Wilson Oryema, model, writer and activist, dives into the world of sustainable streetwear to discover the fashion brands working towards a more ethical and environmentally friendly future.
Sustainability has become a key topic within fashion: from high-end brands to high street stores, more conversations are being had about the effect of clothing and manufacturing processes on the planet. While previous connotations of sustainable fashion might have conjured up images of plain hemp basics, it seems that finally sustainability is starting to creep into the streetwear arena – bringing a ‘cooler’ aesthetic to ethical dressing.
Streetwear, referred to as such for the casual style of clothing more suited for day-to-day life, has risen in popularity over the last few years through global embracing of brands in the space, which has sprouted various events including conferences, festivals, and more. Streetwear is already a multibillion dollar movement, with so much more untapped potential.
Despite the astronomical heights some have reached in this sub-industry, finding streetwear brands that have fully embraced sustianability can still be a challenge. That said, there are are a growing number of conscious streetwear labels cropping up, while others are actively working on their eco credentials.
Here are some of the brands that you should be on the lookout for:
Possibly the most well known of brands in this list, Veja is a sneaker brand based out of France that has risen in popularity over recent years after being worn by numerous celebrities, influencers and even royals such as the Duchess of Sussex. Its popularity has grown as more and more people have come to care about where the items they purchase are coming from, with its shoes composed of recycled polyester, recycled cotton, recycled ocean plastic and wild rubber. Furthermore, the company is very transparent about its manufacturing processes, including where materials are sourced, who is actually making the footwear, how they’re being paid and more. Visit Veja’s “project” portal to find out more.
Catching A Fish In Norway (Cafin)
Catching A Fish In Norway (or shortly referred to as Cafin) is a streetwear brand based out of London, England. The brand launched in 2014 as a way for a collective of creatives (illustrators and graphic designers) to showcase their talents through clothing as a medium. The brand continues to collaborate with young designers to create “premium quality and environmentally friendly streetwear” – the clothes are claimed to be ‘100% Fairtrade, 100% organic and 90% carbon neutral.’ See the brand story for more info.
A seasoned veteran in the streetwear industry, who has worked for and collaborated with some of the most iconic streetwear brands, Brendon Babenzian started Noah NY as his attempt to take “a stand against many of the appalling practices of the fashion industry.” And although the brand does not claim to be ethical or sustainable yet, a lot of its efforts are leading the brand in the right direction. These include: using profits to donate to charities and organisations it supports and believes in; doing a site blackout in response to black Friday; and documenting the processes of the brand in trying to be more sustainable (here is its approach to creating a recycled cotton t- shirt).
A brand that started just a few months ago, RILEY STUDIO is a lifestyle brand that is making clothing from ‘waste materials or from natural fabrics that are biodegradable’, such as PET plastic and industrial waste, plus other materials such as recycled and organic cotton. For a full look at its gender-neutral collection see here.
Maybe not the name most readers would expect to see, however Nike is putting in a lot of effort to shift their entire operation to become a more sustainable offering. As of 2018, 75% of all apparel is made of recycled materials, including: plastic bottles, used apparel, and manufacturing waste. In addition, it is currently aiming to have its whole operation powered with renewable energy by 2025. Which you can see more about in Nike’s full sustainable report.
Established in 2010, Christopher Raeburn’s eponymous East London-based brand offers sustainable and intelligent fashion design for a global audience, working with surplus fabrics and garments to create its distinctive, military-inspired designs. Every decision the business makes is underpinned by the 4 Rs: RÆMADE, RÆDUCED, RÆCYCLED and RÆBURN. Every RÆMADE piece is a limited edition, proudly cut and reconstructed in England. “I think as a designer you have an obligation to consider what you are doing and why; ultimately, we want to make strong, sustainable choices that provide our customers with a completely unique and desirable product,” says Christopher.
Collaboration is also a big part of the brand ethos, having teamed up with the likes of Finisterre, Moncler and Timberland on collections. Available from raeburndesign.co.uk.