It takes effort, but canny fashionistas can reduce the industry's undeniable impact on the planet by consciously making sustainable 'slow' choices, says Carmen Haigh

With many of us seeking to overhaul our shopping habits in favour of a more earth-friendly approach, it can be difficult to understand whether the brands we’re purchasing from truly are ‘sustainable’, or whether we are victims of ‘green washing’ – a marketing tactic which sees some companies jumping on the sustainability bandwagon and advertising their products as eco-friendly, when actually their unethical practices behind-the-scenes would suggest otherwise.

Undoubtedly, one of the worst offenders for immoral practices and carbon emissions is fashion, and it can be a tricky industry to navigate when trying to ‘go green’. With the high street offering such a wide range of choice and at an enticingly affordable rate, it becomes easy to overlook the independent boutiques and local designers which are perhaps charging a little more for their garments. However, one of the most sustainable ways for us to shop is to support small and local businesses, particularly those who operate a transparent business model and endeavour to be as ethical and eco-conscious as possible in all areas of manufacturing – from the fabrics they work with, to the people they employ and materials they package in.

Luckily, Scotland is home to an abundance of such companies, who identify as ‘slow’ in the face of fast fashion and all its harmful excesses. Instead, they preach less waste, better quality, longevity and lasting love – of both the planet and our wardrobes. We meet some of the Scottish fashion labels making a difference…

Laura Ironside

HeraldScotland:

Offering up sumptuous bias-cut silks and softly draped chiffons which flatter the feminine form, Glasgow-based designer Laura Ironside’s namesake brand is as considerate to the earth as it is covetable.

As part of the brand’s commitment to ‘slow’ fashion, Laura Ironside’s designs are produced locally using strictly natural fabrics such as silk and certified organic cotton. By working to a pre-order model, too, no unnecessary waste is incurred, and any leftover off-cuts are reworked into luxurious accessories. The brand also offers a rental service to encourage a more circular approach to fashion.

Unlike big high street names – whose scale of seasonal offerings has ramped up over recent years so that we are now bombarded by new ‘collections’ on a weekly basis – Laura Ironside release small, carefully considered collections called ‘Edits’, which form the brand’s ongoing, core range. “We learn from customer demand and adapt the edits according to feedback,” explains Ironside. “[Sustainability] is so important to me, because I think if you’re putting out new products into the world, you need to be mindful of the impact you’re having on the environment and the people living in it.”

lauraironside.com

Love & Squalor

HeraldScotland:

Founded in 2017 by Rebecca Coyle, Love & Squalor is a clothing brand with a conscience. When it comes to its creations, the brand prioritises long-lasting, timeless styles for women of diverse ages, shapes and sizes. All of Love & Squalor’s pieces are designed and made in-house using natural, biodegradable fibres including cotton, linen, and wool.

“For us, sustainability means longevity,” says Founder Coyle, who is passionately opposed to the throwaway nature of fast fashion. “Our pieces are built to last. By designing garments that aren’t trend-led and suit women of all ages, I hope that our pieces will be worn and cherished for years to come. I am inspired by workwear and love the idea that clothing can look better the more it’s worn.”

loveandsqualor.co.uk

Kestin

HeraldScotland:

Following 20 years of working with various renowned fashion houses in London, designer Kestin Hare returned to his hometown of Edinburgh to embark on a lifelong dream – to create his own fashion label. He launched his eponymous brand in 2015 and has since wowed his loyal client base and new customers alike with his innovative, high-quality menswear.

Manufacturing items as ethically and environmentally friendly as possible is at the core of the brand’s ethos, reflected by its commitment to premium quality fabrics and pieces which are designed to last, as well as its choice to work with UK and European craftspeople and factories, of whom the brand meet with regularly, while operating a fully transparent supply chain.

“We think of ourselves as a ‘responsible’ brand, rather than ‘sustainable’, which we feel is too broad a term,” explains Hare’s wife and business partner Gemma, who is the brand’s Director. “This keeps us focused on ensuring all aspects of our brand are reflecting the highest standards, from supply and environment to longevity.”

Kestin have recently introduced an exciting ‘archive exchange’ option, which encourages circularity by allowing customers to swap their pre-loved Kestin pieces for a shop voucher, with plans for special annual archive sales on the horizon.

kestin.co

Isolated Heroes

HeraldScotland:

Known for its quirky, colourful approach and statement sequinned pieces, Isolated Heroes is a fashion label with a steadily growing list of celebrity admirers, including the likes of pop icons Miley Cyrus, Paloma Faith and Pixie Lott. In spite of all the hype, though, the Dundee-based brand has got its feet firmly on the ground – with a pledge to put the earth first in all they do.

The brand has a zero-waste approach, meaning that all pieces are handmade in small batches or on a made-to-order basis, and any scrap pieces of fabric are made into face coverings and other accessories.

“We are educating our team and consumers on their purchases - providing transparency in terms of where their garment was made, who made it, and what it is made from,” explains Samantha Paton, Managing Director and Founder of the brand. “Sustainable fashion doesn’t need to mean boring styles, huge prices and dull fabric choices. We believe looking and feeling like a Sass Queen shouldn’t have to harm the planet!”

isolated-heroes.com

Rosana Expósito

HeraldScotland:

For me, sustainability means aiming to build a new type of fashion business by finding alternative ways of working and avoiding wasteful practices that have been in place in our industry for years,” explains Scottish-Spanish Rosana Expósito. Her label offers handmade knitwear, workwear-inspired classics and experimental pieces using organic, natural materials, and a mending and alteration service, to encourage people to repurpose and care for the items they already own. Reclaimed and vintage fabrics also play a significant role in the brand’s eco-conscious approach, with Expósito disclosing how she sources leftover ‘dead stock’ fabric from mills and bigger brands, which would traditionally be sent to landfill.

“One of the main rules that I established when launching the brand was to avoid the mainstream fashion standard of releasing a new collection every season, as I do not want to encourage overconsumption,” says the Glasgow-based designer. “Instead, we release a couple of designs organically throughout the year, only when we feel especially excited about something or if we see a specific need for it.”

rosanaexposito.com

Meander

HeraldScotland:

With a core range of timeless garments designed to withstand the wear and tear of everyday adventures, Meander is a great choice if you love all things outdoors, while also looking to lessen your impact on the planet. The brand was co-founded by husband-and-wife team, Jill and Steve Henry, who have channelled their love for nature into an eco-friendly fashion line for both men and women.

“Jill and I are both outdoor lovers, and so wanting to look after nature came naturally to us,” explains Steve Henry. “I used to be a scuba diving instructor and have a huge passion for all sea life and animals. In my career, I’ve been lucky enough to explore some of the most beautiful parts of the world. It’s heartbreaking to witness first-hand the impact we are having on some of these places. You don’t have to be an expert to know that the fashion industry is responsible for causing a lot of damage to the environment.”

Amongst their offering is a parka made entirely from recycled plastic bottles, and T-shirts and sweaters which utilise smart anti-odour technology – ensuring less washing, which lessens the impact of a garment on the environment significantly.

meanderapparel.com

XI Atelier

HeraldScotland:

Sophie Chen, designer and Founder of XI Atelier, works from her small studio in Glasgow to produce a range of conscious, minimalist clothing in natural fabrics for women and men – sometimes combining both masculine and feminine styles for a fluid, contemporary feel.

Chen considers a garment’s ‘wearability’ to be a key aspect of sustainable fashion design, and so much of her collection is extremely versatile, encompassing pieces which can be styled or worn in multiple ways. “In this way, garments can outlive just one short trend or season, and can create different looks for various occasions all year round,” says Chen. “It enables you to wear the same garment repeatedly, thus saving you money in the long run. This ethos also reduces waste in clothing consumption in general.” The brand also adds an extra seam allowance on trouser waistbands to allow for flexibility and easy future alterations if necessary.

xiatelier.com