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Top 10: Sustainable fashion brands and initiatives

It has been estimated that the value of unused clothing in wardrobes could be as much as £30 billion, with further estimates suggesting £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year. With shopping predicted to rise, fuelled by our obsession for ‘fast fashion’, the future can feel very bleak.

Happily, there does seem to be a growing trend to question where our clothes come from and where they will end up. More and more businesses are embracing a circular economy — one which tries to design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use for longer and transition to renewable energy sources.

But as ‘sustainability’ becomes a buzzword, banded around with impunity, it can feel impossible to know which companies genuinely care.

Here are the initiatives we think it’s worth getting excited about…

Photography by Stella McCartney

Ethical Fashion Initiative

‘Not charity. Just work.’ This is the mantra of the UN’s initiative, which connects artisans from the developing world with top international fashion brands. The goal is to radically reform the fashion industry by guaranteeing good working conditions, a liveable wage and a minimal impact on the environment. They monitor and produce data to demonstrate the social impact, sustainability and traceability of the fashion goods they produce.

Ellen McArthur foundation

The charity was founded in 2010 “to accelerate the transition to a circular economy”. It focuses on five core areas: learning, business & government, insight & analysis, systematic initiatives and communication. The Ellen McArthur foundation has become a global thought leader and champion of the circular economy through programmes and initiatives in partnership with business, government and academia.

Common Objective

Individuals and businesses are being invited to complete an online profile with their needs and skills, in order to be matched with resources and potential collaborators. Businesses will be ranked depending on their ethical, sustainability and quality standards. The goal is to support “fashion people to do business better”, recognising that if done well, the fashion industry can provide jobs and long lasting, beautiful products.

Petit Pli

An extreme lightweight, durable outer layer of children’s clothing that is designed to grow with your child and can span up to seven sizes (from 4–36 months). Founded by aeronautical-engineer Ryan Yasin in 2017, the clothing range is the ultimate fusion of fashion and technology. The trousers and jacket combo are designed to be worn over a layer of clothing; they are rainproof and breathable, with an origami structure that makes them extremely agile. The clothing range is still being developed but has already won numerous awards. You are invited to sign up and become part of the testing and evaluation of this product.

Photography by Petit Pli

The Youth Fashion Summit, Copenhagen

The YFS has partnered with the Copenhagen School of Design and Technology to develop a two year sustainability programme. The top fashion students accepted onto the programme will be challenged to come up with practical fashion solutions to tackle the sustainable development goals put forward by the UN Global Compact, more specifically the goals of ensuring healthy lives and achieving gender equality.

Patagonia Action Works

“The cure for depression is action” Yvon Chouinad, Founder of Patagonia

You might know them best for the outdoor clothing range committed to sustainability and industry innovation. However for over forty years Patagonia has been supporting grassroots activists to force governments and corporations to take action to solve environmental problems. Now they have developed Patagonia Action Works to connect individuals and organisations within communities. Through the digital platform you can find out about local events, sign petitions, find volunteering opportunities and donate money to local causes.

Stella McCartney

Stella’s illustrious reputation should be clear proof that you can be at the top of your game as a fashion designer, without using animal products. The four pillars of her fashion empire are respect for nature, respect for animals, respect for people and circular solutions. Fur-free-fur, vegetarian leather, regenerated cashmere and recycled nylon and polyester are just part of her cruelty free, sustainable portfolio. She also invests heavily in biotechnology to manufacture products like animal free silk and wool, which should offer a viable alternative to traditional animal products once they can be produced at scale.


Founded by Livia Firth, Eco-Age is a specialist sustainability consultancy that work with businesses to develop their social and environmental practises. They offer expertise in the supply chain and manufacture of products, as well as marketing, PR and brand strategy. Eco-Age is helping to create a culture which celebrates sustainability in fashion, underpinned by their Green Carpet Challenge. The GCC is a brandmark that guarantees “sustainable excellence”, confirming a brand’s commitment to sustainability across a number of social and environmental principles.


No more darning your socks, patching your pants and sewing buttons back onto your shirts! Silfir are offering an end-to-end care service for your clothes, fixing your favourite items with as many orginal parts as possible, to ensure you get the maximum wear out of them. Their limited stock is carefully sourced to ensure high standards of production and you are invited into their Berlin based shop to try before you buy.

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Winners of H&M Global Change Award

Global Change Award is an innovation challenge initiated by H&M Foundation, aiming to address fashion waste head on. The awards are designed to harvest the best of new technology and innovation, by offering grants and workshops to support early stage businesses that are rethinking and redesigning the fashion industry. Recent winners include Crop-a-Porter, who transform food crop waste into biofibre, and Squid Style, which uses the self-healing characteristics in squid genes to create fabric which is biodegradable and 100% recyclable.

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