When I started at Rubicon, I knew very little about the influence that sustainability has, especially in the various facets of our everyday lives. I embraced the challenge of attempting to introduce sustainable actions into my daily routine, empowering eco-conscious brands, and thinking twice before a lot of the mindless “recycling” decisions I used to make.
I’ve spent the last several months researching and reporting on the realm of sustainability as a whole. In that time, I’ve been fascinated with the theme of ethical and environmental responsibility. It’s evident when looking at how it has overlapped into several of my own personal passions. With iconic Fashion Week around the corner, I was eager to explore the exciting and innovative world of sustainable clothing and highlight some of the pioneers of this inspiring movement.
One of the biggest problems plaguing our planet is landfills.
Textile pollution alone is a serious issue, not to mention a repeat offender. The Council for Textile Recycling explains that on average, a single person throws away ~70 pounds of clothing per year in the United States. If you do the math, that’s an alarming 21 billion pounds of clothing that ends up in an American landfill, every year.
But what is “sustainable fashion” exactly?
Before I embarked on this investigative journey, I was under the impression that “sustainable fashion” simply meant burlap sacks and Birkenstocks and I can confidently admit just how wrong I was. Creating beautiful, durable, and responsible fashion is an art-form in itself, and it needs to be celebrated!
Below are four fashion industry influencers that are at the forefront of creating alternatives that are not just for environmentally conscious consumers, but for everyone.
Let’s do some good and look good doin’ it:
1. Natalie Chanin
Natalie Chanin is not only a visionary, but the brains behind sustainable fashion powerhouse, Alabama Chanin.
One of the most celebrated sustainable brands this side of the Mason-Dixon, Chanin’s Florence, Alabama compound has become a safe-haven for local patrons of the zero-waste fashion movement. Chanin got her start by selling one-of-a-kind reconstructed shirts at Fashion Week. After successfully selling out of her “eco-chic” designs, Chanin planted her roots in her hometown of Florence where she began salvaging materials in the hope of creating gorgeous garments. Chanin was focused on creating by-hand designs with an emphasis on community fashion using recycled and reusable textiles.
With a sense of responsibility in every aspect of her business, Chanin has hired an incredible team of local seamstresses to bring her designs to life. In addition to her retail store, the Alabama Chanin kingdom also includes her design studio, manufacturing facility, workshop space, machine manufacturing center, and café. The café boasts a local and organic menu with sourced ingredients. Each recipe is treated with the same care as the designs housed under the same roof.
The muse of musician Roseanne Cash, a Council of Fashion Designers of America nominee, and a community leader, Natalie Chanin has grown her fashion empire like she grows everything else…with love.
2. Daniel Silverstein
Brooklyn’s Daniel Silverstein made a name for himself when he took a unique approach to sustainable fashion and began turning a trend into something much more tantalizing.
Silverstein’s label, targeted toward the upper echelon, successfully transformed sustainable into sexy. With high-end, zero-waste gowns worn by A-list celebrities and influencers, Silverstein achieved the near-impossible – creating custom couture from recycled textiles and sewing room scraps.
After a period of self-reflection and reinvention, Daniel Silverstein emerged as “Zero Waste Daniel” and opened his new workshop/retail space ZWD in Williamsburg, New York. The workshop aspect of the retail location is uniquely empowering, as customers can create their own custom designs on the spot. The shop is filled with colorful and one-of-a-kind t-shirts with famous faces on them created from certified textile scraps. The clothing itself is striking and is sure to turn heads in all 5 boroughs.
In addition to his storefront, ZWD’s resume also boasts the creation of the “ReRoll” technique. Called the “fabric of the future”, Silverstein’s ReRoll ultimately recreates original fabrics and goods made from material leftovers. This alternative method for standard fashion practices has saved several thousand pounds of fabric pollution from ending up in local landfills.
ZWD has taken his show on the road, driven by his mission to teach future designers and sustainable fashion students how to cultivate clothing from cutting-room cans.
Daniel Silverstein is living proof that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
3. Brian Linton
Young entrepreneur Brian Linton has turned his passion for ocean conservancy into a lifestyle and apparel brand that is receiving a lot of recent attention.
Linton’s brand, United By Blue, is an outdoor brand of apparel and accessories anchored to the ideas of environmental conservation and ocean clean-up. Growing up in Asia, Linton quickly developed a relationship with the water and all of the creatures that call it home. UBB’s mission is clear: for every item sold, UBB clears one pound of trash by hand from American waterways As the company continues to grow rapidly, so too do its trash removal. In fact, UBBS’ trash removal model has removed over 200,000 pounds of trash from various water sources since inception.
UBB is also a certified B Corp, which means that Linton and his staff are held to rigorous standards for social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
In addition to the values of the company, the quality of the product is also extremely impressive. T-shirts are made from 100% organic cotton, high quality, and sustainably sourced materials, and instead of traditional packaging, UBB uses compostable banana-fiber bags. With lines for both men and women and a bevy of stylish accessories and adventurous add-ons, United by Blue has firmly solidified its place in the sustainable fashion space.
4. Griffin Vanze
Griffin Vanze, founder of sustainable clothing start-up Aeon Row, has created a sustainable solution aimed at freeing up closet space. The process is quite simple: when you order a piece of Aeon Row, you pull something out of your current closet and send it to them in the package your clothes came in. Once they receive your donation, they breathe life into the fabric and convert the cloth into new pieces in the collection. Vanze and his team at Aeon Row are dedicated to keeping your textiles out of the trash. In addition to incentivizing consumers to repurpose their clothing, you get a significant discount on a future order for participating in the program! The idea is inspired.
Vanze’s background at a nonprofit in the environmental sector helped him create a line of clothing that is actively closing the loop on the circular economy. In addition to utilizing the recycled scraps and fibers, Aeon Row also creates their chic line of basics from polyester (PET) found in recycled water bottles. The effort is bi-coastal, as the fabric is made on the west coast and sewn/cut in Massachusetts. Not only is the material more sustainable and durable than most, it’s also more affordable – for both company and consumer. The t-shirts and dresses are simple in design with fashionable details, built for all-day wear, and meant to ultimately be recycled back into the industry. Vanze hopes to start a revolution of companies that empower the public to become more conscious customers and value-driven buyers.
Editor Note: References made to businesses/companies in this post are not meant to convey endorsement by Rubicon of those companies in any way.