The ethical side of fashion is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to of late, because I’ve just finished writing my fashion column for the August issue of Aspire which is about eco-fashion. My research made for fascinating reading and I’ve been looking at brands that source their materials in a sustainable, ethical and transparent way
fashion industry has a significant impact on the environment because so much of
our clothing is composed of synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester. These
artificial fibres are made from petrochemicals which themselves cause
pollution. One particularly worrying by-product of nylon production is nitrous
oxide, a greenhouse gas that has a far greater effect than carbon dioxide on
global warming. I was surprised to learn that natural fibres too can be just
as detrimental to the environment and astounded to discover that non-organic cotton uses more pesticide
per cotton plant than almost any other crop in the world. Ongoing exposure to
pesticides has been linked to illness among farmers and disruption of the
eco-system as well as damage to other plants and animals. Certain dyes and chemicals
used in the wool industry including those in a sheep-dip are toxic and polycotton, especially popular in bedding because of its
non-crease properties is almost always treated with formaldehyde.
is rather a broad term used for clothing, fabrics and accessories that have been
manufactured in an environmentally conscious way with organic and recycled clothing
coming under that umbrella. It’s by no means a new concept, but there’s perhaps an ongoing misconception that it’s all tie-dye and sack cloth, or, at the other end of the scale, Stella McCartney and her vegan accessories that sometimes carry a four-figure price tag. This couldn’t be
further from the truth with global brands such as Skunk Funk and Braintree producing
collections that are as desirable, beautiful and stylish as the next brand.
They are conscious of the provenance of the raw materials and of the ethos of
the supply chain. They consider the environmental impact of distribution, so
choose a ship over a plane. They retail at a price point comparable with brands
with a similar aesthetic and they trade fairly.
What more could one ask for?
Developments in technology mean environmentally friendly textiles have become a viable alternative. Here are a few, some of which are rather surprising, to look out for.
Organic textiles – grown without using harmful pesticides or genetically modified organisms.
Hemp- grows readily without pesticides. When blended with organic cotton, a soft, elastic fabric results. When blended with silk it produces a smooth, luxurious cloth which drapes beautifully.
Bamboo – a quick-growing crop that doesn’t require fertilisers or pestcicides. It is soft and comfortable and is ideal for socks, underwear and leggings.
Linen – a renewable fibre found in the flax plant which is fast and easy growing.
Tencel – the brand name for a regenerated fibre, (lyocell), made from the cellulose of eucalyptus wood and is widely accepted to be one of the most environmentally friendly fabrics because of the transparency of the supply chain. Eucalyptus trees are farmed for this purpose and are grown without irrigation or chemicals.
Wild silk – cruelty-free because the cocoons are only gathered after the moth emerges.
Crabyon – the brand name for an innovative fibre derived from chitin, (obtained from the shell of crabs and shellfish) which is combined with cellulose to create a biological, antibacterial yarn perfect for lingerie and swimwear. How oerfect that derivatives of sea-creatures go to make materials for swimwear.
Recycled polyester – an eco-fashionable way of giving plastic bottles a second chance at life. Used in a growing number of garments from dresses to fleeces to t-shirts and jackets.
Eco-friendly footwear has taken giant steps forward in terms of style and choice too. Recycled plastic bottles are formed into a microfibre, used to make faux suede footwear. Biodegradable synthetic leathers, organic cotton and hemp and recycled wood for heels, wedges and platforms combine to make statement footwear that is both sustainable and fairly traded. Glues are water-based and dyes are vegetable-based, ensuring everything biodegrades harmlessly. From head to toe, there’s an eco-friendly option available.
For further research, I met with Paul Barber, the owner of From The Source in Skipton. There and online, he sells a variety of ethical clothing, accessories and gifts including eco-brands Braintree, Nomads, Mudd & Water and Skunk Funk. He stocks menswear too and because I’m fairly sure my brother doesn’t read my blog, I can say here that I’m going to get him a shirt for his upcoming birthday.
This dress was from there last year. It’s a trans-seasonal favourite of mine and I’ve shared it on several occasions on my blog. It’s by Australian brand Braintree whose strapline is “thoughtful clothing.” The brand whispers rather than shouts about its ethos and I think this gentle approach is an incredibly clever way of raising awareness by being neither self-righteous nor judgmental. I think you’ll agree that even though I’m indulging in a bit of tree-hugging, or at least, tree-patting myself here, the dress is as far from dippy-hippy as one could imagine.
If you’re local to, or visiting Skipton, do call in to From The Source. It’s very close to the canal basin and there’s a lovely teashop, Helene’s, next door, where my daughter and I had the most divine afternoon tea. Paul and his team will make you most welcome and he’s very knowledgeable about clothing generally and eco-brands specifically.
Love Liz x
Purple floral dress, Braintree via From The Source, past season.
Double star ring in silver (also available in matt gold) £25 by Danon at Lizzy O
T-bar bee charm bracelet, £29.95, Danon at Lizzy O
Long dragonfly necklace, £39.95, Danon at Lizzy O
Silver sandals, Boden, previous season.