And still be wearing a decade later...
Once upon a time, in a fashion land far away, I was a throwaway clothes addict. Of course, being a fashion editor, it was pretty hard not to be. Why, my very job depended on finding the latest, the cheapest, the hottest, the coolest thing – and explaining to Marie Claire readers why they couldn’t live without it. And, like a kid in a sweet shop, I often took my own advice, raiding the high street on a weekly basis for endless wardrobe newness. But my natural inclination has always been for the most unusual pieces, and I always got much more of a thrill searching for gems in charity shops – and in other unlikely places. The pieces I’ve had the longest and still love the most all fall into the category above.
The navy pure wool 1980s Harrods mens’ blazer I found in a Norfolk Sue Ryder shop for £15, the necklace hung with crazy woven-raffia flowers that I asked a lady in Cartagena to make for me while on my Colombian honeymoon… the rust velvet opera coat by the French designer David Szeto that I had to beg him to let me order at his tiny secret studio in Paris (while I was begging him for an interview – he’s a pretty shy type all round)… these are the pieces that have nothing to do with looking ‘on-trend’ and that I will still be wearing in a decade.
The fact that the planet’s resources are finite and that fashion is one of its biggest pollutants isn’t news to anyone by now. So I won’t bash you round the eyeballs with stats and facts to make the heart sink further. But I will say that, in the course of researching my sustainable fashion book, expert after expert all told me the same thing. It’s important to know the basics surrounding sustainability issues, naturally, but changing your mindset is more important than trying to understand the finer points of GOTS cotton certification.
Give your money to brands that are doing something positive, be prepared to pay more for less (in terms of the number of pieces you buy), and keep things for longer. Because paying everyone in the supply chain fairly and using environmentally friendly materials and processes doesn’t come cheap – not at the moment, anyway. So without further ado, here are the fashionable and sustainable pieces I’ll be buying friends and family this Christmas – and trying to secretly snaffle while they’re busy with the mince pies. Ho ho ho…
The jeweller uses recycled and Fairtrade silver and gold in all her pieces, and non-toxic chemicals to produce them. She also donates 1% of profits to environmental charities that address climate change – one of her biggest creative inspirations. I adore these chunky earrings, £x.
Perfect for: me, me, me! And my best friend, obviously…
Gucci announced plans to go ‘carbon negative’ last month but Sheep Inc got there first. The brand produces a single, perfectly designed unisex style of merino wool sweater in different colourways and offsets the carbon footprint of each one tenfold by funding biodiversity initiatives. The supply chain is low-impact and transparent, using only merino from carefully-chosen New Zealand farms. Your sweater has a barcode that you can scan for updates on an individual sheep living on one of the farms.
Perfect for: the man in your life – he’ll love checking in on ‘his’ sheep. And you’ll love borrowing his jumper.
The brand started by Cameron Saul (Mulberry founder Roger’s son) with bags made from upcycled Kenyan bottletops just gets better and better. The label’s signature is now a chainmail created from waste metal ringpulls and made in ateliers in Brazil and Nepal. The fashion arm of the brand supports the Bottletop Foundation, which funds grassroots health, education and skills training projects around the world. Can you believe this bag started out as a pile of discarded tin can tops? Nope, us neither.
Perfect for: me for party season…
The original sustainable fashion brand, back in the day People Tree’s aims were admirable – but the clothes, not so much. But oh, how things have changed…they’ve seriously upped the fashion cred of the main collection, and I have a personal obsession with their regular V&A collaborations. I wore an organic cotton William Morris Liberty-print maxidress from a previous collection to every wedding I attended this summer. The latest collab ties in with the current ‘Kimono’ exhibition and uses exclusive Japanese prints.
Perfect for: me and my mum to share
The label started out in 2018 with a revolutionary business model – 90% of distributed profits are shared between charitable causes and people in the supply chain. Its organic cotton basics have been a favourite of mine for a while – and now the range includes seriously cool sports-inspired ready to wear like bodysuits, cotton dresses and block-colour hoodies.
Perfect for: your cool, streetwear-sporting friend
OK, it’s not a label – but the site is one of my favourite places to find incredible leather bags and accessories. My current top picks include ToriLo’s vegetable-tanned, handsewn leather clutches and divine hand-painted wooden Scandi-inspired jewellery from Applique Originals
Perfect for: the eclectic fashion-lover in your life
I’m never happier than when surrounded by colourful African prints – my sofa is covered in them, and some of my favourite clothes incorporate them. So this website, which sells dazzling pieces created in Malawi by local artisans, is a dream come true. The label works in partnership with the charitable Mayamiko Trust, that supports some of the most disadvantaged communities in Malawi. The site also now offers other hand-picked ethical products, like reclaimed jewellery from Laos and handloom from Myanmar.
Perfect for: colourful ethnic-pattern obsessives
Founded by Marcia Kemp, with the strapline ‘creative hands transforming lives’, Nannacay bags are handwoven by a collective of artisans in Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. The brand offers training and workshops on skill development, as well as enabling them to earn a competitive wage using their skills in traditional handwoven crafts. Pandora Sykes, Man Repeller and fashionistas aplenty are fans of the swishy fringing, basketwork and crochet designs.
Perfect for: statement bag fiends
Designer Amy Powney has been leading the sustainable fashion way with her commitment to making her supply chain transparent and reducing the carbon footprint of her collections. But she’s also at the top of her creative game, creating amazing oversized dresses in fabulous prints. I’ll be partying through December in this viscose dress – the supply chain for it is traced ‘from field to final’ and incorporates sustainable forestry and responsible use of water.
Perfect for: fashion-forward partywear