Before the turn of the 21st century, the term “fast fashion” was largely unheard of. It was Spanish high street retailer Zara who became renowned for slashing heady production times from months to mere weeks back in the early 00s. In fact, whilst most retailers were working to seasonal releases every nine months, this household name had begun churning out collections every week.
Fast-forward twenty years or so and it looks as though fast fashion has started to lose its shiny, convenient veneer: as consumers become more informed about climate issues and the manufacturing conditions in which their products are made.
Whilst ecommerce retailers such as Boohoo and FashionNova release thousands of new products each week, even those with their feet firmly in Camp Mass-Production have introduced sustainability lines and eco-friendly initiatives.
As consumers begin to move into more ethical purchasing behaviours, so too do we see a rise in brands whose foundations are built around social and/or environmental change. These brands strive to create slower-made products from sustainable, recyclable or organic materials in a bid to reduce overall consumption, by encouraging customers to instead curate capsule wardrobes.
Here are three European brands looking to do just that:
Mimicry by Ankaa
A collaboration between Berlin-based fashion brand Mimicry and Athens organisation ANKAA Project, Mimicry by Ankaa is a multi-faceted model that targets job creation for migrants and the recycling of materials (their bags are constructed from abandoned migrant boats that wash up on Athens’ shores).
3% of profits from their bag sales go towards funding for the Greek Islands’ initiative, which upskills and employs refugees within the region. The discarded boats from Chios and Lesbos Island are dismantled to retrieve the durable rubber, which is then upcycled into waterproof, everyday bags.
With items retailing between €35-€140 – with a 1–2-week turnaround time – the brand offers a range of accessories from pencil cases to innovative satchel-backpack hybrids.
Human Material Loop
Did you know that hair has a strength-to-weight ratio comparable to steel? This is something that Dutch fashion student Zsofia Kollar discovered when she decided to explore the possibilities of using discarded human hair as an organic clothing material.
Kollar told Euronews Green that “In Europe, 72 million kg of human hair waste is generated” every year, contributing to landfills unnecessarily. Sourcing her material by collecting hair cuttings from local hairdressers, Kollar’s endeavours continue to tap into a more environmentally friendly production line—however, the yarn currently used for designs is produced at a spinning mill in Italy.
Human Material Loop is looking to go that one step further by eventually moulding the manufacturing process to omit international suppliers and processors: operating as a closed loop system. Kollar envisages a plan “to have all the material produced locally”, whereby hair that is too short will be used to spin the yarn and be repurposed as a natural fertiliser, as it provides nitrogen for the plants when it decomposes.
Presently, there has only been one jumper prototype created for Human Material Loop, based on knit designs by Amsterdam designer Li Jiahao, but the website calls for collaborations and new business. Watch this space.
Organic, ‘Salt of the Earth’ materials are tantamount to sustainability values, and Epidotte’s product offering—which centres around paper, hemp and cotton – embodies this fully in its lifestyle brand.
Producing a range of clean-living items – from home and office accessories to luggage bags – this Turkish brand founded in 2017 uses recycled ‘fabrics’ to build its collections. Most of its bag category consists of washable paper exterior designs with hemp-lined inners, all claiming to get “better with every wash”.
With bags starting from €19 and ranging up to €238, the brand offers price points to suit hesitant newcomers and environmental diehards alike.
As it stands, the sustainability industry is valued by the ING Group at €16bn, making it not only a better option from the perspective of global impact, but an increasingly lucrative one at that. In turn, consumers will hopefully experience a natural shift in focus from their favourite brands to more ethical endeavours, as new innovative methods and materials move into the retail mainstream.