Sustainable fashion brands to shop for timeless summer style

Annabel Harrison

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10 June 2022

It is easier than ever to shop sustainable fashion brands, and they've upped their game when it comes to items both essential and extraordinary for your wardrobe

10 June 2022 | Annabel Harrison | If you purchase something via our website, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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e've all read the horrifying stats about the clothing industry, our reliance on fast fashion and its collective sledgehammer-like impact on our planet. However, happily, while we've only selected our favourites, this article could have included hundreds more great brands making stylish, statement sustainable clothes – not something that could have been as easily said a decade ago, in terms of number or quality. Times have changed. Many designers care more than ever about the abolition of fast fashion, replacing cheap, low-quality options with durable, classic and cool pieces we'd love to wear and keep. Very few brands could be considered perfect in the green arena but the efforts being made across the industry are significant, and improvements are happening year in, year out. So shop on with a clear conscience and find some new forever favourites to see you through many more seasons to come.

Baukjen

This brand is a B-Corp which, very simply, means you can shop with no further research and a guilt-free conscience. Certified B Corporations are for-profit businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. These impressive certifications come courtesy of non-profit B Lab, which evaluates not just a product or service, but the overall impact of the company. The first (big) sustainability tick for Baukjen.

We particularly love Baukjen’s smart-casual colourful dresses that manage to make pretty vintage-style florals look entirely modern. Most of the fabrics the brand uses are derived from natural fibres that biodegrade much faster without releasing harmful chemicals into the environment, so expect your items to be made from the likes of eco cashmere, ECOTEC® yarn, FSC viscose, organic cotton, recycled polyester and Greencash. This is a remarkable Italian yarn that's new to us, consisting of 70 per cent recycled fibres and 30 per cent Tencel™. Warm and soft, Greencash has around 85 per cent less impact on the environment due to huge water savings, reduction in pollution, waste, CO2 emissions and natural resources.

Visit baukjen.com

Neem London

‘The world’s best T-shirt. Breathable, biodegradable and bathed in luxury.’ A bold claim on Neem London’s homepage but one it maintains it can justify. At £79 and made from ethical ZQ Merino wool, this perfect tee is “comfortable, traceable, tested for biodegradability and can be fully recycled. This is a product that rarely needs washing, even when worn against the skin as it has odour repellent and moisture management qualities.” Shop a smart capsule selection of shirts, socks and scarves too.

Founder Nick Reed is evangelical about living a life that is both sustainable and fun. “They go hand in hand. I don’t believe you have to sacrifice style to live ethically; I do believe you should demand more from the brands who make your clothes and that whatever you wear should be comfortable and versatile”. So he founded what he calls his ‘antiseptic’ for fast fashion, a brand named after a type of tree in India; neem has antibacterial, healing properties and is used as a natural antiseptic. “We’re designing with our future in mind, and the knowledge that our choices can lead to a positive outcome. We are sustainable, but first and foremost we are an authority on style – we call it Power Casual.”

Visit neemlondon.com

Cloe Cassandro

If you want to support age-old crafting techniques and ensure they survive for many more generations to come, buy beautiful, airy resort wear from a brand like Cloe Cassandro. She’s passionate about batik, an ancient art form thought to originate in Indonesia that’s made with wax-resistant dye on fabrics. Her batik pieces are crafted from all-natural silk crinkle and unprinted pieces are made from 100 per cent linen with plant-based, completely natural dyes.

Cloe’s mother met Erik, a local batik tailor in Bali. Before long the first items designed by Cloe’s mother, and hand-batiked and crafted by Erik, were being sold, and this initial collaboration grew into the Cloe Cassandro brand, born from Cloe’s desire to support the livelihoods of skilled artisans and tailors in Bali, and now India too. Each piece showcases the skills, culture, heritage and creativity of those who make them, and is completely unique. “It’s really important to me that my pieces have a minimal impact on the planet,” says Cloe. “The textile industry’s biggest contribution to carbon emissions is overproduction and waste. So I’m doing everything I can to make our production totally circular. That means nothing is wasted, and everything is used, loved and reused.” Read the brand's Sustainable Solutions here.

Visit reve-en-vert.com

Rapanui

“100 billion items of clothing are bought each year, and with three out of five T-shirts purchased today thrown away within 12 months, a dump truck of clothing is going to landfill every second.” When you read facts like this, it’s easy to feel hopeless but brands like Rapanui fill us with hope (and we'd ordered two T-shirts from it before finishing this article). Shop printed tees, hoodies, jumpers and jackets, accessories and underwear, all fashionably – and timelessly – functional.

It would be quicker to list what it doesn’t do on a sustainable front than what it does; in fact, as far as we can see, it does everything. Rapanui products are made from natural materials, using renewable energy, and designed from the start to be sent back when worn out. “Instead of making waste, we make new products from it. It's a circular supply chain. And in our factory on the Isle of Wight, our T-shirts are produced in real-time, in the seconds after they are ordered. We only make what people actually need, when they need it. The conscientious application of technology has enabled us to demonstrate that there is a different way of operating, and it works.” If this is the future of fashion, there’s hope.

Visit rapanuiclothing.com

Sheep Inc

All we knit is love. And that’s it – we’re won over by a cheesy and heart-warming slogan. Sheep Inc does what it says on the tin. It’s all about wool, but not as you know it. We are here to regenerate the world with knitwear, say Sheep Inc founders Edzard and Michael. “We combine age-old techniques and modern innovations to create the first naturally carbon-negative knitwear. This is just the starting line.” Their ambitions are lofty, and laudable. “We don’t want to stand out for our sustainable practices. We want to create the blueprint for the garment industry to change its ways.”

It’s always good to learn something new on the sustainability front too. The Higgs Index is a suite of tools for the standardised measurement of value chain sustainability and Sheep Inc very neatly explains why wool’s environmental impact is badly rated. “The Higgs Index takes an average impact of the farming industry and only measures the cradle-to-gate impact of fibres. It is true that the agriculture industry is a huge contributor to the climate crisis. However, not all farms are created equal. By working with specific farms that focus on regenerative farming practices, like we do, you can not only minimise the impact but have a positive impact. In addition, our Merino wool is 100 per cent biodegradable. This is the “gate to grave” impact that the Higgs index doesn’t take into account. Synthetic fibres contribute a huge portion to textile waste. Due to the wool’s biodegradability, there is no lasting impact on the planet. If you put it into the ground it is gone within 6-12 months whereas most synthetic fibres never degrade and remain waste in the ground." So now you know. Where there's wool there's a way!

Visit sheepinc.com

Olistic The Label

Olistic (adj) – believing in a sustainable approach to fashion, caring for people and the Earth. We love the ethos of this eco-chic French brand. Think minimal, fluid silhouettes with a modern boho feel, in a palette that recalls the organic roots of its collections. Inspired by biomimicry, the pieces are all designed to be made with eco-friendly, 100 per cent natural materials such as peace silk (a type of silk that doesn't harm silkworms in its creation), wood fibres and upcycled luxury dead stock (discontinued fabric that hasn't sold). Olistic's entire range is made in a family workshop in Portugal and embroidery is done by hand by a community of craftspeople.

We particularly love the Olistic x Arizona collection. The model turned eco-activist Arizona Muse has created a timeless ethical fashion line exclusively made of GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic natural fibres; it includes flowing dresses in midnight blue, an epic, full-length black cape, jumpsuit, blouses, trousers and shirts.

Visit reve-en-vert.com

Hunza G

Before we get to the all-important sustainability creds, there are two other things you need to know about Hunza G. Its swimsuits only come in one size. And Hunza was the brand behind *that* cut-out dress in Pretty Woman. To clarify the first point: its swimsuits fit UK sizes 6 to 14/16, depending on desired fit, thanks to three materials – a unique signature Crinkle, fine-knit Prene and ribbed Nile. To the second point: Hunza was created in 1984 but became instantly recognisable after being worn on-screen by Julia Roberts six years later (the G was added in 2015 when Georgiana Huddart relaunched the brand).

The signature Crinkle is made with no deadstock fabric or wastage, and the one size stance is not only, the brand explains, an effort to remain inclusive but also reduces the risk of over-purchased sizing on a commercial level. This carbon-neutral company places “huge importance on our community, not only as a London-based brand, but as a force within the industry that can assist in times of need”. Its poly bags are biodegradable, recycled and recyclable – constructed with post-consumer plastic. “We are not perfect. However we believe it’s the collective shift towards change that makes the biggest impact overall.” So far, so good.

Visit hunzag.com

Birdsong London

‘Dress for the world you want’. How it works: every month Birdsong London releases one new, limited-edition product, which is available to pre-order and personalise all month – you choose the colours, details and measurements, then it’s made in London. Why it works: “Pre-order makes shopping better for everyone,” explains the Birdsong team. “You get a one-of-a-kind piece that’s all yours. Our skilled makers work in the best conditions – no unrealistic pressure, total control of their craft. And there’s no waste, so we’re doing the best by the planet that we can. We make with joy so you can wear with joy.” Simple, easy and, yes, joyful. 

Co-founder Susanna and her team design everything in their East London studio, collecting inspiration from art, nature and culture. “Together with our makers, we build concepts around their skills to create our collections. We hand sketch every silhouette, detail and print, then share them online, keeping feedback from our community in mind through the design process. Finding partners to source our fabric from with an equal commitment to ethics and sustainability is no easy task. We only source from the most ecologically friendly and high-quality suppliers we can find."

Visit birdsong.london

Three Graces London

‘A timeless vision of warm weather dressing’ – perfect for the summer months ahead (the mildness of ‘warm’ being particularly pertinent for the UK). Slow, simple and sustainable - that's the order of the day at Three Graces London. Its current collection showcases a glorious array of colours and sunny yellows are particularly well represented, from Sunflower and Mango to Daffodil and Primrose, with a good showing from Palm Green, Porcelain Blue and Fuschia too. For Three Graces founder, Catherine Johnson, establishing more environmentally friendly practices and promoting moderate consumption goes hand in hand with her central brand philosophy of thoughtful, timeless design, produced in small quantities and using only the finest fabrics from generations-old Italian mills. "We’ve always been conscious of creating timeless garments – it’s always been our philosophy. By making our products as beautiful as we can, we’re hopefully making it easier for women to buy less, but buy well-considered pieces that are made to last."

Theirs is an honest approach. Certified organic cotton. Minimising waste. No harsh chemical dyes. Partners with the same values. Natural fabrics, and repurposing unused fabrics. Lowering its carbon footprint. Attention to detail is absolute – with collections produced in small quantities to minimise environmental impact. Three Graces London is on a green journey, as are all of the brands above, and one we're keen to take with them.

Visit net-a-porter.com

Read more: How Fendi is preserving Rome's cultural relics