By Reeya Gadhvana, Philosophy, Politics and Economics Second Year.
A few lesser known pioneers in the sustainability race.
Whether labelling themselves as sustainable, anti-fur or even vegan, the fashion industry has made major moves in recent years towards the creation of an era of consciousness. High street retailer H&M even has a collection of the same name – emblematic of this transition of focus. This article is a short introduction to a few lesser known brands within the industry that are pioneering the switch to sustainability as much as the major fashion houses in the industry (ever heard of Stella McCartney?). Whether they specialise in clothing, jewellery or accessories, these labels are making faint yet vital ripples in their respective industries and, most importantly, bringing the industry towards a more ethical and sustainable future.
The sneaker. Once marking an advent of practicality and now a staple of fashionable streetwear, the sneaker has transcended from the inconspicuous to the fundamental. With individuals willing to pay hundreds of dollars for the latest trends even haute couture labels have created much anticipated additions. A recent walk past the Presented By store in Fitzrovia confirmed this with queues that could optimistically be measured in the metric of kilometres. While there is a discernible hype surrounding sneakers by brands such as Yeezy and Adidas, Veja is a brand that deserves laudable attention for both design and ethos. The heart of Veja ethos is sustainability no matter the (production) price, and this emphasis is detailed in each element of the production process. All products are made in Brazil, with cotton derived from organic farms. The use of organic cotton is significant since it eliminates the risk of harmful pesticides harming nearby villages and their natural resources. The rubber used is tapped by traditionally skilled workers in the Amazon with the result of a sustainable and natural product. A quarter of Veja trainers are 100 percent vegan and the label have even managed to create a fabric resembling mesh made entirely out of recycled polyester. Veja deserves a celebration for its diligent emphasis upon ethics without sacrificing design.
Next on the list is luxury Parisienne retailer known as House of Courbet, whose ceremonious home lies in the prestigious ranks of Place Vendôme – among the likes of Piaget and Chaumet no less. It’s a grandiose setting, said to be an embodiment of absolute power in the heart of Paris – the site where Napoleon in 1792 replaced the statue of the king with a bronze column made from 1,200 enemy canons. However, Napoleon’s decidedly unscrupulous endeavours are tangential to Courbet – a brand seen as amassing jewellery with an ethical difference. While producing pieces retaining the charm of tradition, the jeweller uses lab production techniques to produce top grade clarity gems that are fifteen-thousand times less environmentally imposing than their natural mined counterparts. The brand also only uses recycled 18-carat gold that is 100% traceable with the aim of transparency. In the process, design and style are of course not sacrificed, earning it a place parallel to that of its prestigious, and globally renowned, neighbours. Named after Gustave Courbet, an unconventional and controversial artist who made shockwaves in the French art scene with his work entitled L’Origine du Monde, House of Courbet is sure to sway more than a few jewellery fanatics from the old-guard Parisienne names.
Matt & Nat
While not a label boasting the exclusivity of the 1st arrondissement, Matt & Nat is a growing accessories brand showing huge potential. The only vegan brand on the list, the company boasts luxury faux-leather goods with an ethical source. Best of all is its affordability with a range of sunglasses, shoes and of course bags found at a fraction of their leather counterparts. It was in 2010 that the UN reported that the best way to protect the environment was through the adoption of a vegan or vegetarian diet given the harmful effects of factory farming. This is a move anticipated by the brand since its conception in 1995, with its motto of “Cruelty-Free Vegan Leather” and an emphasis on social responsibility, excellence, inclusiveness and integrity at the heart of their work. Not only is this found in the materials used for production, but the production process as a whole, since Matt & Nat boast frequent and diligent visits to their manufacturers and strong personal relationships built with factory owners. The brand also encompasses a return to early 20th century fashion ideals whereby sustainability was found through durability and function – shown by the testing of materials for both functionality and resistance. Although based in Montreal, Matt & Nat collections can now be found in boutiques across Canada, the United States, Japan, Germany and Australia making it a brand to watch in the global strive to “live beautifully”.
A former air-cadet turned fashion innovator, Christopher Raeburn boasts both functionality and environmental awareness through his namesake line – a rousing force that began with the opening of his own studio in 2008. One of Raeburn’s earliest exhibitions was fittingly at London’s Imperial War Museum with the theme of ‘Camouflage’ – fitting given his background within the Royal Air Force. The designs received critical acclaim for both their mode and, more so, principles, as Raeburn went on to receive an award from the International Ethical Fashion Forum. This acclaim among many others rendered the creative synonymous with the ethical integrity of his work. A collection worth particular mention is his Spring 2019 ready-to-wear collection with its focus on climate change and “the disappearing world” – a reference to the drastically melting ice caps within the polar regions. The collaborators are equally impressive. 1980s Timberland ensembles sourced from vintage stores and prints granted by NASA take the stage, with satellite imagery of nature used as prints for select garments. While a picture speaks a thousand words, Raeburn reinforced this environmental focus doubly with tabs reading “Remade, Reduced, Recycled, Raeburn” and “Act Now” insignia on many pieces. Keeping in tradition with the brands in the article, the designs were no less impressive due to their ethical focus. Each look held a dynamism on the runway, and deservedly so since the attires are entirely “remade and recycled materials”.
For more information on these brands, and to browse their collections (we know you’re tempted) visit the links below.
Veja | Courbet | Matt and Nat | Raeburn