My Ethical Wardrobe: Sustainable Clothing

My Ethical Wardrobe: Sustainable Clothing
Helen Walden
By: Helen Walden
Reading time: 6 min

In a recent survey conducted by Mintel, around 44% of 17 to 26 year-olds said that it was important to them that fashion brands used more sustainable materials - an increase of 10% when compared with the generation above them.

This rising interest in building an ethical wardrobe is having a big impact on the fashion industry. Pantone even named ''Greenery' their color of the year, inspired by environmentalism. As the trend slowly trickles through the Fashion Week catwalks and into the high street, more and more sustainable ranges are appearing in stores. But to achieve true sustainability, you have to begin at the beginning.

Sustainable Materials

Ethical Wardrobe

With throwaway fashion becoming a thing of the past, designers have been forced to explore other avenues when it comes to fabrics. The latest batch of shoppers tend towards spending more on fewer pieces that are made to last - so they're on the lookout for high quality as well as maximum green value.

Pleather has long been favored by those looking for all the style with none of the (eco or financial) cost, and other materials are starting to follow suit. Green silk is sweeping through the industry as the latest means of achieving a luxe look while maintaining an ethical wardrobe.

In countries such as India, farms have been focusing on methods of producing silk that don't require killing the moth and cocoon. There's also a trend towards avoiding harsh dyes, thus producing softer and more eco-friendly fabrics.

Organic cotton is also enjoying heightened popularity, with more and more brands and designers seeking genuine certification from industry bodies such as the Global Organic Textile Standards.

Another material long favored by the eco-conscious is bamboo. Naturally odor-resistant and luxuriously soft as well as biodegradable, bamboo clothes are as beneficial for the wearer as the planet, and its fast growth and adaptability make it one of the most sustainable textile resources.

While there are a number of options for making new clothes ethically and sustainably, the greenest option will always be to simply reuse old ones.


Ethical Wardrobe

Upcycling as a trend - whether it means using what would otherwise go to waste or breathing new life into old designs - has taken off over recent years. As well as preventing unnecessary fabric waste, it saves on the energy, water and raw materials required to create something from scratch.

Once, upcycling was primarily the domain of crafty fashion bloggers who would re-purpose last-season pieces to suit the latest trend. But with a push towards recycling and environmentalism prevalent in recent pop culture, many big brands have taken up the mantle.

Accessories brand TRMTAB has found a way to make genuine leather eco-friendly for leather lovers who want an ethical wardrobe. The company collects leather scraps from factories based all over the world and uses them to create phone, tablet and laptop cases. Similarly, Sword & Plough takes excess military fabrics and turns them into handbags and purses.

Perhaps one the most famous upcycling brands of the moment is Reformation, whose founder was recently profiled by Vogue.


Ethical Wardrobe - Reformation

Yael Aflalo was inspired to create her own sustainable fashion company after witnessing first-hand the pollution caused by factories in China. She says of Reformation: ''We want to continue to shift the thinking of what sustainable clothing can be, with everything from dresses and wedding styles to our new categories like jeans and swimwear.''

This innovative approach to both style and environmentalism has earned Aflalo a host of celebrity fans, including style icon Alexa Chung and pop superstar Taylor Swift.

In fact, maintaining an ethical wardrobe has become a sweeping trend across the young and famous in all industries. Actress and activist Emma Watson has even dedicated an entire Instagram account to showcasing her favorite sustainable fashions.

Emma the Environmentalist

Ethical Wardrobe - ZADYEthical Wardrobe - ZADYEthical Wardrobe - ZADY

The_press_tour Instagram account features the outfits of Watson's ethical wardrobe, worn as she promoted her latest film, Beauty and the Beast, with each captioned with a description of the brand's sustainable practices.

This isn't the star's first foray into sustainable fashion; she made headlines last year when she wore a ballgown made from recycled bottles to the Met Gala. She's also partnered with New York-based brand ZADY to create her own capsule collection of ethical and eco-friendly apparel.

ZADY founder Maxine Bedat explained: "These pieces aren't synthetic materials and are natural fibers, so you can bury that piece of clothing at the final stage of its life and it would grow back into the earth."

Watson debuted the first of these outfits during a speech at the UN General Assembly before making them available to fans later in 2016. She'll see plenty of competition, however, with a number of high street brands bringing out their own green ranges in recent times.

Green Streets

Ethical Wardrobe

Recognizing the demand for sustainable fashion that doesn't carry the designer price tag, many popular brands have stepped up to fill the gap in the market.

Online retailer AOS launched The Green Room in 2010, which was later renamed to Eco Edit. This department is dedicated to showcasing sustainable fashion and beauty designers, featuring a number of fair-trade brands from all over the world.

Similarly, H&M touts the H&M Conscious line - a collection dedicated to sustainability. The brand already has a reputation for social responsibility, thanks to its regular use of certified organic cotton and initiatives such as the clothing collection and recycling drive launched in 2013.

On the upper end of the high street, Zara and Mango have made their own nods towards sustainability. In 2016, Zara introduced Join Life - a sustainable range comprising recycled wool, Tencel and organic cotton garments with a back-to-basics look and feel.

Mango debuted the Committed Life collection earlier this year. Again, organic and recycled cotton and Tencel are both prevalent, as well as recycled polyester.

With awareness and availability of eco-friendly fashions at an all-time high, it seems there's no longer any excuse for getting dressed in the dark.

Helen Walden

Created by: Helen Walden

Helen is a UK-based freelance writer with over six years’ experience in article writing, editing, blogging and copywriting. You can read her work and get in touch at

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