Eco Fashion Changemakers to Watch in 2020

The new year brings promise of change and fresh inspiration – and for fashion, a renewed interest in sustainability and eco priorities. Here are just a few of the names we expect to see shaking up the conversation in 2020…

At Eco-Age, we’re constantly discovering inspiring voices in the sustainability movement and, since 2017, the Green Carpet Fashion Awards and CNMI Green Talent Competition have been celebrating and showcasing exemplary designers, initiatives and achievements leading the conversation. In 2019, we saw the rest of the world wake up to the wider sustainability conversation, with global climate strikes and boycott fashion campaigns gaining widespread support and momentum. The call for brands to better care for the planet and the people working in garment supply chains globally has grown significantly, and there’s little doubt that 2020 is set to be a year of significant and exciting change. 

From designers to influencers, models to global leaders, the ongoing list of names leading the way in social and environmental sustainability in 2020 is not only inspiring, but indicative that a shift in the collective mindset in the fashion industry and beyond is bringing exciting new talent and voices to the fore – and that, as far as we’re concerned, can only be a good thing. Here are just a few of the figures we expect to see leading the way in the new year.

Patrick McDowell, Designer

Credit: Brooke Harwood

“I hope that this new decade will bring an end to sticking plasters and create real positive change in the fashion industry through addressing the most pressing issue: that this business model is at its heart unsustainable,” says Central Saint Martins graduate Patrick McDowell. Reclaimed fabrics and organic yarns are just a few of the materials favoured by the Liverpudlian designer who was nominated by Anna Wintour for Stella McCartney’s Today for Tomorrow Award in 2019. A designer that puts sustainability at the core of his work, Patrick has already achieved significant acclaim across the industry, and has dressed celebrities and cover stars alike in his creations.

We asked Patrick how he’s feeling about the future of fashion: “As we enter this new decade we are facing a great opportunity to redesign systems,” he says. “I hope and will do my best to create the most opportunity for creative learning for all at any age to give individuals, corporations and institutions the knowledge and skills to create the change we so desperately need. 

“As we saw huge cultural change with the 1920’s I am firmly of the belief that the 2020’s will bring the same free thinking and opportunity to rethink , relearn and change the problems that we have faced for so long.”

Jeanne de Kroon

Credit: Nilo Feizi via Jeanne de Kroon

Three years ago, Jeanne de Kroon started a company from her student bedroom. At the time, she was teaching yoga in a nearby park to help raise funds – since then, Zazi Vintage has grown into a luxury fashion label that focuses on sustainability, and social and economic independence. Paying fair wages and funding education for girls, Zazi’s collections refuse to compromise on style or social responsibility.

In 2019, we started the Handprint Diaries, a series that follows Jeanne on her travels around the world as she uncovers unique relationships between crafts and female communities around the world. As we continue the series into 2020, she’ll continue to dive into the stories of the artisans bringing the Zazi’s vibrant designs into being.

Salim Azzam, Designer

One of six winners of the Fashion Trust Arabia prize last year, Salim Azzam is a beirut-based womenswear designer. Now employing 25 local embroiderers in his atelier, Salim’s work celebrates traditional crafts in an effort to revive techniques that saw a decline in demand following the Lebanese civil war.

Speaking to Vogue in April, Pierpaolo Piccioli said of Salim’s designs:  “Through these embroideries, he is telling his own story. You don’t always have to tell a big story, I think a small story is enough if it’s yours.”

Tolly Dolly Posh, Ethical Fashion Blogger

Credit: Marc van der Kort/EIT Climate KIC

At just 19 years-old, Tolmeia has fast become a significant voice in the sustainability conversation, building a highly engaged online community. Her mission? “To in inspire others to be more confident in themselves and what they wear, whether that be in terms of their physical appearance (becoming more comfortable in the real you) or in terms of the actual clothes that are in their wardrobes (becoming more aware of who made them and where they came from).”

The teenager embraces a progress-not-perfection mindset, sharing candid reflections and informative tips and advice on her platforms. Give her a quick follow now to find out more…

Maggie Marilyn, Designer

Growing up in rural New Zealand, this young designer is driven by a passion to protect the natural world. Championing transparency and empowering workers throughout the supply chain, Maggie Marilyn has developed and implemented a sustainability strategy in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and was awarded the Eco-Age Brandmark in 2019. In 2020, the brand hopes to continue this work with revised goals; significantly, Maggie Marilyn is looking to remove virgin sourced synthetic fibres from garments and ensure fair pay for all staff, manufacturers and suppliers.

What advice would Maggie give to anyone looking to launch a sustainable business? “Keep your ‘why’ at the forefront of your mind as this will power you through any tough times and never stop believing that you can change the world.” 

Maddie Williams, Designer

In September 2019, Maddie Williams won the Redress Design Award – the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition, it’s a significant recognition of Maddie’s work which seeks out new ways of using waste or renewable material, primarily through upcycling. 

Before graduating from Edinburgh University with a BA in Fashion Design, Maddie was awarded an internship through the Dame Vivienne Westwood Ethical award, and in the new year she will have the opportunity to create an upcycled collection for sustainable fashion brand Reverb. We’ve got a feeling we’ll be seeing her name popping up in more than a few fashion week calendars in 2020…

Marina Testino, Model

Marina Testino’s #OneDressToImpress campaign caught worldwide media attentionwhen she wore the same red suit for two months. Highlighting the unrealistic expectations and pressures of the fashion industry and event elite to showcase an ever-changing wardrobe, Marina committed to a slower fashion model with great success.

A model on a mission to advance social and environmental agendas, Marina has fast become a champion of sustainable fashion and the wider sustainability movement. This year, she launched the #WeSeaThrough campaign, highlighting the issues of plastic pollution through the combined forces of photography and social media. So in 2020? For now, we’ll have to wait and see.

Meet the winner of the CNMI Green Talent Competition 2019, Flavia La Rocca.

For more sustainability inspiration in 2020, check out the best eco zines.

The Eco-Age team and our wonderful contributors share their eco intentions for the new year.