Fur was officially banned last season at London Fashion Week so perhaps leather is next? Whether or not that happens, it’s clear that ethical clothing and accessories are becoming more prevalent. Upmarket brands like Alice Temperley have met the challenge of using ethically sourced materials. I spotted a gorgeous Temperley silk dress at a recent London fashion week made of organic silk and dyes. The dress was on the stand of a the sustainable angle, a new organisation that introduces fabric buyers and designers to international mills and suppliers of sustainable textiles that have a reduced environmental impact. Sneakers are also a major focus in the ethical clothing drive, not only for sports but as a popular fashion item. Veja, Adidas and Reebok are three brands currently offering stylish, comfortable and the most eco-friendly sneakers.
Even before Veja became one of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle’s favorite sneaker brands, they were acquiring a cult status among fashionistas worldwide. But more importantly, Veja’s mission statement offers a different vision than most fashion brands. It combines fair trade and ecology and links together economy, social initiatives and the environment. This French brand works with cooperatives of small producers and organisations in Brazil and France to create trainers and accessories made of organic cotton, wild rubber from the Amazon and vegetable-tanned leather. They also have an extensive range of vegan sneakers, with one in every four styles 100% vegan. In the North-East of Brazil, the company works with a co-operative of organic cotton farmers and over 320 families have adopted the agro-ecology farming model with the technical support of the local NGO, Esplar. Cotton and food crops are cultivated without chemicals or pesticides. Keen on supporting fair trade and offering local producers a decent living, Veja buys organic cotton at around twice the market price, along with rubber from the Amazonian rainforest, the only place on earth where rubber trees grow in the wild. This is also an economically sustainable way to fight against deforestation. Some of their sneakers have leather uppers and for those Veja uses vegetable-tanned leather, a chrome-free leather tanned with organic compounds only. In all, the sneakers cost five times more to produce than big brand sneakers, according to VEJA, because of the fair trade and organic raw materials used but the company remains committed to production in this way. Upcycling is also incorporated into VEJA’s production, with plastic bottles, cotton recycled from textile industry cuttings and recycled polyester used to create a range of fabrics used in the making of the shoes.
The major brands have also been responding to consumer demand by releasing chic, sustainable products, with Adidas and Reebok both launching new eco trainers this past summer. In August Reebok released their “Cotton + Corn” sneakers constructed from an upper made of 100% cotton and a corn-based sole. “Most athletic footwear is made using petroleum to create synthetic rubber and foam cushioning systems,” said Bill McInnis, Head of Reebok Future. “With 20 billion pairs of shoes made every year, this is not a sustainable way of making footwear. At Reebok, we thought ‘what if we start with materials that grow and use plants rather than oil-based materials?’ By using sustainable resources as our foundation and then through ongoing testing and development, we were able to create a plant-based sneaker that performs and feels like any other shoe.” Reebok’s new cotton and corn sneaker is the only one on the market with 75% USDA certified biobased content.
Adidas has teamed up with the ocean charity Parley to use plastic waste found in oceans to create a range of sportswear, including trainers. Adidas has been supporting Parley’s initiatives since 2015, including their pioneering creative eco-innovations such as Parley Ocean Plastic® to help fight marine plastic pollution. And this month Parley was awarded the Special Recognition Award for Innovation by the UK’s Fashion Awards 2018. The award recognised Parley’s commitment to highlighting the devastating effects of plastic on our environment and through collaborations, working with designers to reinvent the way in which products can be made and designed in order to turn a global problem into an opportunity, to protect our oceans. I tried the stylish navy blue and white Ultraboost Parley, a running shoe that’s lightweight yet has generous cushioning. This product is created partly from yarn from Parley Ocean Plastic™ made from recycled waste, intercepted from beaches and coastal communities before it reaches the ocean. Each new Ultraboost Parley saves approximately 11 plastic bottles from entering the ocean. In 2018 the aim is to produce five million pairs of shoes from Parley Ocean Plastic.
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