A fashionable way to go green

From Fair Wear to wardrobe surgery, fashion designers are not only coming up with new ways to recycle and reinvent their clothes, but are also lobbying MEPs for a more transparent labelling system

Rapanui goes above and beyond simple fashion. They have also worked with MEPs to lobby for a new EU clothing ecolabel.

Mart Drake-Knight, co-founder of Rapanui, explains: “Some clothes might have an organic or eco-friendly logo on them, but it’s hard to tell what’s really going on when you look at all the different labels.

“At Rapanui, we’ve taken all the complexities out of the labels, specs and small print of clothing and rounded it all up into a simple grading that lets you shop quickly, with a conscience,” he added. The system is known as ecolabelling and uses a simple A-G rating, similar to the successful EU energy rating label.

One customer told Positive News: “My T-shirt was 70% bamboo and 30% organic cotton – super soft and silky. It came in fully biodegradable packaging, and had their ecolabelling on it. The clothing is good quality and nicely designed.”

Junky Styling
With a quirky and deconstructed look to their clothing,  Junky Styling is an innovative design-led label, and all their garments are made from the highest quality recycled and upcycled materials. These are then deconstructed, re-cut and completely transformed. They call it wardrobe surgery and it always goes down a storm at London Fashion Week.

Designers Annika Sanders-Nicklinson and Kerry Seager-Sze founded Junky Styling in 1997, inspired by the inventive recycling that they saw on their travels in San Francisco and Tokyo. They have a shop and studio on Brick Lane in trendy East London and also show their menswear at Paris Fashion Week.

People Tree
People Tree ensure their bright and breezy fashion meets the Fairtrade principles set out by the World Fair Trade Organisation. They work in partnership with 50 Fairtrade groups in 15 countries to bring benefits to people and the planet at as many steps of the production process as possible, from growing cotton, to embroidery and stitching. This plays an important role in helping to alleviate poverty in the world’s most marginalised communities, the company says.

It also pioneers methods of production that minimise environmental impact. Not only is most of their cotton certified organic and Fairtrade, all their clothes are dyed using safe and natural dyes. People Tree’s clothing designers worldwide all know how to work within this framework, which means design isn’t compromised.

Even big chain stores are starting to turn their focus to Fairtrade and fairly traded fashion. John Lewis stocks jewellery brand Kazuri, which creates hand-painted ceramic jewellery made in Karen, a suburb of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Established as a small ceramic workshop, which gave tools to single mothers, today Kazuri employs more than 300 local women to make beautiful beaded bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Every bead which makes up a quirky but trendy statement piece is shaped by hand, which gives it that one-off look and an authentic feel.

Millionhands is a small company, which is proud to say their clothes are sweatshop free. Their T-shirts are screen-printed in the UK and despatched to customers from their warehouse in Kent. Owner Tom Mangan says: “We’re Fair Wear, which is a type of certification given to manufacturers and suppliers that meet a set of criteria. Our T-shirts are made in India using green energy.”

He says that while in recent years people have started to develop a conscience regarding the sourcing and rearing of food, it seems that ethical fashion and sustainable clothing manufacture is also beginning to gain momentum. “A large portion of the market will no longer find the ‘stack ‘em high sell ’em cheap, we don’t care how they’re made’ philosophy acceptable,” says Tom.

The staff at Millionhands said they love their work and hope this is reflected in their label. From the considered designs to the use of 100% organic cotton and Fair Wear manufacturing, this is sustainable style at its best.

Ethical fashion glossary
Buying ethical clothes can be a minefield. Here are a few points to consider:

Ethical fashion:
This refers to the guarantee that clothes are made without harmful chemicals, or in a way that harms the people in the fields or factories where they were made

Eco textiles:
These are fabrics that are better for the environment and the people who make them. They’re extra soft, more breathable than most fabrics and kind to skin

Traceability examines the whole process, from ‘seed to shop,’ which includes planting and processing techniques, as well as manufacturing and transport