Fashion Goes Green

It’s an oft-cited stat that fashion is the world’s second-most-polluting industry (behind oil), and fabric-sourcing practices are often detrimental to the environment in other ways as well. There’s a good chance the wood pulp used to make the viscose in your dress is from an endangered forest; 150 million trees are felled each year to create the fabric. The cashmere in your sweater may have been farmed in a way that is contributing to the desertification of Mongolia. Fortunately, you don’t have to relinquish style for sustainability. We’ve rounded up a few options to get you started shopping sustainably.

Amur

Amanda Hearst names AMUR as one of her current favorites. It’s carried by the likes of Nordstrom, Intermix, and Moda Operandi. This relatively new brand has not only quickly become beloved among sustainability-centered folks, it’s found itself solidly in the fashion mainstream as well.

Its name stands for A Mindful Use of Resources, and “It’s with that conscious mindset that we approach the sourcing process for the materials we use,” says a representative for the brand.

Sofia Shannon, the brand’s initial creative director, designed the current Spring collection; Stephanie Suberville, with a CV that includes Elizabeth and James and Rag & Bone, has now taken the reins as design director, and Pre-Fall 2019 will be her first collection for the label. “I will continue to design the feminine pieces that our customer has come to love,” Suberville promises. She says she’ll also be offering more separates, as well as introducing new categories such as knitwear and outerwear.

She’ll also be maintaining the brand’s focus on its fabrics. “We hope to bring to light the harm the fashion industry can do to the environment,” Suberville says, “and focus on alternative fabrics and production processes that lessen the impact.” Everything produced by the brand is made with natural fibers (organic cotton, silk, linen, and hemp), forest-friendly cellulose fibers (such as cupro, made with leftover fibers from the cotton production process), or regenerated fibers, in which waste material is spun into fiber.

A look from AMUR’s Spring 2019 Collection

This produces some unique challenges for the brand: “The questions we have to ask ourselves don’t just stop at, ‘What style would this look good in?’ or ‘Is this fabric special enough?’ We have to dig deeper and ask things like ‘Where is the content of this fabric sourced from?’ and ‘Can this be developed organically or with regenerated yarns?’ If we want to use a tweed or metallic fabric, we can’t just go with anything we find that we like. Instead, we need to work with our mills to develop the material in an environmentally friendly way—which could mean replacing even just 30 percent of polyester in a blended fabric with 30 percent recycled polyester.”

Some of the fabrics AMUR uses, including its duchess satin and crinkle chiffon, are made with Italian yarn engineered from post-consumer plastic bottles. Compared with virgin polyester, says Suberville, water wastage is reduced by 94 percent, energy use by 60 percent, and greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent.

“We hope that AMUR will help people be more mindful of their choices in fashion,” Suberville says, “and realize that buying sustainable fashion doesn’t mean sacrificing your style.”

Maison De Mode

Maison De Mode co-founder Amanda Hearst

Maison de Mode, the sustainable shopping site cofounded by Amanda Hearst, is essentially a one-stop shopping portal for ethical and chic clothes and accessories. Ten years ago, Hearst, then an editor at Marie Claire, teamed up with Hassan Pierre (who had his own sustainable fashion line) to curate a temporary boutique at Art Basel Miami, showcasing their favorite sustainable brands. “We wanted to push our message that ‘eco-fashion’ could be sexy, chic, and cool,” says Hearst. It led to another pop-up, and another, and the two cofounders eventually realized they needed a permanent retail platform. In 2016, maison-de-mode.com was born.

That first pop-up featured only six brands, but Maison de Mode now offers more than 70 on its website. “Sustainable fashion has come a long way,” says Hearst, “and so have we!” The company works with a few nonprofits, such as NEST, who help vet the brands. New ones are found, Hearst says, via showroom visits, travel, and word-of-mouth. “We discover a lot of cool fashion on Instagram,” Hearst adds. New brands are selected according to a variety of criteria that can include anything from vegan textiles to fair-trade practices. Item listings each include symbols to denote which sustainability criteria they meet.

Maison De Mode’s website

Hearst cites AMUR (see preceding pages) as one of her current favorites: “It’s a great brand for dresses and eveningwear that are both sustainable and chic.” She also loves the fine jewelry collection Penelope Cruz designed for Swarovski, which uses only conflict-free and lab-grown stones.

“Everybody wears clothes,” Hearst points out, “and the fashion industry touches every sector of our lives—the environment, communities, even our health. So once consumers are more informed, I believe they will inevitably make better choices in where they shop.” Maison de Mode continues to open pop-up shops in addition to its online retail platform. The next one is opening in Palo Alto in May; more information will be available on the website.

Polo Ralph Lauren

America’s favorite sportswear brand is taking a step toward sustainability: Polo Ralph Lauren is reimagining its most iconic style in the name of plastic waste reduction. On April 18, just in time for Earth Day on the 22nd, the brand is releasing what they’ve dubbed the Earth Polo. Created by Ralph Lauren’s innovation team in collaboration with First Mile, the shirt is made from thread derived entirely from recycled plastic, and dyed using a high-tech waterless treatment process.

The Earth Polo by Polo Ralph Lauren

Each Earth Polo is made with an average of 12 plastic bottles that would otherwise end up in landfills (or as part of the Texas-size swirling garbage patch in the Pacific that features in environmentalists’ nightmares). The waterless dyeing process is a crucial measure because fabric dyeing uses an enormous amount of water and electricity. It’s estimated that 100 to 150 liters of water are required to process one kilogram of fabric, and wastewater from conventional fabric-dyeing processes is a major source of pollution: It produces around 20 percent of all industrial water pollution in the world, according to the World Bank. Waterless treatments, in addition to cutting water use to near-zero, can also reduce energy and chemical use by 50 percent or more.

“This company has always been about creating compelling stories that people want to feel part of. Technology allows us to do this in new ways,” David Lauren, Ralph Lauren’s chief innovation officer, has told Fast Company. “Our role is to be a catalyst, to ignite ideas.” Ideally, this is a concept that will take off within the company, with additional sustainable pieces on the way from Ralph Lauren: The brand plans to continue the program, says a spokesperson.

David Lauren (Photo by Patrick McMullan)

The Earth Polo is available in green, white, navy, and light blue, for $89.50, in global retail stores and on ralphlauren.com, starting April 18.

Good On You

We’ve brought a few sustainable brands to your attention, as well as a retail platform where you can find—and buy—more. But how can you know whether your favorite brand checks out? Well, like everything else these days, there’s an app for that. Founded by Sandra Capponi and Gordon Renouf, and first launched in Australia in 2015, Good On You (goodonyou.eco) rates fashion brands, from high street (think Zara) to high fashion (Louis Vuitton, for instance) on three main criteria: labor practices, environmental impact, and use of animal products. The aim: making it easier to shop more sustainably.

Sandra Capponi and Gordon Renouf, Good On You’s co-founders

Good On You gets the info for its ratings from certification programs such as Fair Trade USA, organizations like PETA, and from the brands’ own reported data. Its ratings system assigns one to five stars in each category, and also explains why the brand received its score.

The app has been downloaded about 300,000 times so far, and currently offers ratings for around 2,200 brands and counting; the founders say they’re aiming to rate 10,000 brands by 2020. Of the more mainstream brands they’ve evaluated thus far, the ones with the best ratings include Patagonia, Stella McCartney, and Adidas.

As seen on goodonyou.eco

On Good On You’s app and website, users can search by label or category (jackets, for instance, or denim), or browse its tips and guides, or read roundups such as “The Swimwear Brands Fighting Ocean Plastic.” It’s handy for discovering new brands as well as checking on ones you’re already familiar with.

Actress Emma Watson, long a promoter of ethical fashion, became an official supporter of Good On You this spring. “She has been a tireless advocate for sustainable and ethical fashion for many years,” the app’s founders tell us, “and we’re delighted that she’s adopted our ratings as her benchmark.”

“Fashion helps shape our identities. What we wear signifies who we are and what we stand for. I support Good On You because I need to know my clothes do not harm our precious planet or its people,” says Watson. “Fashion is a creative force. It has the power to persuade, to influence, and transform. When fashion truly embraces transparency and sustainability, other spheres will follow.”

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney’s eponymous brand stands at the forefront of both style and sustainability. After receiving acclaim as the creative head of Chloé, McCartney spun off on her own, quickly proving that elegance and environmentalism can go hand-in-hand.

It’s already well-known that she doesn’t use animal products (leather, fur, feathers) in her designs, but she takes things much further, teaming with organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council to ensure her company’s environmental impact is minimized.

Designer Stella McCartney (second from right) with models

Her nylon and polyester fabrics are recycled from water bottles, industrial plastic, and fishing nets recovered from oceans; she aims to use 100 percent regenerated nylon by next year, and 100 percent recycled polyester by 2025. The wood pulp in her viscose is from certified sustainably managed forests in Sweden. She uses only re-engineered cashmere, made from Italian post-factory cashmere waste—and who knew it takes four goats one year to produce enough fiber to make a single cashmere sweater? Her company is working on creating new technologies for fake leather (mushrooms!), fake fur (corn!), and a silk substitute (sugar and yeast!), to name just a few. “We want to be the house of technology,” McCartney has told Wired. “Technology is, for me, the future of the conversation that we started in the fashion industry a very, very long time ago.

And beyond all that, her designs are so wearable. So covetable. So show-off-able. You want to wear them, to be seen in them, regardless of whether you care about the plight of angora rabbits or goat farmers in Mongolia.

See, for instance, her most recent collaboration with Adidas. She’s been teaming with the company for more than a decade, well before the current fad for fashionable sneakers. The latest collection, which dropped earlier this spring, is made with almost 70 percent recycled materials—the most of any collection to date. It includes the UltraBOOST X 3D shoe made with over 40 percent recycled materials, a sports bra made from 91 percent recycled polyester, training tights made with 76 percent recycled nylon, an asymmetrically zipped jacket in a cotton/recycled-polyester blend… We could go on. And it all looks good.

Looks from Stella McCartney’s Summer 2019 runway show

“I believe we all have a responsibility to work towards creating the future that we want,” McCartney explains. “This shared belief is why Adidas and I continue to innovate and grow together. We are constantly evolving our commitment to sustainability, which goes back over a decade, by finding new ways to create ethical performance sportswear that women can not only look good in, but also feel good about wearing.”