Rosanna Falconer, brand consultant and co-founder of FashMash, shares how summer holiday style can be done sustainably, showcasing some of the many brands that are creating high quality, fun and stylish summer fashion with both people and the planet in mind.
The days are lengthening, the seas are warming, the beach is calling. For years, half the excitement of a holiday was planning my packing. Lunch breaks would involve swinging by the shops to pick up a bikini in that summer’s zingiest neon while no trip to departures was complete without a purchase of yet another pair of sandals. As a result, my wardrobe heaves with heady summer colour, and the pieces that have lasted (sadly few), have become my travel companions from Italy to California. They include frayed denim shorts that get better with every wash, silk scarves to tie as turbans and backless maxi dresses that can be rolled up to nothing in a suitcase.
But beyond those perennial packing musts, how to holiday shop with a conscience? Fortunately, there has been huge progress in this category. When researching, I discovered fabulous new swim brands crafted in innovative ECONYL® regenerated nylon. The yarn uses plastic waste from landfills and oceans – including ghost fishing nets – then regenerates them into a nylon that can be recycled indefinitely. Ingenious! Plus, it gives the most flattering fit and feels soft on the skin even in the baking heat. Then there are prints and colours galore with some serious ethical credentials (take Mayamiko’s upcycled silk collection or their deadstock pieces made in a Fairtrade workshop in Malawi).
My summer started early this week in the picture-perfect village of Deia, Mallorca, long-famed for its artistic residents and bohemian spirit. There could be no better place to capture the brands approaching holiday dressing through a sustainable lens…
Yes to yellow. This swimsuit by Sébastien is crafted in the aforementioned ECONYL® regenerated nylon. It’s even sent to Italy where it undergoes tests to confirm the sustainability and quality of the yarn. Paired with this zingy lemon skirt by Mara Hoffman, it’s sundowner ready too. Hoffman has become a leader in sustainable vacation wear. Since 2015, her new approach has included a switch to digital prints to reduce waste and sustainable fabrics. The brand even advises customers on how to care for their clothes to reduce environmental impact. Their approach is honest and admirable: “We know that as we make improvements we will always encounter new challenges, and though this road is unending it will forever offer us room to change and grow.”
As for accessories, holiday is one of those times to max up the maximalism: a matching silk scarf by Beulah London was a must. Made in collaboration with The Women’s Interlink Foundation and Key to Freedom, each silk tie has been hand block printed by a woman who has been freed from trafficking and abuse. This employment helps to create an alternative, sustainable livelihood.
THE BOHO SKIRT
Maybe it was my stay in the brilliantly bohemian Suite 67 at Belmond La Residencia, but I reached for this Beulah tiered skirt every day, embracing its gypsy references. I love the many ways it can be styled: with a Mara Hoffman crop top for breakfast, covering up a Sébastien bikini at lunch then matched with the long-sleeved top for dinner. Separates like this are the ones to go back to year after year; they will work hard in your suitcase – we all know how space is invaluable!
If separates earn their airmiles, then every carry-on requires a kaftan top. Long sleeved to cover you from the midday rays, brightly-coloured to lift your heart, this one by Figue is delightful. Launched in 2012 by Stephanie von Watzdorf, this New York label takes its cue from the luxe global traveller. Spirited and bohemian, the collections are also conscientiously sourced. Their fabric and material commitments are particularly impressive: they upcycle vintage pieces while extra fabric from any new production is used to make shoe and jewellery bags. All packaging is 100% recycled paper.
And then accessories, because surely even the most casual espresso by the pool requires a statement earring! These earrings by Katerina Makriyianni are handmade by skilled artisans in Crete, where Katerina was born. They use recycled vintage wool from a fraying Kilim rug. Even the studio is solar powered!
This look sums up holiday dressing for me: fun, fun, fun. Reach for the colours, styles and prints you might be afraid to try back in the city.
From the beach bars of Mykonos to the eternal chic of the French Riviera, white has always worked in the heat. In fact, I’d say, any man on holiday in a white linen shirt transforms instantly to Jude Law in The Talented Mr Ripley. This organic cotton linen skirt by Oramai, trimmed with colourful riff raff ribbon, reminds me of a skirt I lived in one summer as a child. Clearly, the classics never date. It’s got an excellent twirl (essential for any summer skirt) and looks elegant styled with this ECONYL® regenerated nylon swimsuit by Casaraki.
These cat eyes are by Pala Eyewear: they’re so light you barely notice them and best of all for every pair bought, they donate prescription glasses to a person in need in Africa, giving them access to education and better job opportunities. Not to mention their use of non-petroleum plastic and cases handwoven in Upper East Ghana, creating new income in a developing community. I love their ethos: “Let’s not talk sustainability. Let’s do it.”
Another wonderful white: this broderie anglaise cotton maxi dress by Beulah. I love its modest cut: just because it’s hot doesn’t mean you have to do hot pants. In fact, I often find a light maxi skirt keeps you cooler than having the sun blasting on your skin. Talking of which: tans. For me, baking on a sun-lounger feels as noughties as fast fashion. I’d much rather be out adventuring. But I do love some colour and for that there’s vegan-friendly Vita Liberata. It only uses eco-certified DHA and they have just released tanning cloths that are certified organic and fully biodegradable.
Back to the dress… The wonder of white is the colours you can style with it. There’s this orange macramé tote and supersize hat by Nannacay then these trainers by Wibes. Each pair is unique and handcrafted by skilled artisans. It can take up to 8 hours to produce a pair! Founded by two young French entrepreneurs (yet another example of Millennial designers seeing sustainability as a must), this new shoe brand has impressive credentials. The founders share a love and commitment to Africa and especially the Côte d’Ivoire which they support through giving back.
I blame Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn: every summer I gravitate to gingham, stripes and checks. This red one by Mara Hoffman has the prettiest low back and bows to tie. This straw bag by Nannacay is capacious enough for suncream, novel and a statement earring or two to take the dress from sight-seeing into sundowners. Nannacay is a cult holiday brand, famed for its vibrant woven accessories that are toted across the globe by style influencers from Gisele to Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine. Meaning “the sisterhood of women” in Aymara, it was founded by Brazilian designer Marcia Kemp to support female artisans from Peru, Columbia and Brazil through craft and production.
Dress: Mara Hoffman
Sunglasses: Pala Eyewear
THE PARTY PIECE
For evenings when glamour calls, this Purvi Doshi hand-embroidered skirt commands attention. Crafted by dextrous Indian artisans, a tale of flora and fauna is told from hip to hem. I wore it for drinks with friends and their 3-year-old was fascinated for hours finding all of her favourite animals! India is a country famed for its art and textile industry, skills that are passed down from generation to generation. Sadly, they are talents that are being forgotten due to lack of demand, a loss that Doshi seeks to preserve through her brand. Speaking of the artisans, she comments poetically, “Their needles are like wands that wield magic on the fabric they touch with care and purity.”
The fit of this backless one-piece by Casa Raki is so flattering, it felt a shame to only wear it poolside. Founder Josefina Alazraki Theo launched her label this month on MatchesFashion.com. As well as the ECONYL® regenerated nylon yarn, she believes in small production runs and works with an ethical, women-owned and operated factory in Portugal.
Skirt: Purvi Doshi
Swimsuit: Casa Raki
And finally… It’s the finishing touches that make you feel holiday-ready. This category is amply served with brands that balance vibrant colour and quirky touches with sustainable credentials.
Some favourites from my week away (clockwise from top left):
Nannacay for woven accessories with the ethos “creative hands transforming lives.”
Beulah for silk scarves that give back.
Cesta for mini bags made from Rwandan sisal – a biodegradable and renewable plant fibre.
Osklen for cross-body bags crafted in Pirarucu – a waste product fish leather with a butter soft texture.
Pala Eyewear for glasses that put standard sunnies in the shade.
Katerina Makriyianni for earrings to match your sunshine mood.
Here’s to summer, sustainably!
All images credit: George Ryan
See Rosanna’s guide to dressing for the summer events season sustainably.
Read our ethical summer sandals guide.
Browse our full catalogue of recommended brands.