Rosanna Falconer, digital strategist and co-founder of FashMash, shares five Instagram-friendly brands that are also doing good.
Colours, textiles, prints…we all know the favoured aesthetic of the street style crew. It’s an eye-catching, irresistible feast for the eyes and a rush for the ‘Like’ button. Some say that fashion influencers’ ever-rotating wardrobe of #ootd is a catalyst for fast-fashion consumption: “Instagram pressure” is often cited by Gen Z to justify their shopping habits (a recent study found one in 10 people would discard a piece of clothing after being pictured on social media wearing it three times).
But I’ve noticed a sea of change this year amongst the style set as the risks of fast-fashion are too great to be ignored. Ethical fashion is an undeniably complex issue for a commercial industry driven by seasonality and trend – to succeed, it must be approached by brands with innovation: science, tech, research and development.
For example, I was fascinated to welcome Dan Widmaier of Bolt Threads to my speaker series, FashMash Pioneers, this year. His startup, based in Silicon Valley, is shaking up the future of the fashion industry by introducing sustainable new materials like bioengineered spider silk produced in a lab for the likes of Stella McCartney. This innovation marked a pivot in my year and my shopping choices. Having worked in the fashion industry for over a decade, I’m lucky to have a wardrobe crammed with cornucopia delights – plus I often borrow pieces for events. With such a selection already, when I do invest in clothes, I tend to know the designer, lust after the piece for months and meticulously plan just how it will work in my wardrobe. Now, more than ever, I question the necessity of any new acquisition.
My style is maximal, colour, feminine… I seek out pieces that make my heart flip and lift my mood on the greyest London day. This collective of brands does just that, but most importantly they have sustainable credentials at their heart. As a disclaimer, the term “sustainable” is ridden with exceptions, impossibilities and loopholes. But this set of brands are making efforts to confront the industry challenges, question tradition and strive to find a new way.
1. RONALD VAN DER KEMP
Ronald Van Der Kemp skirt, Nannacay bag, Sunad farafra carbon shirt
Lead image: Ronald Van Der Kemp skirt, Paradise Row bag and vintage body.
I had never heard of Ronald Van Der Kemp before seeing this maxi skirt but the moment I did, it was a must. He is a purveyor of “couture with a conscience”; this particular piece has his autograph written in ink by hand on the label stating ‘7 of 9’ (yes, just 9 in the world!). The layers of tulle, organza and silk are all off-cuts that would have been thrown away. Instead, it’s the gypsy dream skirt I’ve wanted all my life – harking back to the Vogue editorials that adorned my walls at university. A technicolour skirt like this should do all the talking so I’ve paired it with a black shirt from Sunad – a shirt-only Spanish brand that focuses on timeless classics using only natural fibres (this is made from modal and milk protein).
2. EDELTRUD HOFMANN
Launched last year by New York-based stylist Masayo Kishi, Edeltrud Hofmann’s exquisite separates are created from deadstock silk. One-of-a-kind in the best sense of the word, I love the way they clash prints and are cut with pretty vintage cuts of pussybow ties and puff sleeves. I can see myself wearing this as much now – from meetings to parties – as in 50 years’ time. I’ve paired it here with vintage jeans but can imagine it just as well tucked into a pencil skirt.
3. GABRIELA HEARST
Gabriela Hearst newspaper print dress
Roses are my namesake flower, so I can never resist the motif in my wardrobe. Partnered with the fact that the newspaper print held echoes of Carrie Bradshaw’s Dior AW00 dress for me, and I was hooked. For Gabriella Hearst, the print was a reference to her late mother-in-law Austine, a Washington Times-Herald journalist. The designer’s story and journey to sustainability is an interesting one: she transitioned from her T-shirt line in 2004 when the contemporary range and its constant demands to keep costs low at the compromise of quality and integrity were at odds with her ethics. Her eponymous brand, launched in 2015, has a commitment to “honest luxury”, valuing sustainability, quality and authenticity above all else. I love this quote from her: “It was important to work with the best ingredients possible, like a chef: If you have access to the best ingredients, you know your food is going to get better.” Every piece has a purpose and the thought behind each element is evident when you wear it – from the placement of sheer chiffon between pleats to the weight of the D-ring clasp on the belt.
Left: Germanier bead-embellished skirt, Sunad boyfriend shirt Right: Germanier bead-embellished jeans, Audrey Louise Reynolds sweatshirt, Nannacay bag
Just look at these rainbow beaded stripes glinting in the sunshine! Swiss designer Kévin Germanier created both this skirt and jeans by upcyling unwanted materials from the fashion industry. Who would have thought this this glamorous, high-shine, veritable disco of a skirt could be the result of recycling? “I’m making fun of the fashion industry in a way, because I’m making the most glamorous and feminine collection out of trash,” comments the designer.
A bag of unwanted beads bought from damaged stock in Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po district was the starting point of his unique embroidery technique: the tiny beads are set on a featherlight tulle panel. For him, sustainability is not a limit but fuel for his creativity: “I love having limitations, and situations where I have to make things work,” he commented in a recent interview with Business of Fashion. It thrills me to see so many of his pieces are already ‘Sold Out’ on MATCHESFASHION.COM, his exclusive wholesale partner since his Paris Fashion Week debut this year.
For styling, I wanted a blank canvas for the Germanier pieces to shine so opted for a classic white shirt from Sunad. As for the jeans, I went for a sweatshirt by Audrey Louise Reynolds. This shade of pink has been hand-dyed using her signature technique. Her all-natural dyes include seaweed, squid ink and flowers. Ingenious.
Beulah t-shirt in aid of ECPAT UK, Beulah maxi skirt, Prada shoes
I’ve got to know the founders of Beulah London this year and heard their story first hand. Every garment that they sell supports their cause. In 2010, they encountered the effects of modern-day slavery on a volunteer mission in Delhi. This was the transformative moment that compelled them to found their British luxury brand. 10% of profits fund the brand’s trust, which in turn gives victims of sex trafficking and abuse the education for a long-term, sustainable livelihood and alternative to slavery.
This organic cotton t-shirt is a special edition in honour of this year’s Anti-Slavery Day, and was sourced from TeeMill – a fully transparent t-shirt business where you can follow the journey from seed to shop All profits will be donated to ECPAT UK to support young UK victims of trafficking. It is estimated that 40.3 million people are trapped in modern slavery; 1 in 4 of whom are children. Wearing your values like this can start a conversation, not to mention the slogan is a pertinent message for all this year.
I’ve paired it with a silk chiffon skirt from one of their previous collections. The brand has an ethos of “stories not seasons”, tapping into the idea that these are timeless pieces with a story and a soul, rather than trend-led items to be discarded once the mood changes.
Talking of timeless, these Prada ‘Princesa’ shoes are from spring/summer 2005. I saved my pennies while still at university and swooped in on them the moment they went on sale. It gives me great joy every time I put them on, over a decade later. And my, we have done some dancing together!
Read more of our tips on where to start when it comes to dressing ethically.
Photos by George Ryan. Lead photo by Kirstin Sinclair.
For more of Rosanna’s picks, see her edit of Christmas party dresses without sequins.