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Art of Style

How to shop more sustainably

Dress Mother of Pearl

You’ve given up plastic straws, watched every one of the Parley documentaries and now you want to build a more ethical closet. But how? Here’s a starter-for-ten on what to look out for, what questions to ask and how to decode everything from organic denim to vegan leather


What is it made from?

From big-hitting brands to emerging names, innovative and pioneering labels are developing new fabrics that give you the look you’re after but with minimal environmental impact. Thanks to hi-tech advances, you can find materials including animal-friendly vegan ‘leathers’ and faux furs (Stella McCartney; Nanushka), as well as fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles (Veja) and discarded fishing nets (Sophie Anderson).

Stella McCartney’s eyewear collection made with bio-acetate, composed of over 50% natural sources. Sunglasses Stella McCartney
Nicholas Kirkwood’s mules are crafted from rhubarb-tanned leather, rated as one of the most innovative materials on the market. Mules Nicholas Kirkwood

Who’s making it?

Another way to shop with a conscience is to find companies committed to supporting the communities and cooperatives that they work with. LemLem’s dresses, for example, are handwoven by local women in Ethiopia and the label’s foundation works to improve the healthcare and economic opportunities of women across Africa. Carcel’s bags use locally sourced material and are made by women in prisons. Which brings us neatly to…

Where are they making it?

It’s worth considering the air miles involved in producing your latest purchase: ideally you want pieces that are put together as close as possible to where the fabric that they’re made from is harvested and produced. The smaller the geographical area in which the whole process takes place, the smaller the environmental impact of what you wear.

Loeffler Randall aims to partner with women’s cooperatives around the world every season. Bag Loeffler Randall

Who should be on your radar?

Creating a 100% sustainable and ethical label is a gargantuan task when you factor in the amount of people and processes involved, but many brands are doing their best to get there. Mara Hoffman has been working hard since 2015 to use responsibly sourced or recycled materials, as well as working with organizations to make the label as sustainable as possible. Veja makes socially responsible sneakers from environmentally sound, chemical-free cotton and rubber, while British footwear designer Nicholas Kirkwood has created a range of mules using rhubarb-tanned leather, rated as one of the most innovative materials on the market. Life without denim is unthinkable, but all jeans are not created equally: look to the likes of Mother of Pearl and M.i.h Jeans, who have both launched denim capsules made from organic cotton and processed using the minimum amount of water possible.

The model featured in this story is not associated with NET-A-PORTER and does not endorse it or the products shown.