8 pieces of sustainable and ethical swimwear

We’re at the very end of July now and I for one am trying to soak up as much sunshine as I can on the weekends. If you’re lucky enough to be going on holiday somewhere warm you’re also probably considering swimwear purchases, which isn’t always the easiest. And quite often a bit of a struggle from a sustainable perspective as they’re usually trend sensitive and too often of bad quality, which may mean they won’t last you longer than one holiday/summer. Swimwear is also mainly developed from synthetic fibres that are bad for the environment.

But when looking a bit further than the high street, the world of swimwear is actually a rather interesting and exciting one. There are loads of innovative brands doing innovative things, developing swimwear from all sorts of materials that are way more environmentally friendly.

This conscious edit includes a few highlights, showing that you can look amazing on the beach whilst also being mindful of the planet.

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Top left: Bikini by Amara, a brand manufacturing its fabric in a green energy facility, creating bikinis with quality and sustainability in mind. The fabric is made of recycled post-consumer materials, and the packaging is biodegradable, recyclable or reusable.

Top right: A reversible swimsuit by MYMARINI, made of 80% PA (Polyamid) and 20% EA (Elasthan) certified by the Öko-Tex Standard 100, free from toxins. The fabric is manufactured in Italy where an innovative chemical-physical waste water treatment plant ensures a minimum impact on the environment. They use methane gas for the production, the water used is treated to remove most pollutants, and the thermal energy emitted by the machines and equipment is reused to reduce CO2 and emissions.

Bottom right: Bikini by Elle Evans, created from recycled lycra and locally produced in Melbourne, Australia. Their swimwear is designed to end up with minimum fabric waste and they also use post-consumer waste fabrics that would otherwise go to landfill, discarded by bigger companies. They sew instructive washing labels into each piece to help reduce unnecessary energy consumption through washing and drying.

Bottom left: Gorgeous swimsuit with lace up back detail by In Your Arms in their signature knit fabric. They create high quality, timeless pieces, using recyclable materials and biodegradable packaging, and the ethically made knit is a fast drying lightweight knitted fabric unique to the brand.

 

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Top left: Bikini by Hot As Hell, with a top that can be a front tie halter, a wrap top, and a bandeau all in one, helping you to style it however you want, which also hopefully means you’ll be able to use it longer as you won’t get bored too quickly. HAH uses eco-friendly digital and sublimation printing techniques that are computerised and require 95% less water than traditional screen and rotary printing. HAH has also partnered with their manufacturer to co-launch Extended Fabric Life, an innovative, eco-friendly, performance fabric that’s durable and resistant to chlorine.

Top right: Marble cut-out swimsuit by Auria, designed and developed in London, made of recycled fabrics from discarded fishing nets and other waste.

Bottom right: A classic style to last, bikini by Anekdot. Made from water resistant polyester / fabric with 4-way stretch technology from Speedo’s production leftovers, end-of-line jersey lining bought in London from Woolcrest Textiles, and elastic trimmings bought in London from a closing down factory (the product transparency on the website is excellent with detailed sourcing descriptions for each product).

Bottom left: Swimsuit by Underprotection, made from soft recycled polyester, which is one of the sustainable fabrics they use. To keep their production ethical they collaborate with a small factory in India, and obtained the Fair Wear Foundation young designer license in 2013.

 

 

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The Arts and Crafts movement 2.0

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“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Wisdom by designer William Morris that was as true during his lifetime and the Arts and Crafts movement as it is today.

As I’ve been getting more and more interested in the green and sustainable movement I’ve increasingly been finding similarities with what I know about the Arts and Crafts movement that took place over a century ago. And a recent visit to William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, London had me even more convinced of history repeating itself. It was also a great day out and I truly recommend a visit to the museum and garden (as seen in photo)!

The Arts and Crafts movement began in Britain around 1880 and was born of ideals and grew out of a concern for the effects of industrialisation. The effects on design, on traditional skills, and on people. One of the most influential figures was William Morris who hated how Victorian industrialisation had led to overcrowded towns and cities, slum housing, epidemic disease and environmental pollution.

Morris thought beauty was a basic human need and wanted to bring art into everyday life. He fought for social equality and a return to craftsmanship, and against the wasting of natural resources. He wanted to improve manufacturing in Britain, place value on quality, and turn the home into a work of art.

 

“How can I ask working-men passing up and down these hideous streets day to day to care about beauty?”

– William Morris

 

Morris’ condemnation of excess and wastefulness, and his belief in social reform, education and environmental sustainability, is what I can hear and read from today’s sustainability champions. And some of the most interesting thoughts are around making conscious consumption accessible to more than just the already converted middle class.

After decades of mass production, globalisation, consumption, fast fashion, and worsening conditions for workers we are again seeing a movement for quality, minimalism and ethics. Only this time it’s called ‘slow fashion’ or ‘eco trends’ or ‘green living’ or ‘conscious consumption’. Whatever we call it, we are channeling Morris and his friends, appreciating quality over quantity. And we can only hope it’s more than just a trend.

Even though the Arts and Crafts movement spread to America and Europe, and eventually to Japan, this time we can hopefully use globalisation to our advantage. By learning from others, finding useful information and tips online, sharing values across continents, and encouraging others to make conscious choices. With Morris’ mantra of picking things that are truly beautiful or necessary in the back of our minds, at all times.

 

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10 sustainable and conscious summer dresses

It’s that time of the year when we get really excited about shopping beautiful clothes for beautiful days. But it’s also that time of the year when we’re trying to balance our outfits between being summery and airy for hot summer days, whilst still being appropriate for work.

Dresses tend to be particularly difficult and many struggle with finding something that fits all occasions, which means we end up buying more dresses than we probably need. When it comes to summer dresses we also tend to buy those that are on trend that summer, and often they’re bought to be worn once – at a wedding for example with many stating that if they’ve been seen wearing a dress at a wedding once they can’t then wear it again.

None of this is very sustainable. And it’s a shame because a lot of summer dresses are gorgeous, made out of beautiful fabrics and prints, so we should be making more of them and not forgetting about them at the back of our wardrobes at the end of the season.

Steering away from obvious trends is one solution to avoid not quite feeling the dress by next summer. Try choosing more classic designs that are less likely to go out of style. And choose dresses that you can style with other clothes in your wardrobe so that you can turn them into a nice work outfit or something you can wear all year ’round (with extra tights and layers if you live in a cold country!).

This conscious edit of sustainable summer dresses takes all of this into account, showing a few current favourites together with tips on how to ensure they’re not just worn once. Let me know in the comments if you’ve got any other favourites and how you’re styling them all year ’round!

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I love stripes. And they work all year ’round. This Vege Threads jersey dress is made out of 100% (GOTS certified) organic cotton, it’s knitted and dyed in Australia and the colour is Australian Certified Organic Standard – it works equally well on its own in the summer as it does with boots and an oversized knit in winter.

 

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A silk dress by Everlane that works for just about any occasion with just a slight change of accessories: stylish loafers for work;  nude high heels and a statement necklace for a wedding; and camel/gold sandals for a garden party.

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Worn on its own with sandals, this APOM dress, locally designed and made in Australia, works great as a fun but dressy summer dress – and if you add dark tights and heels it can pass for work as well as a cocktail party in winter.

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Love this simple, wearable design by Amour Vert – made from 100% organic cotton. Their products are manufactured in America and made from sustainable and eco-friendly fabrics.

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Made out of 100% GOTS certified organic cotton jersey, this dress by Danish label Tricotage, works equally well loose with sandals on a hot summer’s day as it does with a belt and high heels for work.

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Versatile style by eco brand Jan ‘N June (am enjoying their ECO-ID feature on the website). As styled in the picture for any party. With flats for work in the summer. With boots and tights for work in the winter. 

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I will put my hand up and say that this isn’t quite one to wear outside of the summer season (and probably not at work either!) – but it’s too gorgeous to not include here. And it’s a classic design, classic colour, and works for any summer party/gathering so is one to wear for many summers to come. And it’s by sustainable brand Reformation, made out of lightweight linen from surplus fabric. Simply stunning.

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Excellent print that works equally well with sandals in the summer as it does with tights and a cardigan in the winter. The dress is from the Mata Traders collection that uses sustainably farmed cotton, with traditional block printing, dying and hand embroidery techniques applied. Additionally, the Mata Traders work with organisations that educate, employ, and empower women in India.

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Simple but fun design by Riyka – label that uses reclaimed / organic / British made fabrics as well as GOTS certified organic cotton. For summer parties with sandals, for work with trendy brogues, and for winter parties with party tights and party heels.

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Gorgeous print by US label Upstate that cultivates shibori and other hand dye techniques. A shirt dress like this works all year ’round for any occasion with a change of shoes – sandals for a summer party / flats for work / (black tights and) high heels for a winter party / white trainers for a lunch out with friends.

 

 

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Mend and care for your clothes

 

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With fast fashion comes a throw-away culture that not only increases consumption, but decreases love for what we have. We don’t treasure our purchases the same way as we would if we had saved up for a long time and longed for a certain piece of clothing. But living a more conscious and sustainable life means valuing what we’ve got and caring for it, ensuring it can last for a long time.

The latest initiative by Swedish fashion label Filippa K is a step in the right direction, encouraging us to care better for our clothes. Filippa K creates classic pieces of good quality and has a strong sustainability ethos as part of its core business, something founder Filippa Knutsson has valued since the start in 1993.

 

“I set out to build a brand with substance and truth, not dependent on the superficial trends of the fashion industry”

 

The label has launched various initiatives with sustainability in mind, such as Filippa K Lease, where you can borrow a piece for a special occasion rather than buying it for the sake of buying. Earlier this month it launched Filippa K Care, a guide on how to wash, mend and care for your wardrobe. Basic tips but a positive development encouraging us to engage more with what we wear and own. That the initiative has been launched in collaboration with Cereal Magazine adds additional value and style as the photos are beautiful!

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Notes on Fashion Revolution Week

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Today marks the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster where 1,133 garment workers died and another 2,500 were injured. It was the fourth largest industrial disaster in history so wasn’t the first and could still happen again. Fashion Revolution was born out of the tragedy, wanting a cleaner, safer, fairer, more transparent and more accountable fashion and textiles industry.

This year, as Fashion Revolution Day (24 April) falls on a Sunday, we’ve had a full Fashion Revolution Week of people across the world challenging fashion brands, asking #whomademyclothes? It’s been a week full of engagement from consumers as well as brands telling the stories of the men and women making their clothes. I’ve followed some great conversations online and have attended a few interesting talks in London so have put together a few takeouts from the week.

 

“Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone somewhere is paying”

Lucy Siegle

 

The culture of fashion – fast fashion – today encourages consumerism on a scale that isn’t realistic or sustainable. We almost take cheap clothing for granted and have subsequently stopped valuing what we buy / wear / own. Co-founder of Fashion Revolution, Orsola de Castro, spoke at Somerset House last week about a fashion utopia where we actually start caring for and loving our clothes. A utopia of waiting. Where we buy things we’ve been longing and saving up for. But is this even possible in today’s market where, by the time you’ve saved up for that really nice coat you saw a few months back it’s already sold out and there’s new stock in store? I agree with Orsola that we need to shift our mindset to value and treasure our purchases, but the industry, where the two-seasons-per-year is history and we’re now looking at new ‘seasons’ and trends every week, doesn’t support that vision.

But until the industry changes we can still value what we have – we can mend and care for our clothes, and we can save up and spend a bit more on a high quality piece that will last longer. And we can push / demand the industry to change.

 

“I want my clothes to be a billboard for what I believe in”

– Orsola de Castro

 

Fashion Revolution’s mantra is ‘Be curious – Find out – Do something‘ which encourages us to ask questions. And it encourages the industry to be transparent, especially in terms of garment workers’ conditions.

Small, independent labels are doing great things to support the people making their clothes and their innovation and passion is vital. But as Kate Larsen of Human Rights Watch argued at a talk arranged by Lensational last week it is the big brands that can really make a difference and change the world. So even if one might argue that their business model of growth doesn’t qualify as sustainable, the impact significant change by them could have is something worth fighting for. With one in six working in the fashion industry it’s an industry of almost insane proportions and if change could happen at a large scale it would change the lives of so many people.

That change is what I see Fashion Revolution being about. The change where we see the human side of the fashion industry. Where we value not only the clothes we buy and wear but the people who made them. And ultimately, this shouldn’t be happening just once a year – we should always be curious, we should always try to find things out, and we should always try to do something about it.

 

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Earth Day vs. urban greenery

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Earth Day has since its beginning on 22 April in 1970 mobilised an environmental movement aiming to build a healthy, sustainable environment and address climate change. One could argue that all days should be earth days but the engagement on social media before / during / after the day and the many tips you can find online inspiring you to live a more eco-conscious life still make it worthwhile, even if it just makes one more person consider their choices.

Living in a big city like I do has its obvious negatives when it comes to eco-consciousness as the city is fuelled by consumerism, transport and high energy usage. But those factors can be turned more positive if you consume local products, walk or cycle, and reduce your energy use where possible.

A majority of the world’s population live in urban areas and it’s estimated that the number will double by 2050. To keep improving the lives of all those living in cities, measures have to be in place to solve all sorts of issues around overcrowding, housing and employment. When it comes to environmental issues in cities, actions like increasing trees, parks, and rooftop gardens have a huge impact in terms of decreasing pollution and protecting local plants and animals.

London is currently covered in 47% greenery, it has 3,000 parks and 8.3million trees and there’s a campaign arguing for it to become a National Park City as that would mean there would be regulations around ensuring the wildlife and cultural heritage is conserved and enhanced. Innovative solutions such as the underground farm in a disused air raid tunnel from World War II are already developing an eco-conscious London and there are similar initiatives in cities around the world. The Lowline on the Lower East Side of New York is an underground park in the making, taking advantage of unused urban spaces. And artists like Anna Garforth and Patrick Blanc are using urban architecture as their canvas, adding greenery to our cities. Blanc is the inventor of Vertical Gardens and has created beautiful works such as a living wall in Paris.

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On a small, personal scale, we can celebrate Earth Day by appreciating what our cities are giving us through Mother Nature – in London I would recommend visiting the beautiful Royal Botanic Garden in Kew or the Conservatory at the Barbican (see photo at top). We can also improve our most immediate environment by adding health benefits by adding houseplants. They clean our air, help us breath, boost healing, and keep us healthy and productive. At the moment I’m particularly enjoying air plants in copper diamonds by Ro Co and cactuses in concrete pots by Concrete Jungles (like the one above).

Happy Earth Day!

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6 ethical coats & jackets for Spring

Spring is here but at least in London that doesn’t quite mean you don’t need layers anymore. You definitely still do. But if your winter coat is a bit too warm you might be in need of something to at least keep you covered for a bit longer until it’s time to undress for summer. Here’s a conscious edit of six sustainable and ethical favourites amongst the coats and jackets out there. Hope you like them!

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Stylish and simple trench by Zady using organic cotton dyed in Switzerland without the use of harmful chemicals, with the coat being sewn and finished in NYC’s garment district.

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Love everything about this Reformation trench in 100% tencel – the colour, the oversized model and the cut on the back, and the fact that it’s made out of one of the most environmentally friendly fabrics around.

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A slightly edgier/cooler/more colourful choice is this brilliant biker by Vaute in waxed canvas – vegan, eco friendly and created locally in NYC.

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Another excellent sleek and chic coat in 100% tencel – this one by Swedish brand Maska woven in Italy.

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Perfect mix of stylish/sporty/comfortable/water-resistant – anorak by Everlane crated in a small, specialised factory in Shenzen, China (you can find out more about the factories and costs of making the items on the website).

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For when you can pretty much get away with wearing Summer clothes – this Peope Tree drape jacket made with 100% organic certified cotton.

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Can making conscious choices be made easier?

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Can we / companies / society make it easier for consumers to make conscious decisions? Yes. Hopefully.

Horrific stories of inhumane conditions in garment factories, revelations of chemicals in the products we cover our skin in, planet damaging stats on the effects of the meat industry – they all make many of us want to change our shopping habits and become better, more ethical / eco-conscious consumers. But based on what’s available on the high street, it’s not always that easy.

Research carried out by YouGov in the UK has shown that 69% of adults would buy ethical products if they were more widely stocked so there is definitely a demand. Sustainable fashion and lifestyle expert Marieke Eyskoot says in Safia Minney’s new book Slow Fashion that: “When it comes to selling ethical fashion and eco lifestyle products, availability is key – we have to make it simple for people who want to make a different choice”.

Eco concept stores are popping up here and there but online is still where we’re more likely to find these products. Great sites such as ethical.market (where the cushion in the photo above is from) in the UK and Modavanti in the US have got great selections and definitely help with the issue of not quite knowing where to shop.

The internet is also a great help in terms of actually learning about sustainability and finding the information needed to make more conscious decisions. Because of the internet, and social media in particular, company transparency has reached completely new levels. Previously, we’ve had to depend much more on what companies themselves tell us, or what fashion magazines tell us about the brands they feature. But companies can get away with a lot of greenwashing, and the magazines often depend on the big brands that pay for advertising so struggle to criticise them. New media channels such as social media helps – there is a more open dialogue and it’s easier to find information, both in terms of negative press as well as inspiring new initiatives / labels / products.

One key thing when it comes to making more conscious decisions and trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle is to know that there isn’t one way of doing it. And rather than forcing yourself to completely change the way you live, making an eco-friendly purchase when you can is a good start. The hope is that this blog helps with this – highlighting the different ways we can make a difference, whilst getting on with our lives and enjoying it on the way!

 

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Slow Fashion – aesthetics meets ethics

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Reading is such a lovely pastime. Either as a chance to immerse yourself into a different world created by an author with a creative mind, or as an opportunity to learn something new – about yourself or societies around you. As someone who is semi-obsessed with wanting to learn new things I would probably say I’m a reader who prefers the latter.

The most recent opportunity has been the new book by Safia Minney, founder of People TreeSlow Fashion, aesthetics meets ethics. It’s an opportunity for Minney to promote People Tree’s 25th birthday, but primarily, it’s a chance for all of us to find out a bit more about different aspects of the fashion industry and its practices.

Minney speaks to a wide range of people, from designers, to models, to activists, to social entrepreneurs, who all have useful insights into the good and the bad of the industry. The various visits to garment factories in the developing world are particularly moving – especially the mentions around how the production of fast fashion often means that a garment worker makes the same part of a garment all day, every day. Model Arisa Kamada described it as: “She had no idea why she was doing the work she did, or what part of the clothing she was making. All she did was repeat the same thing all day.” It adds to the idea of garment workers being machines rather than people, which subsequently decreases the chances of fair trade, loving craftsmanship, and a sense of empowerment and pride over what you have created.

Thankfully, there are other was of doing things and Slow Fashion gives us an insight into the People Tree production lines where the people making the clothes can see what they’re making and where they’re going. But the book also highlights that this is far from the norm and various inspiring people such as Tansy Hoskins urges us all to take collective action.

 

“It would be a big step if people stopped thinking of themselves as consumers and instead thought of themselves as citizens, activists, change makers or whatever”

 

Creating a fully sustainable fashion industry is evidently a huge undertaking that is complex and will take time. But Slow Fashion shows that even by making small conscious decisions, whether you’re a designer or a consumer, we can make a difference and it leaves the reader inspired. It leaves you with a load of new interesting people to follow on social media, a set of issues you feel encouraged to learn more about, and an excitement around the fact that there are so many brilliant people (especially women!) around the world that are doing all the right things.

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Fashion Revolution: #whomademyclothes

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Transparency is vital in any business. As consumers, it helps us understand, it helps us be curious and ask questions. Initially, when it comes to fashion, it tends to give us a bit of a shock. When we realise that the reason our clothes are so cheap is because those making them are paid next to nothing, or when we see evidence of the appalling conditions they are working in.

This became heartbreakingly clear on 24 April 2013 when 1,134 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured when the Rana Plaza clothing factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, following complaints about the building not being safe. The tragedy was a wake-up call for many and Fashion Revolution was born.

The initiative encourages transparency and highlights the lack of information around where our clothes come from and who made them. This year Fashion Revolution Week takes place later this month, on 18-24 April, with events across the globe and on the World Wide Web where we’re encouraged to ask brands #whomademyclothes by uploading photos of our items and their labels. The fair trade movement and conscious brands being open about their supply chain is a step in the right direction but this is currently not the norm so we need to keep asking, keep demanding, for us to be able to make conscious decisions when shopping.

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