Earth Day may be an annual global event that acknowledges and supports the protection of the environment, but it is apparent now that the effort to save the planet from environmental disaster and the effects of climate change is a daily, continuous process.
This Earth Day we want to uplift the sustainable brands that have kept up with trends of eco-consciousness and advocated for Mother Earth since their start. Built on years of destructive habits, the fashion industry contributes 10% of carbon emissions, as much as the European Union. Some brands subscribe to fast fashion, a type of clothing production that exploits workers for the sake of mass production. The clothing that is produced is usually of lower quality, therefore presenting consumers with a cheaper, on-trend piece that will end up in a landfill once the piece inevitably degrades and that company pushes out a new trend piece.
The three main drivers of the fashion industry’s global destructive impacts are made up of dyeing, yarn preparation and fiber production. Due to the energy-intensive processes that rely heavily on fossil fuels, brands have begun to focus their effort on using fabrics that may be recycled or plant-based and employing local artisans who use make-to-order production to combat the harmful effects of fast fashion.
Based in Cape Town, South Africa, SELFI produces “ready to go” clothing for the modern woman with a great emphasis on sustainability. With its name originating from the word “self,” the brand features details drawn from South African culture, history and identity. All clothing is made from sustainable materials such as the Stone Oval Sleeve Jumpsuit, made from Ramie linen, a fabric made of nettle fibers that has a low impact on the environment.
Nettle is an easy-to-grow, widely found plant that found its way into the fashion world more than 2,000 years ago. The earliest traces of the versatile plant were found in Denmark, but clothing had been made from it in China and Japan for quite some time as well. The textile, similar to that made of hemp, allows elevated airflow as nettle fibers are hollow. Unlike hemp, however, the plant requires less water and pesticides to thrive. Ramie linen does not contain polyester, a plastic found in an estimated 60% of fabrics — polyester does not break down in the ocean and its production releases two to three times more carbon than cotton does.
Proud advocate for slow fashion and female empowerment, Nigerian accessories and shoe brand Shekudo creates products with local raw materials with traceable origins. From the shoe heels to the recycled insoles and the shoes’ lining fabric, the brand’s mission is to create sustainable, wearable art. Each piece is made to order to cut back on waste in all areas of the craft — it also adds an element of individuality.
Made-to-order fashion goes back to the idea that shopping is out of necessity rather than out of boredom. These clothes can cater to specific body types that fast fashion brands may create ill-fitting clothing for. By building up a wardrobe of made-to-order pieces, or at least the basics, clothing can last longer and can focus on specific, timeless styles rather than trends.
Handcrafted in a small artisan workshop in Cape Town, South Africa, the team at Thalia Strates creates bags for “wildly spirited yet sophisticated adventurers and professionals.” The brand prides itself on transparency in materials and manufacturing, meaning artisans set their own wages, the materials used are ethically sourced and relationships with customers and local entities are prioritized. The bags are made of byproduct of the meat industry in which animals are not farmed strictly for skins, every part of the animal is used.
Aside from the concern for animal welfare, harvesting animal skins can leave a drastic footprint on the environment. The process of treating animal skin — whether it be fur, wool or leather — is damaging in its use of chemicals, finishes and dyes, not to mention the amount of energy needed to power the process. Chemicals like nitrogen, ammonia and sulfur can also wash into rivers and streams.
Respecting Mother Earth is something we take very seriously, and we are grateful to house so many beautiful, earth-conscious brands that employ talented artisans. That being said, there is so much that can be done to protect and preserve the planet and its inhabitants for years to come. By investing in high-quality pieces that are made to last, fast fashion will begin to diminish. By buying made-to-order clothing, material waste can greatly lessen. By shopping sustainably, the planet can begin to heal from the mark left by the fashion industry.
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Words by Holly Liptak