By Laura Fairbourn
Sustainable fashion is a growing industry which aims to produce high-end, on-trend clothing from recycled or sustainable materials. Its rise in popularity has meant there is even an Eco Fashion Week held in Seattle and Vancouver! American designers are the trendsetters in this emerging market, and NYC is understandably the hub for these forward thinking creatives. In NYC, you can find sustainable clothing everywhere from the major labels to small boutiques and designers. Make sure you have some space in your suitcase because once you visit these stores you won’t be able to resist investing in some new clothes!
Bhoomki is all about supporting traditional artisans, endangered textile production methods, fair wages and ethical working conditions, while using organic or recycled fabrics and materials. Their in-house line is primarily manufactured in NYC using low-impact dyes, and they also stock items from local designers and international artisans who adhere to their strict working guidelines. When combined, the result is high-quality, unique clothing that is ethical and has a low-impact on the environment.
Another Brooklyn boutique, Kaight, is also promoting ethical fashion in their community. They support the slow fashion movement and their products are designed to be worn and loved for many years. As soon as you step inside the store, you will see gorgeous clothes on cardboard hangers with labels showing they are locally made, fair trade, or made from reclaimed fibers. Don’t leave without checking out their handbags!
The Reformation is a larger company, with stores in NYC and LA as well as online. Their clothes are fashionable and well-made, with most of their products manufactured in their LA factory. They favour sustainable or vintage fabrics and every piece comes with tracking information which shows the environmental impact of the clothing as well as sustainable garment care instructions. Now you can pick your clothing based on carbon dioxide, water or waste savings – it’s the way of the future!
As soon as you start researching sustainable fashion, one name will always keep popping up – Eileen Fisher. When the first Eileen Fisher store opened in the 1980s, no one could have predicted that her business would grow into an international empire with sustainability at the core of its business model. Today, there are six Eileen Fisher stores in NYC alone (Columbus Circle, Flatiron District, Midtown, Soho, Upper East Side and Upper West Side), meaning you don’t have to look far to find some of her simple and classic designs.
What sets Eileen Fisher apart from other brands, is the company’s emphasis on community. They have a Director of Social Consciousness who organizes clothing drives, monitors local supply chains and supports female-owned businesses through a grant program. If you want to see how companies should be doing business, look no further than Eileen Fisher.
Coclico brings European luxury footwear to NYC all the way from their family-run factory in Spain. Coclico partners with artisans and producers with sustainability at the centre of their business. Each pair of shoes is carefully constructed from renewable components such as natural wood and cork. In addition to their high environmental standards, Coclico has one small factory where they are able to maintain and promote best labor practices. Luckily, you don’t have to travel to Spain to get your hands on a pair of Coclico designs — their NYC headquarters is in the heart of Little Italy.
It is one thing to implement sustainable and ethical practices in your clothing designs, but quite another to actively promote and educate about the benefits of this practice. Tara St James is taking sustainable fashion to the next level and bringing a new generation of designers with her. Study NY challenges your ideas about design with her conceptual, sustainable designs. She often collaborates with international artisans, particularly in sourcing some of the materials (e.g. Peruvian alpaca wool), and then designs, cuts and sews these designs in NYC. Study NY can be purchased online or in a number of small NYC boutiques, such as Kaight and Bhoomki.
Founded in 2012, VOZ is an ethical luxury fashion company aiming to protect and promote the cultural values of indigenous women. VOZ is a collaboration between indigenous artisans around the world who have previously been economically and politically marginalised. Through their rural artisan education centres, women are given training and design leadership that allows them to create incredible fashion collections. In their pieces, you can see the culture and history of Mapuche artisans from Chile, Puno designers from Peru, and Tangail weavers from India. Their designs are available for online purchase or by visiting a NYC stockist (Albertine, The Rising States, ABC Home and Carpet, Jill Lindsay and Swords-Smith).
Freedom of Animals
Freedom of Animals is a NYC-based sustainable and cruelty-free bag line that aims to provide an eco-friendly alternative to consumers in market for their next luxury bag. Using polyurethane and organic cotton, their bags provide a look and feel similar to leather without harming any animals. Their products adhere to high environmental standards and each piece is produced in ethically run factories in the USA. When purchasing one of their bags, you might notice that they all have names such as Veronika and Melia Lia. Well these aren’t random names, but instead are named after orphaned elephants that have been brought to their partner organisation, The Sheldrick Foundation. Currently, these bags are only available for purchase online.
New York City is known for fashion innovations and cutting-edge designs, but it is the growing rise of sustainable fashion designers that sets the city apart from its European counterparts. While exploring the city, make sure you take the time to visit some of these small boutiques to pick up some new sustainable pieces for your wardrobe.