xfNot that long ago, Christmas gift edits inevitably included a page or section on what were essentially gifts for 'the Eco-Conscious Person in Your Life' – that rare creature, worthy of the same amount of space as Bike Lover or Gardening Grafter – which bundled together items by any brands using the words sustainable, green or eco in their marketing. As the 21st century ends its second decade, this has changed significantly – now these sustainable gifts are included across the edits for mums and dads, partners and kids, friends and colleagues. We care more about buying items that we love now but which we will also love in years in come and will stand that test of time.
It's not always easy to identify the brands that have impeccable credentials though. 'Sustainability' pops up as frequently, often without a thorough explanation of what that means to each brand, and what they do, or don't do, because of it. At Luxury London, we look for companies that were either founded with clear – and achievable – sustainable goals in mind or those which are travelling in that direction, with ambition. These are some of our favourite brands right now to shop before Christmas, or enjoy as a gift to yourself as we see in 2021.
Best foot forward: Ross Oliver Footwear
Sometimes it pays to focus on one thing, and doing that one thing very, very well to ensure your brand's sustainable luxury offering is exactly that. Ross Oliver's area of expertise is boots: smart, hard-wearing boots, made with Italian caviar grain leather, Blake-stitched commando soles and real purpose. The AW20 collection, in partnership with the UK charity Big Cat Sanctuary – which receives 20 per cent of profits from the collection – features a starring line-up of five styles influenced and named after cats rescued by the sanctuary; Maya the black jaguar, Kafara the lion, Nias the tiger, Willow the cheetah and Laila the snow leopard.
Founder Ross Oliver Saunders is justly proud of his British-made brand: "My aim is to bestow a footwear brand with designs associated with a form of global significance or social importance. Our mission is simple: impact change through fashion, and close the gap between luxury fashion and conscious consumerism. It’s that design ethos that makes Ross Oliver different from any other brand." Suppliers for materials are meticulously chosen based on their ethical practices; how are the animals treated during their lives? What processes are used to obtain the material? How are materials cured and then treated? If you treat the man in your life to these boots, he'll still be wearing, and loving, them in 20 years' time.
AW20 collection, £370 per pair. Order by 18 December for delivery by Christmas, rossoliver.uk
Made-to-order elegance: Safiro
Safiro makes limited-edition, made-to-order luxury womenswear, including elegant dresses for daytime or cocktails, handcrafted jackets and cashmere coats. We adore the silk satin Jade Pearl top (£525) in one of five metallic or pastel hues, teamed with the Indigo Pearl skirt (£1,585) and, for the ultimate luxe look, the white tweed Pearl jacket (£1,195). For a smaller token, opt for Safiro's delicate, handmade brooch in the shape of its flower logo, made from Swarovski crystals (£235).
Safiro is a young company, launched this year by Yulia Shirokova but decades in the making thanks to its founder's lifelong passion for clothes, and an attitude towards the environment that can be summed up by the Hawaiian 'Aloha Spirit', which means 'joyfully sharing life'. Safiro's website features handy sustainable fashion tips; for example, choose natural fibres wherever possible, such as linen, cotton, silk, cashmere, wool or hemp as these are biodegradable and can be returned to nature at the end of a garment’s lifecycle. Made-to-order clothing reduces waste and also results in the perfect fit. Inspired by and named after the precious sapphire stone, "our brand celebrates feminine elegance and sophistication," declares Shirokova. "You can achieve your dreams by always connecting with your inner core and by never losing your femininity. Wearing beautiful clothes that empower you and make you feel inspired, is a core part of this.”
Order by today (15 December) for delivery by NYE, safiro.com
All wrapped up: Johnstons of Elgin
We love everything that Johnstons of Elgin stands for on the sustainability front, and we love the brand's super-soft, cuddlesome, covetable products just as much. The Scottish company has been making fine woollen goods since 1797 and is the last remaining vertical woollen mill in the UK. So when it proclaims "genuine heritage, craftsmanship, and provenance", it really can back this up. "We understand that the choices we make today will impact the future of our planet, oceans and generations to come. As a result, we are committed to continually improving our sustainability and are proud to work with natural, renewable and biodegradable materials including Vicuña, Cashmere and wool." Scotland's soft, free-flowing water and energy from renewable sources are used wherever possible, plus all manuacturing processes are carried out on site to minimise air miles.
Perfect for the cold winter months is this beautiful Shawl Collar cardigan (above), made from cashmere silk in a Fair Isle pattern and with a seed stitch jacquard design. As one of the three founding members of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance, Johnstons of Elgin is committed to supporting sustainable practices in cashmere production, restoring Mongolian grasslands, ensuring the wellbeing of animals, and securing herders' livelihoods. Also on our wish list is the gorgeous limited-edition scarf (below) designed in collaboration with luxury sustainable womenswear brand Mother of Pearl, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of HRH The Prince of Wales's Campaign for Wool. We'd love to find this under the tree.
Order by 18 December for delivery by Christmas, johnstonsofelgin.com
The perfect white shirt: Archivist Studio
It all starts with the fabric at Archivist Studio. "We learned that when hotel bed linen is discarded, it is still in a perfect state to be upcycled to quality clothing. The fabric might have small defects but it is our aim to embrace and embellish them, averting waste from off-cuts as much as possible." Founders Eugenie Haitsma and Johannas Offerhaus got hold of 200 kilos of the finest Egyptian cotton bed linen from a Mayfair hotel – that would otherwise have gone to waste – and couldn't believe the quality of it, even after hundreds of washes. These were turned into 100 per cent upcycled cotton shirts and blouses, produced in a small-scale family-owned workshop in Romania – chosen because it has to adhere to EU (human rights) standards and because of the short distance to the Archivist studio in Berlin.
The brand name Archivist naturally evolved, through "our mission to preserve high-quality textiles and creating archival pieces". We love this company – everyone should have well-constructed, timeless shirts for any occasion in their wardrobe. Shop through 'platform for sustainable living' and eco-brand treasure trove Rêve En Vert, which uses DHL Carbon Neutral Shipping on all orders.
Homegrown accessories: Elvis & Kresse
We talked about Elvis & Kresse early last year (read more here) but the brand has been doing good, and looking good, since 2005. 'Pioneer' as a label is not always correctly applied, but in the case of Elvis & Kresse, it's entirely apt. For more than 15 years, Elvis & Kresse has been paving the way for all the brands that have been founded in this arena since, rescuing raw materials, such as fire hose, and transforming them into luxury lifestyle accessories.
The Fire & Hide collection, for us, encapsulates everything we love about the brand. "In 2005 we fell in love with London's decommissioned fire-hose. Determined to save it from landfill we took this lifesaving material home, gave it a second chance, and vowed to donate 50 per cent of the profits to the Fire Fighters Charity. But fire-hose was just the beginning. Every year, 800,000 tonnes of leather ends up on the cutting room floor. Our leather partners cherish their hides, but no matter how carefully they cut their patterns, there will always be small seemingly unusable offcuts. To rescue this leather we developed a unique modular approach. We hand weave these fragments into whole new hides then lovingly recraft them into sustainable luxury bags and accessories. Our commitment to rescuing British fire-hoses remains the same, the trim, handles and internal detailing of the Fire & Hide range are all made from genuine decommissioned fire-hose. And we continue to donate 50 per cent of profits to charity."
Elvis & Kresse believes in "a whole new kind of luxury. One that is sustainable, ethical, transparent, generous and kind." Hear, hear!
The sustainable sneaker: Veja
As much of a pioneer as Elvis & Kresse, Veja has become a cult favourite in the vegan sneaker category (or trainers, as we call them in the UK) over the past 15 years; 4.5 million of us have been walking, running, hopping and skipping around the world in VEJA footwear since then. Effortlessly cool, Veja is practically a prerequisite at Soho Farmhouse and counts Meghan Markle, Eddie Redmayne and Emily Ratajkowski among customers. Footwear is designed in Paris and made in Brazil using sustainable rubber, sourced directly from local communities in the Amazon rainforest.
Innovation is key at Veja – the Urca is a new vegan model this season, with a sporty look and a stitched sole, and its upper is made of C.W.L. Heard of it? Probably not – it’s a cotton canvas coated with corn oil, a vegan alternative to leather which reduces the use of petroleum.
Veja acknowledges that working with natural materials can sometimes compromise durability. "Our goal is for a pair of Veja to last even longer. Is a sole made of wild rubber more resistant than a traditional plastic sneaker sole? Is using leather more environmentally friendly than using 98 per cent oil-based plastic? Is organic cotton canvas more resistant than cotton canvas grown with pesticides? If we manage to answer yes to all these questions, the gamble will have paid off."
Country classics: Troy
Despite our urban outlook, we have a soft spot for outerwear in the country chic style, which epitomises anti-trend shopping – items need to be practical and entirely fit for purpose, year after year after year. Enter Troy London, which champions parkas, coats and jackets made to last, constructed from start to finish in the UK (and loved by the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge, Poppy Delevingne and Jacquetta Wheeler). Wherever possible, natural fabrics and materials are sourced locally, supporting mills and factories that work to a very high standard, while additional materials and trims are found in Europe and further overseas. "To prevent waste, we buy small and produce only what we need."
Expect an understated palette, with colour pops and contemporary design twists, delivered in plastic-free packaging. A partnership with Greenr means shoppers have the option to offset the carbon footprint of their purchase via one of Greenr's reforestation, bore hole or fuel efficient stove projects. There's even a limited edition men's waxed jacket if he's been looking enviously at your Troy coat in recent months!
Where to shop sustainable homeware, fashion, beauty and jewellery:
Sustainable Department Store
The Sustainable Department Store is a pop-up shop on Bethnal Green Road, which is beautifully curated with ethically-produced homeware, clothing and jewellery, all of which is also available to shop online. Pick up soft furnishings, ceramics, scented candles and abstract prints, as well as beauty products and leather accessories.
113 Bethnal Green Road, E2, sustainabledepartmentstore.com
The Maiyet Collective
Founded by Paul Van Zyl of The Conduit fame, The Maiyet Collective is a community of eco-conscious luxury brands sourced from across the globe. Having launched its digital market place earlier this year, the brand opened a pop-up store on South Molten Street in September, offering a curated edit of clothing, jewellery and homeware, with a rotating concept that changes on a monthly basis. The focus for December is jewellery, with brands such as Ro Copenhagen, A World Entire, Deborah Blythe and Harriet Morris taking centre stage in the Mayfair boutique.
17 South Molton Street, W1K, maiyet.com
Rêve En Vert
An online emporium of luxury sustainable wares, spanning stationery, jewellery, fragrance, make-up and delights for the home, from organic linen to statement glassware.
Content Beauty & Wellbeing
An online department store (with a physical boutique in Marylebone, currently closed because of Covid-19) for 'brands of the future', stocking everything from organic beauty and make-up products to books, homeware, accessories and clothes. And if you're not sure what they'd love, get a gift voucher and let them choose for themselves!