With the fashion industry responsible for causing 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, according to the United Nations, phrases like “made from deadstock”, “one-off”, “handmade” and even “sold out” are becoming more commonly used as brands take greater responsibility in reducing their environmental impacts.
Whether prioritizing quality over quantity or sourcing from fabric remnants and vintage, the fashion industry appears to be gradually learning and adapting their practices. Whilst according to Fashion Revolution founder and creative director, Orsola de Castro, “there is no fully sustainable brand at this point in time,” there are, however, “brands that are embedding sustainability in the way they design and think”.
Such paradigm shifts are evident in the new wave of young designers whose brand ethos’ are based in creating forward-thinking and future-considerate garments that strike a balance between being better for the environment and being fashionable.
Priya Ahluwalia’s work is impressive for a number of reasons. Sustainable, upcycled, but perhaps most importantly to this young designer – infused with her family’s history and culture.
The Nigerian-Indian fashion designer from London has caught the attention of many in the three years since she launched Ahluwalia Studios in 2017. The designer is perhaps best known for the bulk of her collections being made from repurposed deadstock. Ahluwalia Studios prides itself on using a range of textile techniques to give clothing that may have ended up at a landfill a new life.
This idea was in part inspired by a trip to Panipat, India dubbed the “cast-off city” for the sheer amount of discarded garments – predominantly from the West – that are sent there. As captured in her 2017 book “Sweet Lassi”, Panipat, known as the global garment recycling capital of the world, has mountains of colorful, disused clothing that are broken down into a pulp and recycled into a range of products.
Ahluwalia herself then decided to create her MA Menswear collection from up-cycling waste. Her Autumn-Winter 20 collection is characterized by patchworked pieces including blazers, trousers and coats reflecting the year 1965 in India, Nigeria and the UK. The collection represented Priya’s multiple heritages but also the ability to be fashionably innovative without sacrificing sustainability.
Founded by Barcelona-based photographer and artist Paloma Lanna, Paloma Wool began as a photo project but quickly established a cult-following and identifiable aesthetic. Featuring aqua blues, minty greens and striking photography, the raw authenticity of Paloma Wool shines through on the digital space.
Its ethos is also conveyed in how it is produced. As stated by Lanna in an interview “I don’t believe in fashion seasons—Autumn-Winter or Spring-Summer…I don’t believe in sales, or things like Black Friday. I believe that pieces have a value, and that this value can’t be changed by time.”
“I also didn’t want to overproduce, as so many brands do. I wanted to do limited-edition capsules, where I could be sure I was going to sell everything I was producing. That’s why many of the pieces we make are out of stock within the first month. Instead, I wanted to create a more complex fashion concept.”
Myaemade (Mia Joseph) started selling her multi-colored patchworked pieces on Depop and quickly became one of the apps top-sellers. She was invited to showcase her designs at a pop-up Depop space at Selfridges in London in 2019 and has had Jorja Smith, Mabel and Jordyn Woods in her garments.
Imbued with London street-style influences, Myaemade’s designs are one-off pieces made by hand and are characterized by a clash of colors and contrast stitching. Creating on a small-scale allows her carbon footprint to kept low.
In an interview with Bricks Magazine she states that “In the future, everyone will disregard the fashion structure, the seasons are changing because of what we’re doing to the planet, and I just thing because small brands can be so global now”.
“You don’t need to pay attention to the seasons where you are, someone somewhere is able to wear something at anytime”. She added, “It’s all about being online, right now is a pivotal moment for the fashion industry”.
Label Rua Carlota isn’t even four months old yet but has already been featured on Vogue Britain, POP Sugar and has attracted a hefty social media following — for good reason. Made only with deadstock material, London-based designer Charlotte Rose Kirkham creates vibrant patchworked designs which “challenge waste culture” and are entirely handmade.
Kirkham started selling on Depop in March and her brand Rua Carlota has taken off in no time. Her beautiful, one-off designs made from of patchworked disused textile help combat some of the fashion industries waste issues.
We Are We Wear
London-based swimsuit brand We Are We Wear creates swimwear for a diverse range of body types. The brand also has an eco-edit which creates swimming costumes out of disused fish nets and fabrics. As said on the website, “We Are We Wear also champions a more sustainable approach to fashion”.
“The Eco edit is made in Italy from unwanted waste materials such as fishing nets, industrial plastics and fabric scraps and is available across all sizes with flattering styles to compliment all body shapes. ‘We Are We Wear Girls’ can show their love for the planet without compromising on style or fit.”
House of Sunny
Since it began in 2011, East London-based brand House of Sunny has become a go-to for retro and 70s nostalgia-inspired looks. On top of their dreamy aesthetic, the brand has made sustainability a core principle in their designs. As stated in an interview with Glamour, “We know who makes our clothes throughout every process and our designs are manufactured in small limited runs to prevent the waste of material.”
“We focus on reducing our waste by increasing our marker efficiency and reusing 80% of our leftovers to create small products such as hats, scarfs and head bands” and on top of that “30% of our care labels and swing tags are made from garment waste, we hope to get this 100% by the end of the year.”