I love fashion, but I’m not so hot on what it does to the planet. Supporting eco-conscious brands is a core part of my money manifesto, so I love discovering new labels and I especially love it when they’re not yet a household name. Here are a few of the brands you might not yet have on your radar – but definitely should if you’re building a more sustainable closet.
Melbourne designer Jasmine Gescheit launched her leisure-meets-active wear label Jasmine Alexa in 2017.
“At that stage, everything on the market was very sports specific and ‘hi-tech’ looking, and marketed around being ‘faster’, ‘fitter’, ‘better’ etc,” Gescheit says. “I wanted a brand that spoke to my values – about slowing down and embracing who we are, flaws and all, and being the best version of ourselves.”
Managing to do bold and bright while remaining sophisticated and luxe, the brand uses organic cotton, recycled polyester and the revolutionary regenerated nylon ECONYL®, and minimises waste by doing everything in knitwear. The brand tackles consumerism with a focus on seasonless and trendless design, with all collections thoughtfully created to match with previous collections.
The brand has just launched Collection 7, which Gescheit describes as a homage to her mixed Moroccan, Hungarian and Australian heritage, recalling rich spices, textural carpets and textiles, and the contrasting colours of the sea against the countryside.
“Expect to see more colour, more diversity and a more authentic voice,” she says of upcoming collections.
Tessa Carroll launched A_C Official in 2018, introducing sustainable and cruelty-free handbags to
disrupt the global accessories market. Since then it has pioneered the use of sustainable materials in fashion.
“Sustainability doesn’t have to be sacrificed for style,” Carroll says. “And I don’t believe it is enough to ask for conscious consumption if the designer themselves is not taking responsibilty for how a product is made. The circular economy is a non-negotiable in my design journey, ensuring the product has a place to go even at the end of its life.”
Eco-conscious materials aside, the brand offers a Recycle, Repurpose and Repair program, prolonging the
life of a product as well as an on-demand pre-order discount and production model, to ensure it doesn’t over-produce an accessory that won’t sell.
“Our recent collection is titled ‘Sankalpa’, meaning ‘intention’,” Carroll says. “Intention is what governs our
business from design through to operations and ensures we are living by our values. This year we are working with yet another innovative textile and have a range of gender neutral pieces in the works!”
When designer Eloise Panetta dropped ‘In Bloom’ late last year, we sat up and paid attention. The evolving collection of beautiful and thoughtful pieces made to order features one of a kind botanically dyed silk textiles, dresses, luscious silk camis, blouses and skirts.
“My love for fashion design, sewing and pattern making started early on in life, having learnt most of my skills from my grandmother as a child,” says Panetta. “In 2015, I started creating really special bespoke pieces for clients, which has naturally evolved into my brand as it is renowned for today.
“My approach to design has always been one of intention, with a deep respect for the natural world. My business was founded on values of quality, craftswomanship and sustainability, operating on a made to order model, where we have zero product wastage. Being resourceful and adopting a thoughtful approach to creating is definitely a quality I inherited from my beautiful grandmother.”
CEACEA designs with women with active lifestyles who move between land and water, aiming to minimise the need to buy different items for yoga, running and the surf. Think sports bras that double as an active bikini.
Most interestingly about the brand’s approach to sustainability is the use of sublimation printing, which doesn’t use or contaminate water (the very thing it wants its wearers to enjoy). The brand also donates to Action Aid for every item sold, and says no to single use plastic, even when receiving its garments from its manufacturer.
The brand’s latest collection features leggings and shorts with pockets, surf suits and crop rashes for sun protection and, of course, cute bikinis, in gingham, floral and dog tooth prints with solid colours to allow for mixing and matching. Expect future collections to feature nude tones and the brand’s first ever 2mm spring suit.
For an understated global-meets-romantic vibe, check out the very new Sydney label ILIO NEMA, founded by Ariane Leondaridis and Katia Kelso. Both of Greek heritage, they met when they worked in New York as Design Director and Production Director respectively for Ulla Johnson.
Their ethos is to counteract trend-based consumption by reintroducing timeless and traditional craftsmanship to modern life, working with artisan communities in Delhi and Marrakech to showcase traditional practices that have been long overlooked by the fast fashion industry.
Traditional handlooms, beading, shibori technique, block print and basket weaving are present in their collection, with an emphasis on sustainable fabrics and manufacturing (the first collection uses handloomed cotton and ‘remnant’ fabrics that would have gone to landfill), and an ethical supply chain.
“Our desire is to preserve items of fashion as heirlooms to be loved forever,” says co-founder Ariane Leondaridis. “We believe strongly in circular fashion and that rather than easily discarding clothes, we should be more willing to care and repair.
“Moving away from the traditional fashion calendar, the pieces are designed to be worn year-round with style drops occurring in cooperation with the artisanal communities.”