury.” Its guiding principles are the four Es: Education, Empowerment, Enhancement and Enrichment. Their products are made from sustainable, recycled and vegan materials and range in price from $99 to $500 and above.
1. Honest By
Belgian fashion designer, Bruno Pieters founded Honest By in 2012 following a trip around the developing world. Pieters spent time observing the ways in which natives wore clothes as well as the materials they were made up of. He found that clothes were grown, woven and sewn from local, organic sources. The name of the company reflects the 100% transparency under which Honest By operates. Materials used by the company and those they choose to collaborate with “share their personal production information from yarn and button origin to fabric and manufacturing details; information which honest by then communicates to the client.” Even the store markup calculations are transparent, which sets Honest By apart from the vast majority of fashion design companies. Honest By lives by the philosophy that fashion is about beauty and that the story behind fashion can be equally beautiful. The company wants to provide a unique shopping experience whereby the customer can purchase luxury items with complete awareness of the origin and artisanship of what they are buying. Catering for both women and men, prices vary across the board.