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Sustainable fashion brands without the hippy vibe

Ginger & Smart Chroma Collection

Ginger & Smart Chroma Collection

Niki Bruce

I’ve never been someone even vaguely interested in the hippy aesthetic. I’ve never been interested in natural colours, clothes made of hemp, or even sandals. The only sandals I own are black patent leather platforms covered in pointy metal spikes from Prada. 

So, while I am interested in fashion being more sustainable, I’m not going to be investing in anything from Reformation or Patagonia any time soon. I’m also totally against the whole camping-in-the-woods-climbing-mountains aesthetic as per Patagonia. 

I don’t want to wear clothes that look like something from the 70s either. The 70s is a decade I loathe. I’ve never, ever thought that peasant tops, bell bottoms, brown bags or cheesecloth should be worn by people. 

Give me the Punks every time. 

So, what is one to do if one wants to wear sustainable fashion, but one doesn’t want to look like an escapee from a high school production of Hair? 

Thankfully there are quite a number of sustainable fashion brands that look nothing like assumed organic and earthy imaginings of people who bemoan they missed Woodstock or those who dream of living on a commune eating their home-grown produce and sewing their clothes from burlap sacks.

Here are some interesting, stylish, non-hippy sustainable fashion brands to try … 

1.  Stella McCartney

From its launch in 2001, this designer brand has always focused on being eco-friendly and animal-friendly, which doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a totally sustainable brand (there are SO many definitions that it would take a whole article just to explain them all). However over the last few years the brand has moved into more sustainability related programmes including working on having a circular production system, using renewable resources and reducing the brand’s impact on the globe. You can discover more at https://www.stellamccartney.com/experience/us/sustainability/


2. Ginger & Smart

This Australian fashion brand has always focused on being sustainable by using fabrics that are biodegradable and recyclable, dyed with chemical processes that use less water and no harmful chemicals. The aesthetic is feminine contemporary style - not really fashion forward or cutting edge - but certainly very wearable; they also do sharp jackets and nice evening wear. Discover more at https://www.gingerandsmart.com.

3. Kowtow

If you’re looking for something a bit more street, and a bit less feminine, then check out New Zealand brand Kowtow. The brand is completely recyclable right down to their packaging, and while using lots of natural materials it’s not the least bit hippy. There is more of a Japanese aesthetic of oversized menswear-inspired pieces, chunky knits, loose cut pants, and lots of really great denim from grandpa jeans to dungarees. Check them out at https://au.kowtowclothing.com/collections/new-in.

4. Misha Nonoo

One of Vogue’s go-to favourite sustainable fashion brands, Misha Nonoo is a major brand with runway shows at fashion week and everything. Beloved by fashionista’s - even those that don’t care about sustainable fashion - this is the brand for anyone who really wants to be stylishly sustainable. Best known for the ‘Easy 8’ capsule collection that can create 22 different looks, the brand is innovative as well as sustainable. The designer only works with one ethical and sustainable factory for production, and uses more innovation for her production and distribution to avoid waste. Definitely worth looking at, go to https://mishanonoo.com/.

5. BITE

Based in Stockholm, BITE - which stands for By Independent Thinkers for Environmental progress), this brand is full of the pared-back Scandi style we all seem to be loving right now. It is all about minimalism made from organic fabrics and only offers 20 fixed styles that are updated seasonally. Again, part of its sustainability ethos is more about slow fashion - buy once; buy well. Discover more at https://bitestudios.com/collections/collection-no-3.

6. Everlane

Of course Everlane needs to be mentioned. It’s the OG of the non-hippy sustainable fashion brands and focuses on the basics. The brand works with ethical factories, and offers transparency on sourcing and pricing. But I wouldn’t really call them ‘stylish’. It’s a good place to go for your basic tees, sweaters, undies etc, but there’s not really a whole lot of ‘fashunn’ going on. Check it out at https://www.everlane.com/

7. Gabriela Hearst

This is totally high fashion, with accompanying high prices - like US$5,000 for a coat for example. Launched in 2015 the brand’s central focus has always been about sustainability; the first collection was in collaboration with a social enterprise, the handbags are limited run, and much of the fabric is deadstock. The pieces are elegant, timeless and classic - all good things when you’re spending so much, you want something to last. Discover more about the brand at https://www.gabrielahearst.com/blogs/stories/sustainable-practices-timeline.

8. Bethany Williams

This Britsh designer is as ‘fashunn’ as you get, particularly if you are a lover of quirky and interesting streetwear. She won the 2019 Queen Elizabeth II Prize for Design for her work with various social enterprise groups including foodbanks, and for her new production system that is entirely circular. Although difficult to get your hands on - she is mainly stocked at cult boutiques like The Library and 50m in London, Odd 92 in New York, Nid in Tokyo and Rare Market in Seoul - if you see her work grab it up. Check out the brand at http://www.bethany-williams.com/.

9. Reformation

I suppose I have to mention Reformation. It’s not a personal fave since the brand is a bit to Instagram-y for my personal taste, and despite the fact that it has always been focused on producing sustainable clothing - mostly via the use of deadstock fabrics - its position as the go-to for trend-based dressing means it has been a source of inspiration for millions, and millions of knock-offs that are definitely NOT sustainable. This is why I’m reluctant to include it, but yes, Reformation does support a huge number of sustainable practices ie. green buildings, waste, water and energy minimisation etc, so I have to add them to the list. Get more info at https://www.thereformation.com/pages/sustainable-practices.

10. Pure Pod

This small, and relatively new, Australian label has a cool-girl aesthetic that’s a bit hipster, but not too hippy (unlike the majority of Australian sustainable fashion brands). Pure Pod is all about being ethically sourced, certified GOTS organic, Australian made or Fairtrade FLO Certified Indian made. It also only produces what is need ie. more like a bespoke atelier that offers options like bespoke jacket orders. Definitely more slow fashion than fast fashion. Check out the brand at https://purepod.com.au/.

11. VegeThreads

If you’re looking for a more affordable version of Everlane’s basics, check out VegeThreads. The clothes are all made in Australia with organic and eco-friendly fabric and dyes in limited batches; the brand is also accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia. See more of the brand at https://www.vegethreads.com/.

12. Madonna Bain

For ethically made, sustainably produced women’s underwear and lingerie - including bras! which are usually never sustainably made - check out Australian label Madonna Bain. The items are hand-made in Bali at a small ethically run factory that employs home-sewers that produce small quantity runs. Fabrics are dead stock and remnants or eco-textiles, and GOTS Certified organic cotton using low impact dyes. Discover more at https://ecointimates.com.au/.

13. Etrican

This is one of Singapore’s longest running ethical and sustainable fashion brands. It only works with factories that pay fair salaries and offers sustainable, 100% certified organic cotton clothing for women and children. The style is super casual - very Kpop - but the kids clothes are super cute and relatively affordable. Check out the brand at http://etrican.com/.

14. Alice Early

If you are looking for smart workwear, UK brand Alice Early is a good choice. The designer has worked at Paul Smith, Sophie Hulme and Preen, so you get understated but elegant womenswear. The brand has been described as being ‘minimalist utilitarian’ in style, but its sustainability credentials are strong. All the cotton is Global Organic Textile Standard Certified, and even the buttons are made with Corozo - from the Tagua Palm nut - that’s often used as a substitute for polyester. Discover more at https://aliceearly.co.uk/.

15. Matter Prints

A popular Singapore brand, Matter Prints is known for its support of traditional textile producers - and while the aesthetic is more ‘ethnic’ than super ‘fashion’, the colourful prints and textured fabrics mix well with simple black pieces. Because the brand focuses on supporting ‘rural artisan production’ the pieces are made in limited numbers and as ethically and sustainably as possible. Discover more about the brand at https://shop.matterprints.com/.

16. Zerrin

Rather than a single brand per se, this website collates a bunch of Asian sustainable fashion and beauty brands. It also offers shoes, bags, beauty products and jewellery. All the brands are investigated before being stocked so all the hard work has been done for you. There is definitely a bit of an ‘ethnic’ bent with some of the brands stocked, but the wide range means there are lots of more interesting pieces too. Worth checking out at https://zerrin.com/.

Follow me at www.nikibruce.com and @ini_niki_b

Niki Bruce