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spotlight on… Sustainability in fashion

From Mara Hoffman’s new ethos to Stella McCartney’s pioneering eco approach, The Style Report explores the labels making style sustainable.

Words by Georgina Lucas.

‘Ethics and aesthetics are a match made in heaven’ says Livia Firth, founder and creative director of fashion consultancy Eco-Age, whose initiatives aim to help raise awareness of sustainability within the fashion industry. Case in point: Emma Watson’s recent press tour for Beauty and The Beast, where every perfectly styled look was sustainable, certified by Eco-Age and documented via Instagram, proof sustainability is very much part of the fashion conversation.

Ethics and aesthetics are a match made in heaven.

‘I think it’s about a mindset,’ says Stella McCartney. ‘My first decision is always, can I do this in a more environmental way without sacrificing design?’ From the regenerated cashmere in her knitwear, to the renewable energy which powers the majority of her stores, McCartney has always championed an eco-friendly approach. As a result, her womenswear collection is 53% sustainable, a figure the label is looking to increase over the coming years. McCartney is keen to emphasise that her ‘first job is to make desirable, luxurious, beautiful clothing and accessories that women and men want to buy’. One look at her sleek collections of elegant separates confirms sustainability is not getting in the way.

Increasingly, both established houses and emerging labels are adopting a more conscious approach with responsible supply chains, organic fibres and innovative recycled fabrics. Mara Hoffman launched her label in 2000 – vivid colours and prints were signature, catapulting her collections to the top of every tastemaker’s vacation wishlist. Inspired by ‘a continual heightening of awareness’, Hoffman has overhauled her label for SS17, adopting an entirely new approach ‘founded in the idea of creating what we do with the least amount of harm and in turn, communicating the idea of buying less and wearing more’. Working with recycled and organic fabrics, Hoffman’s aesthetic has evolved alongside the newly sustainable ethos, introducing looser silhouettes and new colour palettes.

A host of vacation labels are using traditional techniques to inform their aesthetic. Figue’s luxe shirts, breezy kaftans and dresses will take you deftly from beach break to summer in the city and the collection is made using organic cotton with ethically sourced trims. The brand is dedicated to ‘supporting individual artisans and collectives in order to give them a livelihood, while fostering a particular skill and craft’, says founder Stephanie von Watzdorf. Elsewhere in the vacation line up, Kalita’s kaftans are hand-dyed using traditional techniques and sustainable processes, while the Muzungu Sisters’ collection of bags and embellished cotton pieces are ethically sourced and produced by 16 different artisan communities across four continents.

Since launching in 2014, accessories label Khokho has garnered a loyal following – cult style meets sustainability in its wicker basket bags. Made in Swaziland using traditional weaving techniques, the label’s mission is ‘to preserve and elevate artisan craft – to ensure longevity of traditional techniques,’ says founder Philippa Thorne. Elsewhere, shoe label Brother Vellies champions traditional African footwear with a range of desert boots to sandals manufactured entirely in local workshops across Africa.

In ready-to-wear, label of the moment Gabriela Hearst’s collection is rooted in sustainable principles – her knitwear originates from her family ranch, where her father pioneered organic farming. Created in partnership with a woman’s cooperative in her native Uruguay, Hearst’s sleek butter-soft sweaters and covetable cashmere capes neatly illustrate Firth’s belief that ‘brands do not need to compromise on look if they want to work in a more sustainable way.’

The growing number of labels embracing this approach chimes with an increased awareness of, and appetite for, sustainability. The luxury consumer has always been discerning about the provenance of their wardrobe, seeking superior quality in manufacture, design and materials, but sustainability adds an extra layer as consumers consciously look to the wider impact of their style choices.

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PHOTOGRAPHS: JEFF BOUDREAU, MITCHELL SAMS

The Style Report
The Style Report
THE STYLE REPORT