As the global population grows, so does overconsumption and pollution; as a result, our natural resources are decreasing. The fashion industry alone accounts for over 10% of global carbon emissions, and the current climate crisis is urging more and more fashion brands to implement sustainable strategies and transparent approaches.
The sustainable fashion movement is taking action against these issues by retransforming this dated, wasteful trajectory, into an industry that recycles, reduces waste, and prioritises environmental sustenance.
In a culture of ever-changing fashion trends, demand is at an all-time high, inevitably encouraging mass production and consumption, prompting the question – what does sustainable fashion look like? To help us answer this question, this article will point to six luxury fashion brands who are standing against the tide, making impressive moves this year to create an eco-friendly landscape, out of a historically unsustainable industry:
Stella McCartney is not only a famous pioneer in sustainable fashion but in ethical fashion too. The fashion house is already operating sustainably and is always looking to further develop its strategies, and uses ethical and recycled materials and packaging while remaining cruelty-free.
The designer has an entire section dedicated to sustainability on the brand’s website, which features several relevant blog posts and a sustainability timeline with a clear message from Stella McCartney’s on her dedication to eco-friendliness:
We strive to create the most beautiful, desirable products with the least impact on our environment. Our conscious values are also the inspiration behind our innovation. As industry leaders, we endeavour to create the most cutting-edge materials and animal alternatives, continuing to push towards circularity and being fully transparent by developing tools to measure and report our impact.
The fashion house aims to be as transparent as possible about their process with their buyers and general audience. Sharing their process with the world allows peace of mind for conscious consumers looking to buy from the prominent brand without compromising their values.
This year, Stella McCartney launched a capsule collection to raise awareness on Greenpeace’s All for the Amazon campaign. The movement is fighting against deforestation and for the rights of the indigenous communities tied to the Amazon. The movement stresses that the damage being caused to the Amazon is happening fast and is irreversible, and efforts against deforestation are time-sensitive.
“I have such high hopes and aggressive goals for change that time passes me by. But obviously, time is critical. There’s lots to be done.” Stella, too, emphasises the importance of acting fast.
Brooklyn-based Aurora James is the mind behind Brother Vellies, a luxury label founded in 2013. The brand specialises in luxury shoes, bags, and leather goods. Brother Vellies presents high-quality and responsibly sourced pieces that can range from an elegant and minimal bag to statement embroidered cowboy boots. Sustainability is at the label’s core, as it was founded with “the goal of keeping traditional African design practices, and techniques alive while also creating and sustaining artisanal jobs.”
This goal is at the forefront of the brand’s values, which places a focus on caring for the planet and generating fair-trade jobs. The half-Canadian, half-Ghanaian activist homage to African heritage and craftsmanship. From using vegetable dyes to recycling textiles from Morocco, Brother Vellies is constantly striving to keep using eco-friendly and recycled materials while maintaining ethical workspaces for its employees. Moreover, Brother Vellies is supporting a school local to their workshop in South Africa, to support children’s education and the local community.
“Brother Vellies is committed to honouring the people who make our products and the places where they are made. Because of this, we treat each step of our process with the utmost care for our artisans, our customers, and our planet.”
With every collection, the brand tries to find new ways to improve its sustainable and social values. Constantly seeking growth, Aurora James does not only want to reach her goals for the brand but surpass them. In response to the murder of George Floyd last year, James wanted to advocate for black-owned businesses and started the 15 Percent Pledge initiative. The initiative urges American retailers to include black-owned products for at least 15% of their inventory in order to proportionally represent the population of black people in the United States.
Last year, Chloé welcomed a new creative director, Gabriela Hearst, a Uruguayan designer known for her own self-titled fashion label, with a passion for style and sustainability. Hearst’s mission is recognisable through the brand’s recent efforts to bring a positive change to the planet and working conditions. The recently appointed creative director’s immediate actions when joining Chloé were to implement sustainable packaging and materials.
In 2020, the luxury fashion house released an environmental report with a five-year plan. The report highlights Chloé’s founder, Gaby Aghlion, and her ambition to empower women. Along with the brand’s mission to empower women, Chloé correlates gender equality and climate action:
Our purpose is also grounded on the belief that climate change is one of the biggest collective challenges that we all face as humanity. We urgently need to reconsider entirely how we run our businesses and our operations, correcting and finding alternative solutions. For us, this is an absolute priority and commitment. As a matter of fact, progress on gender equality has shown to contribute positively to climate change.
Chloé’s fall 2021 collection was made up of 40% low-impact materials and was “four times more sustainable” than the previous year’s collections. From organic silks to upcycled cashmere, Hearst scrapped artificial materials for responsible materials ones. The collection was remarkable and featured upcycled pre-loved Chloé bags that the brand bought back on eBay.
More recently, 58% of the most recent spring collection was sourced from low-impact materials. To reduce the brand’s carbon print and fight climate change, Hearst’s aims for Chloé to transition to using 100% repurposed materials by next year, and she is proving her intentions through continuous progress.
“While we are aware change does not happen overnight, we are committed to this exciting journey. We are ready to act for a fairer and more sustainable future together,” says the brand in their sustainability manifesto. With all that Hearst has accomplished at Chloé in the past year, the creative director is continually taking action to reach her sustainability goals for the brand and is sure to impress the fashion world, and climate activists even more, with her upcoming work.
From its boutiques to its management globally, Longchamp is committed to continuing the advancement and improvement of waste management. The fashion house’s Quality and Environment Department’s key indicator is their waste recovery rate. Longchamp recycles various materials used in their products and shipping, whenever feasible, to avoid waste. Their workshops were able to recycle or reuse “100% of their plastic waste, 100% of their paper and cardboard trash, 100% of their wood waste, 100% of their metals, and 100% of the canvas scraps” from the “Le Pliage” bags by the year 2020.
The brand also prefers FSC-certified products for packaging and paper, an ecolabel that ensures sustainable forest management forest workers’ rights, biodiversity conservation, and the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights.
This year, Longchamp reinvented its cult Le Pliage bag as a sustainable product, presenting the #LongchampLePliageGreen that contains 70% to 100% recycled materials. The brand also launched an influencer campaign featuring #VGirl Clémence Bertrand, who was proud to promote a new step towards sustainable fashion.
From recycled materials to compostable packaging, Mara Hoffman is fully committed to sustainability, even if it means taking a step back from creating anything she feels would be wasteful.
This year, Hoffman restyled her leftover inventory from previous collections and showcased the pieces in her resort 2021 collection, as she did not feel right about producing an entirely new collection when she had pieces from previous seasons that she still believes in. This approach goes beyond questioning the sources of the collection, but also questions – how many new clothes really need to be produced each season?
“The brand is continuously shifting, challenging itself and digging into what it truly means to be a responsible brand in the fashion industry and on this planet,” said the brand in a statement.
Mara Hoffman continued reusing past inventory and leftover textiles for her spring 2021 collection. This is a rare way of implementing sustainability in the industry, as most efforts focus on ways to reduce impact while creating new trends every season.
From Chloé buying back their bags from the pre-loved market to reuse, to Mara Hoffman restyling previous collections and leftover textiles, we are witnessing few but conscious steps in the industry to decrease production. Could this be the future of luxury fashion’s approach to sustainability?
Originating from Budapest, Nanushka’s founder Sandra Sandor has made sustainability a key element to the brand. The fashion house reduces waste by using materials such as recycled leather for its trendy garments and accessories.
Appreciation for nature is expressed in Nanushka’s collections, and the fashion house is dedicated to climate action and responsible production. The brand released a sustainability report in 2019 in which they announced their vision:
By 2025 our collections will be 100% sustainable, with full transparency and traceability across each component of our supply chain; by 2030, we aim to have reduced GHG emissions by 50% Scope 1, 2, and 3; and by 2050, we will achieve net-zero emissions.
Alongside protecting the earth, Nanushka also focuses on protecting its workers’ rights and enhancing the work environment. The brand is continually evolving its approach to sustainability by trying different eco-friendly and upcycled materials while keeping its carbon footprint low.
“Sustainability has always been very important to me,” said Sandor in an interview with HYPEBAE, “from both a personal and business perspective. One of the founding values of Nanushka was, and still is, to cherish the planet and all living creatures, so it was always present and embedded in the core of the business in different forms.”
This year, Nanushka released the Teleport collection, inspired by nature and made from sustainable wool and upcycled vegan leather. With a vision that reaches 2050 and a transparent process and Sandor’s bond with nature, Nanushka’s commitment to sustainability is promising.