You might say fashion on a sustainable budget has arrived. Manufacturers of fashion (whether handmade, branded or made from recycled materials) have taken notice of consumers’ new awareness of ethical standards for clothing made inhumane conditions overseas.
Twenty years ago, ethically-minded fashion would only be sold at upscale boutiques. The fashion industry’s image started to be altered in the 1990s, when Target introduced hundreds of clothing lines that were “Made in America.” Over the next decade, luxury chains such as J. Crew began to jump on the bandwagon and later opened facilities in Asia that manufacture their fabrics and produce clothing. Woven into the debate was an environment-friendly ethos. For example, at Los Angeles’s Hartmut Esslinger’s New Design Ethos factory, textile workers were encouraged to focus on producing eco-friendly T-shirts. The sustainable ethic became mainstream (at least among other markets) only a few years ago.
These days, as consumers’ interest in resources and standards for sustainable clothing rises, sustainable fashion labels have popped up across the country, employing sustainable manufacturing methods, using recycled fabric and sources in developing countries. Here are some of the labels you might be seeing on your favorite actress, model or musician:
Gucci, Lady Gaga, Stella McCartney
Jackie O Collection, Dolce & Gabbana, Marni, The Proenza Schouler, Nicole Miller, Rachel Rachel Roy, Jonathan Adler, Erdem, Veronica Beard
H&M, Issey Miyake, Eileen Fisher, Lela Rose, Splendid, Alice + Olivia, Baby Phat, Citizens of Humanity, Betsey Johnson, Michael Stars, Signature USA, Chloé, Nicholas Kirkwood, ARCADE x Karen Walker, Chloe, Dockers, Anna Sui, Nigo, Derek Lam, Maggie Sottero, Nicole Farhi, Amy Sacco, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, We Heart It, Rebecca Taylor, RACHEL Zoe, Kenneth Cole, Anthropology, Tyler Satin & Design, Gypsy Sport, Pantherella, Erin Featherstone, Elizabeth & James, Love beads!
There are now more than 30 companies with official sustainable fashion badges, according to the New York-based Council of Fashion Designers of America. All of the fashion labels above have either received or are actively applying to become a sustainable label, at least according to Fashion Focus’s 2011 rules for certification.
But don’t get too carried away.
“I think there is still work to be done in the industry overall,” says John E. Bartley, an editor with Haute Pursuits magazine and editor-in-chief of Innerflower. “Especially in terms of the women’s wear industry. [It] has been slow to respond to a very basic concept — that clothing with major strength should be made by workers in environmental-friendly, sustainable conditions and not just in the least expensive fashion/costs.”
On the bright side, designers and retailers have recognized the trend. And as more labels come out, their edgier, more stylish wares are likely to become some of the most coveted items of the season.