How These Mainstream Designers Are Getting Green

FashionGood Fun

Written by: Paula Stefanini

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The need for sustainability in fashion is undeniable, and even some of the biggest names in the business are rocking the runways with eco-wear. Here are what some of the most notable designers have been up to:

Before she started her own animal-friendly design house, Stella McCartney was the creative director of Chloe, but she’s always been committed to the cause. The designer is focused on environmental responsibility and features a line of eco-friendly products. Some of the company’s eco-credentials are: never testing products on animals, requiring documentation from wool suppliers stating humane mulesing practices, and not using any types of leathers, skins or furs. “For me, it’s about the basic principles: sustainability is important, as is recycling,” Stella McCartney says. “Everyone can do simple things to make a difference, and every little bit really does count. It’s really the job of fashion designers now to turn things on their head in a different way, and not just try to turn a dress on its head every season.”

The ‘Toit du Monde’ stole by Hermès is made of yak wool, a sustainable alternative to cashmere and one of the softest and most valuable wools in the world. Hand woven by nomads on Tibetan plateaus, these shawls create new opportunities in an area regarded as uncultivable, and where yaks have supported people for centuries by providing them with everything from milk to fuel.

Working towards a future where fashion “both looks good and does good,” H&M has released eco-friendly collections in the past and is committed to providing fashion to conscious customers by choosing responsible partners, being ethical, and reusing and recycling resources. “At H&M, we have set ourselves the challenge of ultimately making fashion sustainable and sustainability fashionable.” Karl-Johan Persson, CEO at H&M says. “We want to help people express their personality and feel proud of what they wear. I’m very excited to see the progress we’ve made so far and how this will help us to make you an even better offer – and create a more sustainable fashion future.”

The brand has initiated many practices to reduce the use of energy, water, chemicals and other materials in the apparel industry. In 2011, Levi’s incorporated ‘Water<Less’ techniques that reduce the amount of water used in garment finishing by up to 96 percent. In 2013, the development of a ‘water recycling and reuse’ program produced hundreds of thousands of pairs of jeans manufactured with 100 percent recycled water.

A partnership for good! Urban Outfitters offers a variety of sustainable products, from apparel to an Eco Friendly Fog Juice, and collaborates with Della, an LA-based company that works directly with communities in Ghana. “Della is socially responsible because we are not just employing people. We feel a responsibility to help our team members achieve their dreams. At a base level, we have helped all of our employees open saving accounts, do monthly money management courses with them, and also offer weekly literacy courses. We work closely with our partners to help them achieve their goals. We are more than a business, we are a family” says Tina Tangalakis, Founder and Creative Director at Della, in interview to AMMO Magazine.

American Apparel created a ‘Sustainable Edition’ label, featuring 100 percent organic cotton products. Another effort towards sustainability is American Apparel’s Vertical Integration, which reduces the company’s footprint by concentrating all manufacturing operations to a small circle of buildings in southern California, facilitating eco-friendly transportation. Their clothes are designed to produce a minimal amount of scraps and whatever is left over is reused in accessories such as scrunchies and hair bows.

Oscar De La Renta. The acclaimed designer featured an ivory bridal gown, made from 100 percent organic cotton tulle and hand-embroidered flowers, on the Runway to Green fashion show in 2011. De La Renta’s endeavors to make the world a better place started in 1982 when he established La Casa del Niño, a center that serves over 1,500 for underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic, his native country.


The Italian icon in high fashion has designed a variety of earth-conscious products including: compact sustainable packaging, bio-based sunglasses, bio-plastic shoes, zero deforestation bags and more. Frida Giannini, Gucci’s Creative Director, said in interview to Marie Claire, ”A brand like Gucci needs to set an example.” Besides its eco-friendly products Gucci started a partnership with UNICEF in 2005 and committed more than $12 million in support of the organization’s women’s and children’s programs in Africa and Asia. The company also collaborates with the Kering Corporate Foundation to combat violence against women.

Remember the Adidas Hemp shoes? The company was one of the first mainstream brands to incorporate hemp fabric to their line of products, almost 20 years ago. In an effort to be more green, Adidas has developed many environmental initiatives over the years: Better Place Apparel, a collection of sustainable products, Sustainable Footprint, for the recycling of old sports shoes, DryDye technology, a pioneering fabric dyeing process that uses no water and the use of a variety sustainable recycled materials.

Ralph Lauren took the initiative of collecting more than 19,000 pairs of used jeans and recycling them into green building insulation for use in Habitat for Humanity homes in the South Bronx and Hurricane Katrina–ravaged Mississippi. The brand also designed a reusable tote, made from 100 percent organic cotton, and designated its sales to be fully donated to the Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation, supporting the fight against cancer.

The Maison Louis Vuitton pledges to be green by following three principles: “Minimize the impact of our activities on the environment, create a collective willingness in and beyond the company, and get organized to guarantee our environment performance.” To do so, the company has adopted measures such as assessing its carbon footprint, reducing the consumption of energy in stores by 50 percent, optimizing transportation to reduce the emission CO2 and restricting losses of materials (leathers, coated canvases, textiles) due to designs, today recovering 60 percent of their leather scraps.

In 2011, Westwood launched the Ethical Fashion Africa collection, made from recyclable materials by underprivileged women in Kenya. On the brand’s Spring/Summer 2015 Gold Label show, the British designer will be supporting the ‘End Ecocide’ campaign, aimed at protecting the environment. Westwood says, “Ecocide is a way of killing all life on the planet eventually. So what we are trying to do is, to get people to acknowledge that it is a crime.”

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