Photographer, actor and model Nick Hopper shares his favourite stylish menswear brands that operate with people and the planet in mind.
I recently celebrated my birthday, an occasion that always has me surprised that yet another year has rushed by. With all the recent climate change action and the UN’s Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which shows over 1 million species under threat of extinction, I have begun to deeply question how we, as a collective, are also another year closer to that point of no return for our environment and the flora and fauna with which we share this incredible planet. As you get older you reflect on your legacy and as a citizen of the earth, it is unthinkable that our shared legacy to our children is to be one of melted ice-caps, dead oceans, wild animals confined to zoos or the pages of textbooks, dust bowls where rainforests once stood — simply the destruction of our natural world…
Having worked in the fashion industry in various ways over the last 25 years, I’ve seen firsthand that it's high time we move this industry forward. As consumers we have the power to dictate with our purchasing choices. Over the past 15 or so years, running my food and wellness businesses and travelling as a photographer, I have observed a dramatic shift as people are operating with a greater awareness and are also much more able to make — or at least demand — more eco and sustainable choices in regards to their consumption. Fashion has been lagging behind but there is now an increasing number of brands and designers trying to make a difference and shift an industry.
With that in mind, I wanted to highlight sustainable and ethical fashion for men. In this age of Aquarius, us guys are also looking to do our part, and menswear has been somewhat overlooked until now. Here are 11 great bands that have become my go-to as they make a stand for ethical AND stylish dressing.
As a Westcountry bay (Devonshire slang for boy), I am always looking to champion the region whether via food or fashion, and this Cornwall-based company is constantly striving for greater sustainability. It uses organic and recycled fabrics throughout its range, and if your clothing becomes tatty or damaged over time, you can send it in to get repaired. You can’t go wrong with its classic sweatshirts and organic t-shirt basics, but as a wannabe surfer it first caught my eye with its wetsuits. Finisterre also does great collabs which take it away from “outdoorsy” and into more streetwear territory, especially with its latest collabs with Vivobarefoot (another staple of mine) and Arkair.
Based on the Isle of Wight, Rapanui is on a mission to redesign the fashion industry: “We’re not trying to work towards sustainability, our business is built on it” reads the brand’s mission statement. Rapanui uses a wind-powered factory and even has an interactive map on the site showing the production process and journey of each garment. If you want a statement eco-warrior t-shirt that’s actually eco (because yes, believe me, it’s not always a thing) then look no further. It’s also a go-to for t-shirt basics, as you can get an organic 7-pack of t-shirts (one for every day of the week) for just £50. I like to keep things simple!
I’ve been a fan of this brand since long before I was thinking about who, what, how and where my clothes were made, but Patagonia has always had a fully transparent supply chain. Since leaving school, my work has involved a lot of travel and this is a label I have always spent my hard-earned cash on — mainly because it’s worth every penny and does what it says on the tin. The last jacket I bought from it was in the sales about five years ago — purple and red (known to my friends as my spiderman jacket even though it’s definitely purple and not black). I wear this lightweight, slightly puffed jacket as both inner and outer wear and it’s survived both the test of time and a lot of wear and tear. I also invested in a full 3-in-1 all-weather jacket, which has been an essential piece of my photographer's kit.
Sporting the tag-line “The original ethical fashion brand,” London-based Komodo has been championing the use of organic fabrics since its conception in 1988, creating and perfecting a range of affordable on-trend eco fashion in that time. The brand’s worker vintage jeans have become a fashion staple for me and its loud and abstract socks have been an easy one to pop on the Christmas pressie list when the family are trying to nail what to get me. This season, its sage (I say mint green) OBI linen chino trousers and matching Marli jacket have caught my eye as the ultimate relaxed summer suit that has been missing from my wardrobe for probably my whole life.
Upping the stakes here and dipping into going into the luxury designer territory, but it wouldn’t be fair to leave the queen campaigner for ethical fashion from this list. On the website the brand promises to “challenge and push boundaries to make luxurious products in a way that is fit for the world we live in today and the future: beautiful and sustainable. No compromises.” I only have one item from Stella McCartney, but it’s a classic and in a colour (let’s call it tan, see my main image) I might not have ever considered unless my attempt to shop more consciously hadn’t led me to Stella. I’d been on the hunt for a more summery jacket and this has seen me transition from winter wear to spring with ease. My one shopping tip for men: buy classic staples that are timeless and go with anything. This includes my staple tracksuit pants!
Founded by a father-son duo in 2008, this Danish menswear brand focuses heavily on the use of sustainable materials and organic cotton – it aims to have recycled 4.5 million plastic bottles by 2020 in order to produce its polyester fabric. What I love is that its collection is split into two sections – one for “your top half,” and the other for “your bottom half.” Did I already mention that I like to keep things simple? It’s a one-stop shop for your wardrobe, from stylish blazers and shirts to classic all-American hoodies and joggers.
Thought’s menswear collection is casual yet chic, and has some great statement print shirts. The brand started life in Australia before relocating to north London, and offers ranges for both men and women in cotton, wool and hemp, all free from chemicals and pesticides, as well as bamboo - although I know the jury is out on this one.... The website reads: “from first to final stitch, we make each piece of our collection in the same country so it’s never shipping from place to place. When it is time to transport our clothing, we do it slowly. And with great consideration for the environment.” The brand is a founding partner of the Ethical Fashion Forum too.
I love this brand and its goal: “to create a new generation of recycled products with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled products to show that there is no need to use our world’s natural resources in a careless way.” It is BCorp-certified and on a mission to change the way fashion is manufactured without compromising on style. Some of its stuff is a bit too “down with the kids” for a middle-aged man like myself, but the slogan t-shirts emblazoned with #ThereIsNoPlanetB offer food for thought and the knitwear (I am a sucker for a good jumper) is both classic and stylish!
A new brand for me, with a small but exciting collection and a huge mission statement: “We believe that people making our clothing and growing, developing or processing our materials deserve respect and dignity through safe conditions and a living wage. We believe that ecosystems should not be destroyed in order to make fashion. We believe that the increasing velocity of ‘fast-fashion’ is one very visible manifestation of a much larger and deeper problem. We don't think Brave GentleMan is a final solution, but it is a means by which to replace more problematic systems.” A quick scan of this season's offerings and the leaf shirt and pant combo caught my eye — whether I could carry it off is another matter!
Started by surf legend Kelly Slater, Outerknown aim to blend style and function with the protection of natural resources and the environment, especially the ocean as you might expect! The collection is classic and casual, perfect for that relaxed Californian beach look, and is all made from environmentally-friendly or recycled materials like econyl, created from recycled fishing nets and surplus nylon. I’ve got my eye on the board shorts, because if Kelly designed them they’ve got to make me a better surfer, right?
ArmedAngels first came to my attention last year when I shot my other half Jasmine for its womenswear collection. Founded in 2007 in Cologne, Germany, it is pursuing ethical practices throughout the production chain, using organic fabrics like cotton, wool and linen, as well as recycled polyester, and working with organisations such as the Fair Wear Foundation to ensure everyone from design team to farm workers are paid a fair, living wage for their labour. At a great price point and classic cuts, as an ‘older man’ I’m drawn to the cotton linen mix button-down grandad shirts - but who knows, if it’s a great summer I might just be persuaded to wear the short-sleeved shirt with ice lollies stitched on!