With the surge of interest in eco-friendly and ethical fashion options over the last few years, many athleisure, yoga and loungewear brands have become popular. But when it comes to performance-level athleticwear, mainstream names still rule.
It’s difficult to find ethically-produced and eco-friendly sportswear labels–even small ones. And in my journey to create such a brand, I’ve found myself puzzled as to why this might be.
Here’s my theory: Performance-level gear has to be top notch. You can’t run a marathon in shorts that ride up or fall apart after the first wear, so most runners find what works and stick to it. And I don’t blame them! Plenty of surprises can pop up on race day without worrying about whether your gear will hold up. Technical and wicking fabrics are simply necessary for some activities where sweat is involved (and chafing risk is high). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Right. Except that I believe runners and athletes deserve sustainable and ethical options, and that more of them would buy this type of product if they knew that a) it existed and b) it was the same quality as their usual brands. Athletes tend to be a pretty altruistic bunch–a personal observation that’s supported by the increasing number of running events with a charitable giving component within the last decade.
So, as an athlete, what should you look for if you’re interested in finding sustainable workout gear? Here’s my abbreviated guide to sustainable materials that are suitable for serious workouts.
If you’re a runner, you probably run in a synthetic material like polyester or nylon, spandex or some combination of the two. Spandex on its own is not a sustainable fabric, but it’s incredibly useful as a performance material. Luckily, many blended fabrics contain small amounts spandex, typically 12 percent or less, with the rest made up of the recycled synthetic. Some fabrics that fall into this category include:
Repreve: Recycled polyester has boomed in the last decade with the development and success of Repreve, a high-quality material made out of recycled water bottles. Some bigger brands are starting to use Repreve in a few of their products.
RPET: A generic version of Repreve commonly referred to as either PET or RPET, this material offers a similar fabric content without the brand name.
Vita: Made by Carvico, Vita is a blended fabric partially made from recycled fishing nets. While innovative, it’s mostly suitable for water sports right now–triathletes and swimmers, you’re in luck!
Natural fibers like bamboo, hemp and soy can also be friendlier to the earth and to those producing the material than their traditional counterparts.
Bamboo is a soft, abundantly available fabric that does not require the use of harmful pesticides. Hemp is a durable fabric that doesn’t require a lot of water to produce–and while it’s being grown, it absorbs carbon dioxide. Soy fabric has a “closed-loop” process, so that any waste produced is reused in the next production cycle.
In order to make bamboo, hemp or soy fit for performance-level, spandex is again added. Most of these blends result in lightweight, slightly stretchy and smooth fabrics. I personally use this type of blend for workouts where I know there will be a lot of humidity, because they’re highly absorbent (great for wiping away sweat)!
These are just some of the features of some of the options, and it’s important to note that there is no “perfect” fabric or material that exists yet for sportswear. Information on how to find sustainable activewear is sparse, but retailers are required to list fabric content on product labels–so now you at least have an idea of what to look for. I encourage all eco-conscious athletes to join me in learning about the best way forward for a more sustainable activewear industry.
Update (4.26.16): Cause I Run’s Kickstarter campaign is live. Support it here.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. With Organic Bath Co., that was certainly the case–Gianne Doherty started the line after discovering a gap in the clean beauty market. Doherty had been on the hunt for bath and skincare products that were luxurious but made with all-natural ingredients, and she wasn’t finding what she needed. So, she built a business. Organic Bath Co. now sells luxurious body butters, oils, washes and scrubs for clean beauty lovers who also appreciate a little pampering.
Why the line was started:
“Organic Bath Co. was founded out of a need for simple, organic and natural ingredients, luxurious formulas and visible, skin-loving results.
Several years ago, I started developing hives in reaction to the mainstream lotions and creams I was using. After a bit of elimination and research, I discovered I was reacting to the countless fragrances and preservatives in these products. My partner, Jay, ended up making me an unscented, shea butter-based body cream, which my skin loved. We started making more products for myself, friends and family, and Organic Bath Co. was born.”
Doherty with her go-to winter skin salve: Organic Bath Co.'s organic body butter, Drenched.
Favorite products from the current collection:
“It’s like choosing a favorite child! I have two products that I use daily: Our Enhance face oil–two drops is just what my skin needs to glow, so I can feel confident and go makeup free. I also use the Stress Less body oil at the end of the day after my shower. I apply while my skin is still damp to seal in all the moisture. The Bulgarian lavender is soothing and sets me up for a wonderful sleep!”
One thing every new customer should know about Organic Bath Co.:
“Our tagline is ‘True Beauty Begins With Giving Back,’ and we’re passionate about incorporating that philosophy into our lives whenever and wherever we can. Our ingredients are natural and kind to the planet, we’re Fair Trade Certified, we use post-consumer packaging and we give back with every purchase to our charitable partners, 1% For the Planet and the Global Soap Project. We believe that a business can thrive and still do good as it grows. This has been our goal since day one.”
Organic Bath Co. in three words:
“Pampering, quality, self-care.”
A Wool Story is a knitwear label made from recycled yarn from reclaimed sweaters. Unwanted sweaters collected from friends and thrift shops are unraveled into hanks, hand washed in castile soap with care, hung to dry, wound into skeins and then reknit into hats, mittens and scarves.
The idea for A Wool Story came from a passion for all things handmade and sustainable. The more I learned about the harm to the environment that the fashion and textile industry is responsible for, the more I wanted to lead by example and raise the question: can there be another way?
By using recycled wool from reclaimed sweaters, A Wool Story provides limited-edition, handknit pieces that create no harmful environmental impact. Each piece is unique due to the limited quantity of yarn from each sweater, as well as the natural variations that arise from the process of dyeing it by hand.
Sustainability is taken into consideration in every step along the way, from the domestically sourced organic cotton sew in labels, to the handstamped recycled kraft paper hang tags, to the recycled paper mailers in which each order is sent out. Customers can feel good in A Wool Story knowing their piece was hand knit with love in a sustainable way.
Unraveling sweaters to recycle yarn requires more work and preparation than just purchasing yarn from a store, but it’s a labor of love and provides the challenge to be more creative with the materials.
Visit awoolstory.com to learn more and shop these reclaimed creations.
What can we say? We’re partial to sibling-owned companies–particularly those that are woman-owned, environmentally responsible, and proudly lean feminist. Enter Delikate Rayne, an L.A.-based clothing line that sisters Meg and Komie Vora say embodies “the dynamism of the empowered female.”
With an investment in the welfare of the environment (“our carefully selected vegan leather is eco-friendly and PVC-free”) and a whole lot of girl power (“male-dominant social norms prevail in our native country, [where] gender expectations linger”), this cruelty-free brand is bringing an edge to the vegan fashion scene.
What was the turning point in your careers that made you jump from software development and jewelry design (respectively) to ethical fashion?
Meg: At the risk of sounding cliché, having our own line is something we always wanted to bring to fruition. That coupled with seeing the void in the industry for cruelty-free fashion that wasn't so granola like is something we wanted to help fill.
Komie: When we realized there was a void in the market for a cool, cruelty-free, fashionable line. We needed to spice up the community. Everything we saw was stale. We wanted to bring life to that.
How would you describe the Delikate Rayne aesthetic?
Meg: It’s clean, effortless cool meets dreamy experimental.
Komie: Delikate Rayne embodies the Triple E factor: edgy, ethical and everlasting.
In the spirit of timelessness, who are your style icons?
Meg: That’s really mood-dependent for me. In this particular moment, though: Gaia Repossi, Zoe Kravitz and David Bowie.
Komie: I say this a lot, but I don’t gravitate toward a particular person. I love seeing how women from all over the world dress, so I love how the internet has made that possible with sites such as Tumblr, where you can see styles and trends from all over the globe. I’m small, so it’s interesting to see how women of my size make certain looks work for their bodies.
A campaign image that captures the Delikate Rayne spirit.
Where does your interest in ethical fashion stem from?
Meg: We were born and raised vegetarian–and still have never even tasted meat before. Our parents are responsible for a lot of the consciousness we learned at an early age in regards to having feelings about the environment and animals. I swear our mom is the plant whisperer. Plus our father was raised Jain, so that lifestyle of non-violence was something we became aligned with from the get-go.
Also, I’m really into all the coverage documentaries have been giving to the waste and toxic practices [with which] the fashion industry is aligned. If you haven't seen The True Cost, you must. It will totally change your perception.
Komie: I feel like we were born into it. We were exposed to that type of lifestyle ever since we were kids being raised vegetarian, with our mom and dad being Hindu and Jain.
What is the best and worst part about running your own business?
Meg: When sh*t hits the fan, it’s all on you, and that can be completely overwhelming. On the other hand, though, when you experience the triumphs, it’s that much sweeter because you played such a pivotal role in the success you are experiencing. That is a beautiful feeling.
Komie: The best part is that you are in control of what you want to do and how you want to do it. The worst part for me is that I am very hard on myself and sister. I’ll keep pushing and pushing for the best. I'm such a perfectionist. It is a catch 22. Even if you are in control and making all the decisions, the worst part is that if something goes wrong or not how you wanted it to go, you have to accept that mistake, digest it and deal with it. The only person you can be upset with is yourself.
Meg and Komie Vora. Photo courtesy of Delikate Rayne
What do you look for when you’re sourcing materials? Do you find that sustainable vegan materials are hard to source?
Meg: Our number one thing would be, is it actually 100 percent vegan? Making sure there no animal byproducts. With certain materials, you have to be extra careful. Also, the quality–does it look cheap? How does it feel? Is it going to hold up? Then it’s about the sustainability, followed by what the end product will look like. We usually have the silhouette or particular style narrowed down before looking for the fabrications. At the very least an idea of what we want the garment to look like. We then look for textiles we feel would translate well in those styles.
Cruelty-free leathers used to be challenging. Recently they have gotten so much better in terms of quality, though. Every year the vendors continue to step their game up, which is exciting–more colors and styles with improved construction.
Komie: Quality is very important to us. We try to source fabrics that are a great alternative to if it was the actual real thing (leather, fur, silk, etc.). I think we are at a time where people are starting to demand ethical fabrications, so we are slowly having access to more and more options.
Vegan brands often have company mascots. Do you guys have any, and can we meet them?
Meg: We did. Two floppy-eared dwarf bunnies, Pumpkin and Theodore...R.I.P. Oh, but we do have a trio of squirrels that come visit us everyday and nibble on our succulents. They could be considered our unofficial Delikate Rayne studio mascots, and they make cameos on our Snapchat, too.
Komie: Yes, we have Meg–she serves as multiple purposes for the company! On a serious note, unfortunately, at the moment we do not. We use to have bunnies. R.I.P., Pumpkin and Theodore.
A Delikate Rayne campaign shot.
How does your relationship as siblings differ from a typical business relationship? Do you each have “roles” that arise from a family dynamic?
Meg: We already know for the most part each other’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s definitely an advantage. You don’t really have that luxury when working with strangers until you get to know them better, if ever. Also, you don't have as much trial and error, so you can get things done more quickly or know out the gate what is and isn’t going to work. We spend so much time together that we just have this innate intuition about each other. It’s bizarre, but helpful.
Komie: We are best friends as well as business partners. The relationship doesn’t change much, but we are strict on one another when it comes to business. We hang out a lot, but we definitely need our own space at times. I’m the baby of the family and the more quiet one, for sure. I’m actually really shy.
How do you respond to the sentiment that ethical fashion is unaffordable and people who say they can’t afford a product like yours?
Meg: It’s better to save up and splurge on that one special something than to have a collection of a lot of random stuff that doesn’t make sense. Society continues to teach us more is better. Unfortunately, this is what is ingrained in people’s heads, and it follows them 24/7. We need to get individuals to unlearn this belief. They need to realize that is about quality over quantity. Anything of quality has a higher value and therefore is going to be more expensive. There are so many other factors involved in making something of this caliber. That process is what you are paying for. The end product is something you are going to hold on for a long time–it’s not some disposable item meant to be thrown away after wearing it twice.
Fast fashion is killing the planet and tons of humans in third world countries, where the majority of those pieces are made. As people continue to be educated on the true cost of their clothing, hopefully they will make better purchasing decisions and realize in the long run that the products are not expensive. They are an investment.
“In the long run, the products are not expensive. They are an investment.”
Komie: Educating people is the most important part. I have friends who say the same thing to me, and once I explain why our price points are the way they are–they’re made in the U.S.A., sustainable, ethical, timeless, and so on–people start realizing they aren’t getting ripped off. They are actually buying a product that is more beneficial for them in the long run. Think of it as an investment while doing something good for the planet. Do you invest in your body? Do you pay a higher price for food that you consume? Yes? Then why not invest in a wardrobe that is not only timeless but also healthy for you and the environment?
By this point, we’re guessing you’ve received the memo: The products you put on your skin are just as important as the food you put in your mouth. After all, you want to protect yourself from harmful chemicals and unpronounceable ingredients in the foods you eat, right? The same mindset and set of standards should apply when it comes to the soap you use in your morning shower and the moisturizer you use in the evening. Clean beauty may seem like a no-brainer, but choosing which clean beauty products to use is a much bigger challenge.
After much research, Ethica is now carrying a selection of safe, noteworthy skincare and fragrance products. Check out our full Meet the Makers series for a behind-the-scenes look at our favorite clean beauty brands, starting with Corinna McDonnell of Flynn & King.
The Flynn & King lineup.
There are plenty of “natural” brands out there, but how many (aside from those that made our cut, thank you!) really live up to their claims? With Flynn & King, you never have to doubt that when they say natural, they mean it. This Brooklyn-born line, started by McDonnell and Summer Dinh Manske, makes every effort to create clean, all-natural products–all while decreasing its carbon footprint and giving back to the community.
Why the line was started:
“Summer and I started Flynn & King after working together at a natural hair salon. At the salon, we had the opportunity to see many so-called ‘natural’ beauty lines and were always disappointed to find that many brands that claimed to be all natural had a lot of synthetic fragrances, phthalates and preservatives. We made it our mission to create a multifunctional, unisex and 100-percent natural line that anyone can use and know that it is guaranteed safe. No hidden gross stuff here!”
Flynn & King's Driftwood soap, which benefits I’m From Driftwood, a nonprofit devoted to spreading acceptance for the LGBTQ community.
Favorite products from the current collection:
“The one I cannot live without is the Revive oil-based cleanser. It is a truly unique and amazing product. We wanted to create a facial cleanser that had all of the benefits of oil cleansing, but with added homemade Castile soap to rinse cleanly. The smell is amazing and fresh, and I can’t say enough good things about it.”
One thing every new customer should know about Flynn & King:
“We are problem-skin solvers and want to help you switch to a cleaner and greener way of treating your skin. We also aim to help our community as much as we can. We’ve partnered with several local Brooklyn charities to help give back and can’t wait to do more! We live by the motto ‘Do Good. Look Great.’”
Flynn & King in three words:
“Eco-conscious, transparent, modern.”
Mere hours before we met Johanna Tropiano on a sunny Tuesday morning, the L.A.-based blogger, stylist and anti-human-trafficking advocate had been overseeing a packed house at the Highline Ballroom in New York City, where Natasha Bedingfield and Questlove respectively took the stage to toast the launch of Made In A Free World.
Tropiano is the newly minted VP of Strategic Partnerships for the nonprofit, which aims to eradicate modern-day slavery through a mix of awareness campaigns, field work and business solutions. (Ethica is one of 34 companies working with Made In A Free World to examine our products’ supply chains and identify areas potentially at risk for the use of forced and child labor.)
Despite her late night, Tropiano was lively and infectious as we took a walk down the High Line. Within minutes of conversation, she’d had us check our cosmetics for mica (an ingredient that is mostly mined by young girls in India), added The Locust Effect to our reading list, and created an Ace & Jig layering situation that was pretty darn perfect.
Hear about the disturbing conversation with a stranger that led Tropiano to commit her life to fighting human trafficking, and how she went from being an admitted shopaholic to a champion of #consciousclosets.
Tropiano on the High Line wearing head-to-toe Ace & Jig.
Certain issues are so overwhelming that our tendency can be to think of them in conceptual terms rather than as realities. What’s one thing that you want people to know about human trafficking and how very real it is? In 2009, I took a trip to Nicaragua to visit a child I sponsor at an orphanage in Leon. I struck up a conversation with a young man living in New York and teaching middle school P.E. I asked him what he was flying to Nicaragua for. He told me he wanted to hike the volcanoes. Then he looked up at me and, straight-faced with no emotion, said, “All my buddies have been there. They say the sex is cheap. You get young girls for cheap.” That conversation changed my life forever, and I’ve been fighting for human dignity ever since.
There are evil people like that school teacher from New York who seek to prey on the vulnerable and poor. I experienced it firsthand. Trafficking doesn’t just happen in movies. We are incredibly blessed to be born here. We can’t take that for granted.
You’ve written–bravely and beautifully–about how attached we can become to our clothes. How long has it been since your big closet cleanout, and what’s the best part about having a less-than-half-full closet? Thank you! I cleaned out my closet in a huge way in March of this year. I got rid of over half my clothes. It is a relief. I feel like a weight has lifted in a lot of ways. My husband I recently moved to a new home with small closets, and I was actually thrilled to see that all I had left took up half my closet. That’s a very different mindset from when I was proud of owning 50 pairs of designer jeans.
I continuously ask whether an item of clothing will bring me joy and only purchase something if it fulfills that. I also try to adopt a one-piece-in, one-piece-out mentality. There’s something to be said about having a small amount of beautifully curated, quality pieces rather than a closet full of fast-fashion throwaways. A friend of mine says, “Happy people make happy things.” I truly believe that. I want everything I own to be made by happy people. I’d rather spend money on something good and have less to make that happen.
“A friend of mine said, ‘Happy people make happy things.’ I truly believe that. I want everything I own to be made by happy people.”
Do you think your #consciousclosets journey would have been different if you had gone through it privately rather than sharing your progress on Instagram–and now on your new blog? I’ve always been a passionate, wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve kind of person. I’m super inspired by people who are vulnerable enough to share their stories and what they are learning. So I thought if I can help someone who is in a similar place as me through sharing my story, that’s awesome!
I believe my personal journey would have remained the same whether I shared it openly or not, but if even one person starts to think differently about fast fashion or shopping addiction or human trafficking, it’s worth it to me to be public. I live to inspire change in myself and in others. That motivates me more than anything. When I see small changes in friends or family taking place, that’s a real win.
Visit Made In A Free World’s Slavery Footprint calculator to discover how your choices might be impacting people around the world. Keep up with Tropiano on Instagram (@johannatropiano) and at consciousclosets.co.
In 2013, Gold Polka Dots started as a creative outlet to document my outfits and home DIY projects. I had read blogs for over a year and thought I’d take the plunge and start my own. However, several months later, I started questioning its purpose. I didn’t like promoting fast fashion brands, but I wasn’t sure why until I randomly Googled sustainable fashion. The first article I read about sustainable fashion was “6 Things You Should Know About Your Clothes” by Shannon Whitehead.
Shocked and disgusted, I immediately texted my husband and sister telling them we could never shop again. It was a tad extreme, but I didn’t know there was a thriving ethical fashion industry out there. Gold Polka Dots continued to be a fashion blog, but it also evolved into a hub for eco-conscious living. I researched ethical fashion companies, started thrift shopping and looked into what else I could change to be more eco-friendly.
While discovering ethical brands, I noticed a lack of options for women. Yes, there are many ethically made women’s clothes, but not a lot for women who are pregnant. Seeing that obvious gap made me wonder how often women go through changes in life and need more forgiving clothing. I didn’t want to create a maternity line, but a collection of clothing for women who’ll always have something to wear.
“How often do we go through changes in life and need more forgiving clothing? I didn’t want to create a maternity line, but a collection for women who’ll always have something to wear.”
With the amount of clothing Americans throw away (about 70 pounds a year), I wanted to create products that women can wear for far longer than a year, even if they are pregnant or gaining or losing weight. That’s why every item in my new brand, Sotela, will span several traditional sizes.
Sotela’s first collection, launching next spring, will have three dresses made in Los Angeles from eco-friendly jersey fabrics. Each dress will have a variation on an A-line shape–which, in my opinion, is one of the most flattering and forgiving designs. Think swing dresses, shifts and tunics that hit right above or below the knee. Every item in Sotela’s collection is made to be timeless and effortless so that women don’t have to face the “nothing fits” dilemma.
Sotela is my dream company. It combines my love for clothing, humans and the environment.
Ace & Jig’s clothing is effortless, seasonless and amazingly comfortable. But if we had to summarize the brand’s magic in a word, it would be karma. Designers Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson pour an incredible amount of thought and love into their custom textiles, and that devotion comes right back at them in the form of an intensely loyal customer base.
In a recent email, the designers offered a glimpse at the making of their stunning Geo fabric, which they created in two colorways for fall 2015. Here’s what they revealed about the process behind the pattern.
Photos: greens_antiques on eBay.
The black and natural versions of Ace & Jig’s Geo fabric were inspired by antique American coverlets from the mid-1800s. For any seriously obsessed fans out there who might want an original overshot quilt to match the brand’s sartorial adaptation, head over to eBay STAT. We happened to stumble upon the reversible quilt pictured above, and both patterns look to be nearly identical matches for the striking textile that everyone’s obsessing over this season.
Ace & Jig fabrics are made in India, where a color specialist described as “something of a magician” by the designers dyes the raw natural fibers by hand. The yarns dry out in the sun before being loaded into antique handlooms. The rest of the process relies on the skill of the weavers, who deftly use their hands and a foot treadle to work the ancient looms and create the intricate patterns we all love so much.
“The square motif in our Geo fabric is known as a ‘Lover’s Chain,’” Vaughan and Wilson note, adding that the fabric is “a 100 percent cotton double-cloth.” Some trivia: Each side of the two-ply fabric is identical to the other because both layers of the textile are woven simultaneously.
We can’t say enough about these gorgeous, geometric compositions of black, red and ecru. The designers, though, say it’s the tactile appeal of their two-ply fabric that adds a special touch: “The doublecloth weave lends this textile an heirloom hand and feel.”
In the overwhelming frenzy that is Fashion Week, it can be hard enough to keep up, let alone appreciate the little things in life (read: shoes). But ethical brands really brought it for spring 2016, wowing us with fairly made footwear that emphasized artisanal techniques. From feathered gladiators to fringed slide sandals, click through the slideshow to see the standout styles.
It happens–sometimes an article of clothing seems too darn gorgeous to be stowed away behind closet doors. But for those of us who find garment-rack closets or Coveteur-like surroundings a bit impractical IRL, it’s a good thing that several of our favorite sustainable fashion brands are now dabbling in interior design, too.
Producing home goods provides a respite from “the (short!) fashion schedule,” says Ellen Van Dusen, who unveiled her debut line of bedding, bath and home accessories this spring. “In this first collection, I brought back some of my favorite prints from past seasons, which was really nice because I was able to extend their lifespan,” she told Sight Unseen.
Whether your pad could use some new pillows, a wall lamp or a hanging flower pot, look to the same designers who are leading the way in responsible fashion to bring sustainable style into your home.
1. Ace & Jig
Considering the painstaking process behind Ace & Jig’s custom textiles (not to mention the cult-like devotion they inspire), it would be a shame to let a single scrap go unused. But wastefulness would be uncharacteristic of designers Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson, whose Bazaar line of home goods expertly mixes and matches the duo’s greatest fabric hits in the form of patched pillows, double-cloth quilts and their popular “flags”–oversize fabric swatches strung together to create playful banners.
Our Instagram pals might remember Shabd Simon-Alexander’s Earth Day upcycling project, in which the fashion designer and textile artist worked some of her tie-dye skills on customers’ used bedding. Simon-Alexander treated old sheets and pillowcases to colorful makeovers, later returning them to their owners as more “magical, colorful” versions of their former selves. Though that service is no longer on offer, the Shabd shop is still stocked with pillows, napkins, throws and tea towels created by the woman who taught Martha Stewart how to tie-dye (true story!).
3. Dusen Dusen
The decorative potential in Ellen Van Dusen’s colorful prints is off the charts, and it’s something she clearly knows. “I like the scale of these kinds of items, their longevity in a home, and the idea of creating a space full of color and pattern,” she says. Among the towels, throws, rugs, bedding and poufs in Dusen Dusen’s debut home line (which launched on its webshop this month), loyalists will recognize the label’s signatures scribbles, geometric patterns and distinctive Alphabet print.
In a few short years, Kalen Kaminski’s collection of shibori scarves has grown into an incredible range of Vogue-approved clothing, plus home decor items like floor pillows, table runners and organic cotton duvet covers. This summer, Kaminski partnered with Brooklyn boutique owner Jill Lindsey on an exceptionally cool blanket collab. Made by artisans in Nicaragua using locally sourced materials, the fringed throws are woven on 90-year-old looms, then dyed by hand in NYC.
5. Under the Canopy
Most chemicals are absorbed through the skin, which is a big reason that Under the Canopy is committed to safe, sustainable textiles–if you don’t want toxic pesticides or carcinogenic chemicals on your clothes, you probably don’t want them on your sheets and towels either. Our go-to brand for GOTS-certified, organic-cotton basics has a bedding and bath collection that reflects the same sensibilities: classic and neutral colors, pure materials, functional design, plus some fun mixed in via printed and embellished pillows.
6. Proud Mary
After finding inspiration in both the indigenous peoples and brightly colored textiles of South America, Charlestonian Harper Poe channeled her design talent into global artisan collaborations aimed at craft preservation. If there’s anything we could possibly covet more than Proud Mary’s recycled-denim sandals or Lesotho-made ponchos and vests, it’s the brand’s indigo blankets from Mali and huipile pillows from Guatemala–both the embodiment of an aesthetic Poe calls “ethnic modern.”
7. Indego Africa
Indego Africa has a two-prong approach to breaking the cycle of poverty in Rwanda: selling handcrafted pieces made by female artisans, and investing that income into education programs for those same women. The nonprofit has created jewelry and accessories for the likes of Madewell and Nicole Miller, and its home offerings are just as compelling. Think wooden bowls and woven baskets, drinking glasses made from upcycled cow horn, and even embroidered art.
Study’s Tara St. James took the runner-up slot in last year’s CFDA / Lexus Eco Fashion Challenge for the many ways she advances ethical and sustainable fashion. Among those contributions? Her commitment to zero-waste. One of the ways St. James keeps her excess fabric cuttings from ending up in landfills is by turning the pieces into hand-stitched patchwork quilts. Study has even collaborated with likeminded brands Fait la Force and Osei-Duro on some quilts, thereby salvaging some of their textile surplus also.
Bohemia’s clothing has a free-spirited flair worthy of its name. The aesthetic carries over to the Scottish brand’s collection of bold home accessories, but it’s expressed with more restraint: look for fringed hammam towels made by artisans in Turkey, canvas storage pots that were block-printed in Rajasthan, and pom pom pillows and blankets handloomed by Moroccan weavers. If your inclinations are more minimalist, look to the surprisingly spare line of kitchen utensils, carved in Marrakech from unvarnished wood.
10. Ivana Helsinki
Did you ever have a dress you loved so much you wanted to turn it into a lamp? The quirky thought occurred to Ivana Helsinki designer Paola Suhonen–a tireless creative collaborator who’s previously teamed up with everyone from Volvo to snowboard brands. This time around, she worked with Finnish lighting company e.lite on a group of floor, table and ceiling lamps featuring prints from her past collections. It’s mood lighting on a whole new level.
In the darkest days of winter, few things feel more precious than an insulated layering piece à la Kelsy Parkhouse, who sources reclaimed vintage quilts and turns them into one-of-a-kind, borderline-magical vests and coats. Once the fabric for the vests and coats has been cut, there are leftover pieces that are too small to turn into outerwear. Voilà: Carleen quilt pillows, which even ring in at under $100.