Editorial Feature

5 of the Best: Sustainable Fashion

Though traditionally seen as an aloof, almost uncaring industry, fashion has found its heart in recent years, and sustainability is now very big business. Emphasis on recycling, fairtrade products and waste reduction have become increasingly important. There was even a separate fashion summit at the recent Rio+20 conferences on sustainability in June. Among the important speakers at this summit were Gucci, H&M, and Katharine Hamnett. Organised by the Danish Fashion Institute, the summit aimed to showcase viable ideas on how the fashion industry can become sustainable.

Only a month prior to this, the Copenhagen Fashion Summit set important goals on sustainable fashion via its NICE (Nordic Initiative, Clean and Ethical) project, which outlines around 16 ways in which a fashion company can become truly sustainable.

Sustainable or eco fashion is part of a larger initiative within the design sector to produce pieces and concepts which are environmentally friendly. Ways in which fashion has moved towards sustainability include reducing carbon footprints, using natural, non-petroleum based fabrics and not using intensive farming techniques when producing natural materials.

With committed involvement from major fashion industry individuals, it is hoped that sustainable fashion is not just a passing trend, but a change in very philosophy of fashion.

In this ‘5 of the best’ article, AZoCleantech looks at the labels and shops that are going the extra mile to make sustainability chic.

Nancy Dee

Nancy Dee is a UK based label, which designs and manufactures all its clothes locally. The company aims to use sustainable fabrics where possible and the life-cycle of each item is carefully monitored so that it has as little effect on the environment as possible. For example, leftovers from the design stage go towards making samples for next season, or can be recycled into new designs.

The fabrics are produced from renewable, natural resources, including soya bean fabric, bamboo and organic cotton. Furthermore, Nancy Dee uses a synthetic material called Modal, which is derived from beech wood and extracted in an environmentally sustainable way.

Other eco-friendly aspects of the company include using acid-free tissue paper and recyclable cardboard for shipping, shipping products via sea rather than air to reduce carbon emissions, reproducing all look-books online, and sourcing all print, packaging and labels locally.

Nancy Dee uses a synthetic material called Modal, which is derived from beech wood and extracted in an environmentally sustainable way. Image Credit: Nancy Dee.

The North Circular

Another UK based label, The North Circular is notable for two main reasons: it is the co-creation of supermodels Lily Cole and Katherine Poulton, and the clothes are hand-knitted by grannies. The company motto of ‘Knitted by grannies, supported by supermodels’ says it all.

Behind this fun public image, there are also some serious green credentials. The clothes are made from 100% locally-sourced wool, only natural dyes are used when colouring the wool and packaging is kept to a minimum.

Even the grannies are eco-friendly, as doing all the manufacturing by hand drastically cuts the amount of fuel used by the label and hence reduces carbon emissions.

Junk Shop, Manchester UK

Opened in 2005, Junk Shop in Manchester has quickly made a name for itself with its unique and affordable clothing. Junk Shop has three separate in-house labels (Junk Boutique, Jumble and Label of Love) all of which are produced sustainably within the city to reduce carbon footprint. Charlotte Keyworth, co-founder of Junk, ensures that all clothes made for the shop are from 100% recycled material. Junk’s ‘Made in the Mill’ project, which produces all its items at the nearby Islington Mill, is run in conjunction with Oxfam.

The store itself is also eco-friendly, and the entire interior has been created from recycled or reclaimed materials. This gives the shop a truly unique feel, with a counter created solely from old dishwashing liquid bottles as the centrepiece.

Junk’s efforts have been recognised and the shop has received several awards, including ‘Best Independent Retailer/Designer’ at the Manchester Fashion Awards 2010. It is also Oxfam’s number 1 selling sustainable fashion label.

The entire interior has been created from recycled or reclaimed materials. Image Credit: Junk Shop UK

From Somewhere

Created by Orsola De Castro, From Somewhere has been recycling and upcycling the fashion industry’s waste since 1997. All collections of womanswear are made from material that has never been worn, but would otherwise be thrown straight in the trash. This includes swatches, off-cuts and end of rolls.

Given the ever increasing amount of waste that is produced by the fashion industry, From Somewhere is showing everybody just how much of what is thrown away is still usable and beautiful.

With many accolades to its name, such as the Nation Bronze ‘Green Apple’ award in 2002, From Somewhere has not rested on its laurels, and Orsola and co-runner Filippo Ricci are also the founders and curators of the sustainable fashion area at London Fashion Week, Estethica.


Caipora is the last word in eco jewellery, summed up well by their tagline, ‘consciously gorgeous’. Caipora uses sustainable and recycled material to create ethical rings, necklaces and bracelets. The founder of Caipora, Zel Albuquerque, is a well-travelled designer who has integrated her knowledge of different cultures with a belief in environmental responsibility.

The material used in the jewellery is sourced by riverside Brazilian communities and the extraction techniques are carefully checked by environmental agencies, such as the Forest Stewardship Council. Likewise, only ethical outlets are used to sell the jewellery.

If something can be recycled, it usually is: the golden grass and seeds that are used are collected during local harvests and any off-cuts from other industries are reused.

Even the name Caipora comes from Amazonian mythology and means ‘forest protector’.

Sources and Further Reading

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


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