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While fast fashion may be more accessible, there’s no denying the extraordinary waste produced by some of the world’s most popular brands. If you hope to move the needle of sustainability in the garment industry, there’s good news–you don’t have to overhaul your wardrobe, as many brands are already doing it for you.
Learn more about the jewelry, apparel, and footwear companies producing luxury items while simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint, strengthening local economies, conserving wildlife, and upcycling waste.
Vrai & Oro
Vrai & Oro’s line of jewelry and engagement rings cut middlemen costs, import expenses, and designer inflation—and the brand even uses Diamond Foundry’s ethical and sustainably grown diamonds, produced above ground through solar technology. Add this with the sole use of certified recycled gold—whenever this precious metal passes hands, protected land is preserved, workers are treated and compensated fairly, and waste is at an absolute minimum—for one of the most sustainable jewelry brands on the market.
Mexican textile design and production workshop Caralarga has a mission to preserve the essence of raw fibers and repurpose them into artisanal pieces. By utilizing materials like non-toxic cotton, sansevieria thread and discarded textile waste, the brand creates their line of timeless and sustainable jewelry, apparel and home décor. Caralarga’s most recent collection is called Nubes, a line inspired by the texture of clouds. Produced by female weavers of the La Esperanza community in Querétaro, Mexico, each piece—from chokers and bracelets to vests and trousers—is made by weaving and braiding sustainable cotton denim with a resulting texture of silk.
To make Cesta Collective’s line of handwoven crossbody handbags and totes, the brand works with over 1,400 female weavers organized in village cooperatives throughout rural Rwanda. With the mission to bolster economies in the developing world and to promote female empowerment through joyful, ethically made accessories, Cesta only utilizes locally-sourced, renewable materials like organic cotton, dead-stock fabrics and organic vegetable-dyed sisal harvested from the rolling hills of Rwanda. When each of the brand’s baskets arrive in Italy to be hand-finished, they are already imbued with familial wisdom. As for centuries, Rwandan weaving has been passed down from mother to daughter as a rite of passage and is now a critical economic driver and source of gender independence.
This year, Nisolo–producer of ultra-stylish oxfords, boots, and sandals—aims to save 60,000 trees from being uprooted by donating a portion of proceeds of every shoe sold to help protect the forests in the Amazon Basin and create sustainable livelihoods for its indigenous communities. To make its most popular shoes like the huarache, a woven slip-on dating back to pre-Columbian Mexico, the brand sources leather from tanneries committed to the ethical treatment of animals, with final products formed at the brand’s ethically-run factory in Trujillo, Peru.
Australian jewelry designer Sophie Zamel's debut collection, named Free-form, is inspired by continuity and beauty found in the alternative. The collection is comprised of seven earrings, each made from 18-karat, fair-mined eco-gold and available in rose, white, yellow, and the occasional piece in black-washed gold. With a stringent sustainability protocol in place, the brand is committed to ethical commerce, which can be seen in the classic hoop earrings. Designed to celebrate movement from the interplay of form and negative space, the earrings feature an unexpected and discreet placement of Canadamark’s mindfully-sourced diamonds to be appreciated from multiple angles.
Motivated to develop a small-batch design studio based on the principles of longevity, art, and balance, Bridget Tidey launched Zii Ropa in 2015, a utilitarian fashion label born in the desert of Baja California Sur and based in Mexico City. With timeless, modern and functional silhouettes evocative of both coastal and city living, each piece is handcrafted, cut and sewn by fair-wage, woman-owned and operated production houses in Mexico City and made using natural fiber fabrics like linen, cotton, wool and silk that are both soft on the skin and biodegradable.
With wardrobe staples offered at an attainable price point and sourced from a clean supply chain, Neu Nomads believes fashion has a duty to take care of the natural world. An ethics-first company with a commitment to sustainability and traceability, the brand utilizes biodegradable and eco-friendly fabrics—from satin tencel for its luxurious softness and breathability to an eco-jersey fabric made from seaweed and eucalyptus fibers—to make its line of easy-to-wear essentials, from silky kaftans to slip dresses.
Handcrafted by third- and fourth-generation master artisans in the mountainous Indian village of Athani, Mohinders’ slippers and flats are handmade with braided leather from water buffalo and tanned in small-scale family factories. This pre-industrial method uses a vegetable-based solution – water, acacia tree bark, and myrobalan nut – and achieves the look of traditional raw leather without using any synthetic chemicals (no polish, chrome, or chemical softeners) to make the perfect travel shoes anywhere you go.
Yasmin Sabet works with more than 80 indigenous families to design her made-in-Colombia accessories, homeware and ready-to-wear women’s clothing. Of all the products offered by Mola Sasa, clutches, mini totes, and bucket bags are among the most popular. Each is made with mola prints, an ancient appliqué technique passed down for generations in the indigenous Kuna communities of Colombia and Panamá wherein women stitch cut-out layers of fabric to form bright and intricate patterns. Shop the brand’s palm leaf chimichagua totes–woven by women in the Cesar region of Colombia–to help facilitate the preservation of the area’s native palm forest, now under threat by urban and agricultural expansion.
Veja is breaking industry barriers by making footwear with sustainable technologies and fabrics like recycled single-use plastic bottles, fish farmed tilapia skin, recycled cotton, and wild rubber. It takes about 15 plastic bottles to create a pair of VEJA sneakers, an upcycling process producing a smart fabric, both breathable and waterproof, to form sneakers for the conscientious fashion set. Headquartered in Paris and produced in Brazil, VEJA ensures fair-trade jobs for both producers and factory workers.
Designed by Kate Wilson near the banks of eastern Zambia’s Luangwa River, each Mulberry Mongoose necklace, bracelet, and earring set are produced by a collective of local women. Made from regional materials like black-and-white guinea fowl feathers and repurposed snare wire—illegally used by poachers to trap animals like leopard and lion for the black-market bushmeat trade—a portion of profits from each piece sold supports the Zambian Carnivore Programme, Conservation South Luangwa and Conservation Lower Zambezi, organizations working diligently to remove snare wire and conserve species in the area.
In partnership with rural artisans in Jaipur, Pochampally, and beyond, Renyung Ho launched Matter to reinterpret ancestral textile traditions into clothing rooted on provenance. Seasonal fabrics made in season-less styles—wrap-around pants inspired by the multifold drapes of the Indian dhoti, jackets nodding to the kepenek coats worn by shepherds in the Iranian mountains—tell stories of where and why they are made. Grounded in a philosophy of slow fashion, Matter enlists an urban-rural production model to connect makers with worldwide designers and customers.
Samaadhi Weerasinghe launched her no waste collection of patchwork silk pieces when she realized too much fabric was being discarded in Sri Lanka due to the narrow width of silk yardage. After recycling enough off cuts to create an entirely new pattern from scraps, Weerasinghe created ANUK’s limited edition, one-off silk wrap skirts and kimonos, sold exclusively at PR Sri Lanka in Colombo. By working one-on-one with pattern makers and dying mills to ensure all levels of the brand are operating sustainably, ANUK adheres to a zero-waste policy.
With 84 percent of production in New York City’s Garment District, Zero + Maria Cornejo’s line of ecological linen, silk, and organic cotton garments supports the local economy while being made in sustainable mills, free from the common use of hazardous chemicals. Owned and run by women and adhering to a certifiably transparent production process, shop pieces in the linen drape line, a textile made from yarn produced with Norway spruce and Scots pine wood pulp sustainably sourced in Sweden. The cherry on top—every order is delivered in compostable packaging.