Sustainable Style Guide
Knowing exactly what sustainable fashion means is complex. It’s a multifaceted term that needs unpacking (don’t worry, we’re on it). Big picture? It is a design philosophy that takes into account human impact on the environment and focuses on social responsibility. When designers work with this philosophy in mind, they can put it into action in a ton of different ways such as local sourcing, natural dyeing, recycled fabric, zero waste manufacturing, fair trade, organic materials, and local production.
Emerging designers are a huge part of this movement (one of the many reasons why we love them so much), doing their part to create a more sustainable future. This guide is here to, well, guide you. We break down everything you need to know about sustainable fashion and what designers are doing what. Don’t be surprised when you feel like a total eco-green-slow fashion expert by the end of this guide.
From the fabric that is leftover in mills and garment factories to the millions of people disposing their clothes, society generates a ton of textile waste every year. The next stop for this so-called waste would usually be one of the many landfills across the world. That’s where our designers have the opportunity to step in. There are few ways that fashion can be recycled. Firstly is the use of fabric made from recycled fiber content (recycled cotton, nylon and polyester). Secondly, is the use of deadstock. All those millions of leftover scraps are utilized by designers for small-batch or one-off designs. Lastly, is the repurposing of old clothes, pillowcases, or even towels to design something new. All these processes help preserves resources such as oil and energy used to manufacture new materials and reduce the amount of fabric going into landfills which never decompose damaging our ecosystem. The designers below work at least one of these processes on the daily producing positive environmental change.
A proud champion of the slow fashion movement, Megan Huntz designs and manufactures her entire eponymous collection locally in Atlanta. Her contemporary women’s wear is known for its hand dyeing and digital prints, along with its limited edition runs that use dead-stock fabrics — something that plays an important part in her sustainable POV. These pieces are truly one of a kind.
Created by sister duo Morgan and Jaclyn Solomon, AGMES is a jewelry line that focuses on geometric shapes, clean lines and modern silhouettes. All pieces are handmade in New York using almost all recycled metals to ensure that their line has a small environmental footprint.
Krista Bachmeier and Sheila Imandoust started Town Clothes in 2013, combining each of their personal styles to create a collection that is modern and contemporary. This is a brand that you can really feel good about as every fabric comes from overstock or deadstock sources and everything is dyed naturally whenever possible.
Where did the fabric you’re wearing come from? Sourcing is a fundamental part of the design process and keeping things local is a great way to practice sustainability. When designers source their materials locally they reduce their carbon footprint with way less transportation compared to what global sourcing demands. On top of that, local sourcing demonstrates an investment in the community by supporting local businesses and can foster a different kind of relationship between the customer and the end product. These designers below keep things close to home benefiting their business, friends, community, and the planet.
Coclico is about a personal identity that extends beyond style to a lifestyle that’s conscious, artful and elegant. All of their shoes are made ethically and sustainably in their small, family-run factory in Mallorca with materials sourced locally. The result is a gorgeous union of modern minimalism and traditional quality.
Founded in 2013 by sisters Leah and Rebecca Plante, their namesake line finds inspiration in the combination of nature and the city. Based between Brooklyn, NY and Austin, TX, the sisters create novel and feminine pieces using organic and natural, locally sourced materials.
Gittit Szwarc is the designer behind Knobbly, a multidisciplinary studio focusing on jewelry and artist collaborations. She is self taught and her genius is expressed in every detail. Each piece is handmade in their studio from locally-sourced materials creating truly one-of-a-kind art.
Did you know that beautiful dyes can come from plants, fruits, vegetables and even insects? We know, Mother Nature is seriously amazing. Natural dyeing is a great sustainable alternative to synthetic dyeing. It utilizes earth’s treasures while promoting an agricultural market for harvesting dye plants. Plus, the colors that come from these renewable resources are straight up stunning. For example, indigofera plant makes the richest blue and madder root makes vibrant reds, pinks and oranges. The designers below are natural dyeing experts. Their color palettes will blow your mind.
This New York-based brand uses ancient dyeing methods to create timeless pieces for the modern customer. Made from quality fabrics like cashmere, wool and silk, and dyed with 100% natural colors, they offer a more sustainable option in the textile industry.
Minimalist, timeless pieces are the focus for designer Miranda Bennett. Her naturally dyed textiles are dyed in-house in their Austin studio and each and every piece is produced ethically with a skilled team of local artisans. Most of her collections are cut, dyed and sewn to order, so everything is awesomely unique.
Founded in 2012, Gamma Folk’s accessories are all crafted in studio in New York, and designer Lily Piyathaisere uses traditional techniques and natural, hand-made dyes to create her modern, statement-making pieces.
Fair trade is often misinterpreted as only pertaining to fair wages, but really, it is so much more. When a designer or label uses fair trade practices it means they are creating a partnership of transparency, respect and sustainability. They work with local artisans in marginalized communities to preserve their textile traditions while providing better working conditions, proper employee rights and support for their families. This sustainable practice fights against poverty, economic crisis and even climate change – the ultimate hat trick. The designers below all work with artisans to create beautiful pieces while giving back.
Founded by Gosia Piatek in New Zealand, the contemporary fashion line uses only 100% fair trade certified cotton and works hard to ensure their employees from Kolkata, India receive fair wages and employee benefits. The brand is also dedicated to creating awareness about the imbalance in standards of living throughout the world.
Founders Maryanne Mathias and Molly Keogh work with local garment workers and artisans in Ghana to create their collections, applying traditional techniques to each piece. Osei-Duro aims to support the local apparel industry, on both a large and small scale, in becoming sustainable.
Founders, Maria-Paula Herrera and Melissa Moriarty design each collection and then they are hand-crocheted by their artisan partners, the indigenous Wayuu women of La Guajira, Colombia. This brand proudly practices fair trade principles and also donates a portion of their profits to Aguayuda, a charity that provides water sanitation and access to communities in the same region MARIYA’s bags are made.
Let’s get down to the dirt. Actually though, organic fabrics are all about coming straight from the earth. No pesticides, herbicides or harmful fertilizers involved. Cotton specifically takes up about half of the total fiber used to make clothing today, and more than 90% of that cotton is genetically modified. This chemically grown cotton is really tough on our ecosystem because of they way it depletes the nutrients in the soil. Organic cotton, on the other hand, does the exact opposite. It conserves soil (that beautiful earth) through crop rotation and uses way less water. By using organic fibers, the designers are providing a sustainable solution.
The inspired POV of designer Elise Ballegeer makes for structured shapes that give off an understated elegance, an aesthetic that’s enhanced by her use of organic and sustainable materials. The result? New classics that are both covetable and eco-conscious.
Born out of a need for comfy, dreamy ethical undergarments, designers Laura Schoorl and Rachel Corry created their lingerie company in 2013. Sewn locally in California, Pansy makes products that are minimal, sturdy and beautiful. Using their environmental and ethical standards as a guide, Pansy is 100% organic – from growing their cotton in North Carolina to using fiber-reactive dyes in Novato, CA.
Lauren Winter redefines the phrase eco-chic with a line of statement designs crafted out of durable, natural fibers such as linen, hemp, and organic cotton. Each collection is bold with a style that is inspired by the age-old art of origami and the transformative power of shapes and folds.
It can be difficult to come across labels that read “Made in USA” or “Made in Canada”—but not on Garmentory. We have an abundance of brands that design, produce and manufacture everything in the United States or Canada. Local production is sustainable in similar ways as local sourcing. It reduces carbon footprint, provides opportunity for local businesses and creates a community. It’s important to be knowledgeable about where your clothing comes from and see the transparency in the supply chain. Try not to be too overwhelmed with this list of incredible designer producing locally.
This LA designer is the ultimate when it comes to versatile and timeless staples that are wearable yet undeniably modern. Natural, sustainable fabrics such as tencel, rayon, modal, wool and cotton are used to craft each piece. All Shaina Mote pieces are designed and made in Los Angeles.
Sunja Link has been drawing up little creations since the age of seven. With her eponymous women's wear line she is a stickler for quality, dedicated to making clothes that matter and using the best fabrics sourced from Italy and Japan. Plus, each and every piece is cut and sewn in Vancouver.
Katie Goldman Macdonald’s collection House Dress has an effortless feel with a modern and functional aesthetic. The line veers away from fast fashion and trend driven collections by being a part of the slower design movement. All of their garments are designed and made in New York.
And the list goes on:
- Ali Golden
- Beth Richards
- Between Ten
- Black Crane
- Brookes Boswell
- Collina Strada
- David Michael
- Electric Feathers
- Erin Templeton
- Esby Apparel
- First Rite
- Folk Fortune
- Gamma Folk
- Graf Lantz
- Hackwith Design House
- Heidi Merrick
- H Fredrickson
- House of 950
- House Dress
- Ilana Kohn
- Jesse Kamm
- Maria Dora
- Me & Arrow
- Megan Huntz
- Micaela Greg
- Off Season NYC
- Older Brother
- Open Air Museum
- Piece NYC
- Red Wing Shoes
- Sara Barner
- Suzanne Rae
- Scout & Catalogue
- Shaina Mote
- Sunja Link
- Tanner Goods
- Tara 4479
- The Palatines
- The Stowe
- Ursa Minor
Working in a zero waste studio is, well, exactly how it sounds. These designers work hard to either limit the amount of waste they produce or recycle the small amount of waste produced. This method about utilizing every scrap, drop of water, spool of thread, and everything else in between. It’s not only environmentally friendly, but also can save the brands oodles of money and make for some really unique designs. It’s a win win. Below are three of our favorite designers that work in zero waste studios.
Whether it’s a shag top made of recycled jeans or a ladylike shift dress with raw hems, Portland-based designer Alexa Stark’s women’s wear is every bit as complex as the women she designs for. Working with the Portland Garment Factory, everything is made using minimal waste production with each and every inch of fabric accounted for in a garment or a work of art.
Rather than following the traditional fashion calendar, Laurs Kemp specializes in small-batch capsule collections that are seasonless. Each collection is sewn right in her studio, all screen-printed items are printed locally, and fabric scraps are donated to Gem Text Recycling, making them a zero-waste studio.
This women's wear brand focuses on conceptual design and sustainability. Her line keeps things ethical by producing, cutting and sewing its collection in NYC’s garment district. The collections also feature gorgeous knitwear from Peru and collaborations with artisans from around the world. Her design process works to maintain zero waste from start to finish.