Five earth-conscious fashion brands by members

If you’re not shopping recycled/upcycled and zero-emission labels yet, support these boutique brands

By Corinna Burford    Wednesday 22 April, 2020   Long read

A forest.

Courtesy of Yatay

A man and shoes reflected in a mirror in the desert.
Long after (and for a considerable amount of time prior to) Earth Day on Wednesday 22 April, these five member-founded fashion brands will be dedicated to climate-conscious practices. We asked them to share what they do to give back to – and, more importantly, not take away from – our planet.

MILAN: Umberto de Marco, Yatay
For Umberto de Marco, the founder of the vegan, Italian-made footwear company Yatay, environmental awareness runs in his blood. His father, Enrico de Marco, founded Coronet Spa, one of the first companies to produce cruelty-free leather alternatives in the late 1960s, and Umberto joined the family business after graduating college. 

While most synthetic leathers are 99 per cent petroleum-based, Yatay’s shoes are made from bio-based materials, like natural resin and recycled rubber. And almost all of their components are made in Italy, minimising carbon emissions from transportation. The company’s factories are also powered by solar panels, and for each pair sold, it plants a tree in Bore, Kenya. De Marco’s goal, he says, is to create ‘advanced footwear materials with the lowest footprint ever achieved.’ 

In addition to these environmental achievements, Yatay is contributing to the coronavirus fight by donating shoes – for every pair purchased on the brand’s website, one pair goes to doctors at the Humanitas Hospital in Milan. ‘Italy is one of the countries most affected by coronavirus,’ says de Marco. ‘So, supporting these heroes with a comfy sustainable gift is the least I could do.’
A person wearing jeans.
Courtesy of Boyish Jeans
SOHO WAREHOUSE, DTLA: Jordan Nodarse, Boyish Jeans
Founded by former Reformation designer, Jordan Nodarse, Boyish Jeans is a denim company that uses sustainably sourced men’s fabrics to create women’s jeans, jackets, skirts and overalls with vintage silhouettes and modern touches. While Nodarse had always cared about the environment growing up in southern California, his dedication to sustainability was really ignited by working in the fashion industry. ‘I started diving deeper into the chemical and fibre side of producing fabrics and washing jeans,’ he says. ‘And the more I discovered, the more I wanted to find better options to replace what seemed like very outdated manufacturing practices.’

When launching Boyish Jeans, Nodarse and his team figured out a new way to produce denim that uses a third of the amount of water typically required for a pair of jeans and is made from a blend of recycled cotton, OCS-certified organic cotton and Lenzing-certified Tencel x Refibra lyocell – made from 30 per cent post-industrial recycled waste. The fabric is then coloured with plant-based dyes and produced with a sustainable manufacturing process. ‘These sustainable products, along with our commitments to measuring our supply chain emissions to purchase carbon offsets, makes us the only carbon-neutral denim brand in the US,’ says Nodarse. ‘The only impact we’ll leave on the planet is good jeans.’

Moving forward, Nodarse hopes to continue refining these production processes. ‘Overall, our mission is to end the mentality of throwing things “away”, because we all know that there is no such place as “away”’, he says.
Glasses floating on a peach background.
An illustration asking to give goggles.

Courtesy of Ace & Tate

SOHO HOUSE AMSTERDAM: Mark de Lange, Ace & Tate
Mark de Lange founded Ace & Tate, the Amsterdam-based, direct-to-consumer eyewear company, in 2013. His goal was to create affordable glasses that were stylish, well-made and kind to the environment. 

‘After reading Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s book Let My People Go Surfing, I realised that it is possible (though not easy) to both do the right thing socially and build a profitable business at the same time,’ he says.

Instead of all-new, synthetic materials, Ace & Tate uses bio-acetate and recycled acetate when making its glasses. The first recycled acetate collection is set for release this summer, and they aim to make the glasses from 100 per cent recycled and bio-acetate in the near future. The brand is also working to lessen its carbon emissions by migrating its stores to green energy and using packaging with a small carbon footprint. ‘Our long-term goal is to reduce our carbon emissions to zero by 2030,’ says de Lange. 

Recently, the company has developed a new focus, too: safety goggles. ‘Globally, personal protective equipment (PPE) is in scarce supply for medical workers who are risking their lives daily to care for us,’ says de Lange. ‘As our experience and expertise is in eyewear, it seemed logical for us to utilise our supply chain to help with the supply of medical-grade safety goggles,’ he says. So far, Ace & Tate has donated 5,000 pairs of goggles to healthcare workers in need and they are donating one pair of goggles for every pair of glasses purchased. To learn more about Ace & Tate’s goggles project, or to donate a pair at cost price, visit the website.
A model wearing leather clothes.
Courtesy of House of Dagmar
STOCKHOLM: Karin Söderlind, House of Dagmar 
Founded in Sweden in 2005 by sisters Karin Söderlind, Kristina Tjäder and Sofia Wallenstam, House of Dagmar makes thoughtfully designed women’s clothing with classic silhouettes, using fabrics that are both environmentally and socially responsible. ‘In Sweden, we are taught to love and care for nature since childhood,’ says Söderlind. ‘So, when we set up House of Dagmar, we wanted our clothes to serve a purpose for better living that was respectful to the environment.’

In 2016, Söderlind, Tjäder and Wallenstam decided to take their commitment to sustainability to the next level. ‘To know where to begin, we started measuring our emissions and learnt that 71 per cent of them derive from the early production phase,’ says Söderlind. To curb this, they changed the types of fibres they used – transitioning to those that were either biodegradable or recyclable. They also worked to adjust some of their production methods and packaging, making sure that they were carbon, water and waste-conscious, and that their facilities and partners used renewable energy sources. 

In the future, House of Dagmar’s goal is to produce 100 per cent of its clothing in a sustainable and eco-friendly way, says Söderlind. ‘We still want women to be able to express themselves and to get inspired by clothes,’ she says. ‘So, it’s our responsibility to ensure an environmentally friendly production process.’
A man on the beach.

Courtesy of Thalassophy

A group of men rowing on a river.
WHITE CITY HOUSE, LONDON: Leigh Keates, Thalassophy
When Leigh Keates founded his UK-based resort wear company, Thalassophy, in 2019, he wanted to create a range of swimwear and clothing that helped to reduce synthetic waste. Through traveling the world on a number of eco-expeditions, Keates had discovered just how harmful plastic products were to the world’s waterways and oceans and decided to make a difference.
 
All of Thalassophy’s garments are made using recycled plastic fibres and organic cotton, and the company has a programme that allows customers to return their used items in exchange for a 20 per cent discount on their next purchase. To help in reducing Thalassophy’s carbon footprint, Keates also makes sure he sources recycled fabrics from within Europe, and Thalassophy’s cotton is grown next to the mill where the garments are manufactured in Turkey.

While he admits that being ‘fully’ sustainable is a near-impossible task, Keates says his main goal is to operate a completely closed-loop production line, and he hopes to make the company carbon neutral in the next four years. ‘With the ever-growing use of the word “sustainable” and lack of clarity of its meaning, we try to use the term with caution,’ he says.  ‘Our stance is to stand up and promote transparency and honesty, allowing our consumers to come to their own conclusion.’