Top 13 Sustainable Fashion Designers Making a Change in 2021

Top 13 Sustainable Fashion Designers Making a Change in 2021

Fashion is a billion-dollar industry that affects many people and animals. But, unfortunately, it's hard to find sustainable brands that make ethical, cruelty-free clothing.

So let's take a look at some of the best sustainable designers in 2021!

To make more sustainable fashion choices, it's important to know who is changing the industry.

There are many great designers out there that are changing the way we think about our clothes and how they affect our environment.

The fashion industry is one of the most wasteful industries in the world. The average person throws out 70 pounds of clothing every year, while only 12% is recycled due to fast fashion's low-cost production.

However, with sustainability at the forefront for many consumers, some designers are doing their part to make a difference in 2021. 

Are you looking to make a change in 2021? Maybe it's time for your wardrobe. Many sustainable fashion designers are making changes to help the environment with their clothing line.

This blog post will highlight some of these designers and their products!

If you're looking for sustainable fashion designers, these are the top in 2021. The list includes information about what each designer is known for and how they make sustainability a priority.

This will give you an idea of who to follow if you want to be involved in the latest trends while supporting sustainable fashion.

Sustainable fashion is a trend growing in popularity in the coming years, and designers are increasingly taking notice. With sustainability becoming more of a concern for consumers every day, sustainable brands are gaining momentum.

The following list highlights some of the most notable sustainable fashion designers making their mark on the industry in 2021.  

They promote "conscious consumption" through their mission statements or values, including reducing their environmental footprint or using recycled materials in production.

There is also a link to an article about how these designers are helping create solutions for climate change with their work. 

There are a lot of sustainable fashion designers out there making a change in the world today.

But, it can be hard to know which ones to support and who is worth your time, money, and energy. 

This blog post will help you find those sustainable designers that are changing the future for generations to come and provide you with tips on how to shop sustainably.

So if you're looking for an ethical purchase or want some inspiration from these top sustainability brands, we've compiled this list of our favourites!

Now it's not just about what you wear; it's about how your clothing impacts society as well. These top sustainable designers prove that style can be eco-friendly too!

Let's get started!

Sustainability

Sustainable clothing brands aren’t by any means a new phenomenon, but the global pandemic has forced us all to change our shopping habits and lifestyles, making them more in demand than ever.

Independent labels and designers alike are searching for ways to overproduce clothes that customers will be bored of next season, or worse, not sell and end up in a landfill.

But with so much sustainable fashion around, how to pick the right one, especially when so many are guilty of greenwashing?

I've created this little guide to help you, and you can scroll right down to the bottom to shop for my favourite labels.

What Does Sustainable Fashion Mean?

Sustainable fashion is a design philosophy and movement that promotes the environment and social responsibility. 

Sustainable fashion is defined as clothing, shoes, and other accessories manufactured and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic.

Popular parts of sustainable fashion include:

  • Ethical Fashion: Production, Working conditions, fair-trade
  • Circular Fashion: Recycling, Upcycling, Thrifting
  • Slow Fashion: Sharing, Renting,
  • Conscious Fashion: Eco-friendly, green fashion

1. Sustainable Clothing Brands

There are many ways in which the fashion industry impacts the environment and communities, from sourcing the fabrics to manufacturing, transport and right down to selling and recycling.

At this point, let’s be brutally honest, no brand is fully sustainable yet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a shift happening.

Many labels, big and small, are embedding sustainability in the way they design their clothes.

Bigger high-street chains are investing in more durable and sustainable fabrics and recycled packaging and transparency to hopefully offset the number of clothes they produce. 

We know not everyone can afford ethical labels, so having access to a good sustainable high-street t-shirt is still a step in the right direction.

2. Ethical Clothing Brands

There is a lot of confusion between the terms ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’, and while brands often try to address both concerns, the two aren’t the same. 

There are different ways to produce ethical clothing, and according to the Ethical Fashion Forum, they fall into three categories, social, environmental and commercial, specifically tackling these issues:

  • Countering fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption.
  • Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights, and supporting sustainable livelihoods
  • Addressing toxic pesticide and chemical use, using and developing eco-friendly fabrics and components
  • Minimising water use
  • Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
  • Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
  • Providing resources, training and awareness-raising initiatives
  • Protecting animal rights

How Eco-Friendly Fashion Designers Are Making A Change

  • This fashion approach reduces the number of microfibers released into the environment.
  • Reduces toxic waste and supports animal rights.
  • Clothes are distinct and unique.
  • This leads to less strain on the planet's resources as eco-friendly clothing is made through sustainable practices.
  • Eco-friendly fashion does not harm you.

More and more brands are making the transition to sustainable fashion. If you are also considering a change, or just looking to get inspired, let’s take a look at these designers:

1. Stella McCartney

When thinking of sustainable and ethical luxury fashion, Stella McCartney is the first name that comes to mind.

Since the launch of her fashion house in 2001, Stella has been one of the pioneers of eco-friendly, cruelty-free, inclusive, and ethical fashion. 

This designer is constantly exploring and experimenting with new sustainable materials and technology.

She uses organic cotton, ethically sourced wool, regenerated cashmere, recycled textiles while excluding fur and leather.

In addition, her stores use solar panels and LEDs for energy and recyclable materials for packaging.

Stella McCartney's latest Fall 2021 Ready-To-Wear collection centres on the hope of "a new beginning." Apart from her usual sustainability commitments, this collection tapped into fashion's transformative, escapist capabilities.

How sustainable is Stella McCartney?

Stella McCartney bases her sustainable fashion strategy on four fundamental pillars:

  1. Respect for nature: The designer protects the planet by sourcing as many sustainable materials as possible such as cashmere, organic cotton or fibres from the forest, i.e. viscose, which is traceable and sourced from renewable sources.
  1. Respect for people: From the farmers who grow the crops to the customer, Stella McCartney ensures a positive impact on all the people involved in the supply chain.
  1. Respect for animals: As a vegetarian brand, Stella McCartney promotes cruelty-free methods and treats animals and their habitats with respect.
  1. Circular Solutions: The brand follows the principles of circular fashion by using regenerative and restorative production methods.

2. Sandra Sandor

Sandra Sandor is the mind behind Nanushka, a label that finds its origins in Budapest, Hungary.

She doesn't use fur, down, exotic animal skin or angora, and recycled leather, wool, and animal hair. 

Starting from vegan leather and upcycled materials, she creates bags, dresses, and shirts for men and women.

Her unique and straightforward style reveals her love of nature, and it is taking the fashion world by storm.

Committed to Reducing its Carbon Footprint

Nanushka has implemented several sustainability initiatives that focus on protecting the planet and creating a better working environment for its workers. 

The company is continually searching and experimenting with new eco-friendly fabrics and upcycled materials while treating and paying its employees fairly.

Even though the brand is growing and expanding, 85% of the production still occurs in Hungary to maintain a low carbon footprint and transparent supply chain. 

Moreover, Sandra Sandor is sponsoring a Giving Back program to support non-profit organisations promoting this development in less fortunate world areas.

3. Eileen Fisher

We couldn’t make a sustainable fashion designer list without mentioning Eileen Fisher.

This eco-friendly designer is passionate about disrupting the linear production model and works in a circular model. 

She uses organic materials, natural dyes,” and recycles old textiles and garments that result in luxurious and sustainable clothing.

Fisher also went one step ahead by creating a dedicated social consciousness department within her company that addresses human rights, sustainability, and more.

Eileen Fisher Vision

The company had an ambitious 2020 vision that includes a set of public commitments such as a 100% sustainable business model, 100% organic cotton and linen, and being carbon positive. 

The company is on track to meet its target and continues to set targets for improvement. Its current vision, "Horizon 2030", aims to:

  • Expand on its circular fashion goals
  • Take business practices to achieve fair wages, gender equity, and caring culture in the communities throughout our supply chain.

4. Katie Jones

Katie Jones is a UK-based knitwear eco-friendly designer who incorporates playful aesthetics with serious ethics.

She puts sustainability into practice by embracing her grandmother’s vision of making something beautiful from nothing.

The ethical designer ensures that her designs address the issues of landfills and over-consumerism. Moreover, the brand also creates experiences that encourage social and environmental change.

Waste Not

Based on her approach "Waste Not", Jones uses unclaimed materials from apparel manufacturers. The sustainable designer and her team turn them into wearable artisanal collections that embrace colour, texture, and fun.

5. Spencer Phipps

Spencer Phipps started his career at Marc Jacobs as a part of the menswear design team. In 2017, he founded Phipps, which works on respect and curiosity for the natural world.

This ethical fashion brand explores the concept of environmental responsibility and sustainability in the realm of style.

Sustainability as an obligation, not a buzzword

Phipps takes sustainability as an obligation, not a buzzword. All products are made with integrity and created with consideration for the environment with eco-friendly materials and sustainable manufacturing processes. 

All packaging, from manufacturer to consumer, is 100% recyclable and plastic-free.

Conscious of its carbon footprint, Phipps keeps production mostly local, partnering with manufacturers in Portugal and Italy, where European law regulates pollutants and energy use. 

It also donates to environmental non-profits such as the USDA Forest Service and Oceanic Global to balance its environmental impact.

In addition, the brand audits its manufacturers internally to make sure that they meet ethical standards and fair labour conditions.

6. Mara Hoffman

New York-based Mara Hoffman designs women's clothing, including swimwear, made from pre and post-consumer waste. The brand aims to encourage customers to re-evaluate the relationship they have with their clothing.

An alternative approach to fashion

Hoffman uses an array of sustainable fabrics, including Repreve and Econyl, and fibrous plant-based materials such as organic linen and cotton. The Pre-fall 2021 collection It's cut in 100% organic cotton. 

The swimsuit versions are offered in a blend of recycled polyester with built-in UPF 50+ protection.

In addition, the brand uses compostable packaging and uses digital printing technology to reduce water use. 

On the human side, the brand works on a transparent relationship with suppliers and factories that provide safe working conditions and fair wages. It traces most of its supply chain and visits its suppliers regularly.

In 2020 and 2021, Hoffman's team decided not to produce the designed Fall 2020 collection and to sell existing inventory. As a result, they also had a smaller Spring 2021 collection.

7. Maggie Marilyn

From New Zealand, Maggie Marilyn is one of the most outstanding examples in the fashion industry’s effort to protect the planet.

All her collections are created with sustainable materials that are ethically sourced. 

Pieces are manufactured locally to reduce their carbon footprint. The brand visits its suppliers regularly, traces most of its supply chain, and ensures payment of a living wage.

Additionally, the brand went the extra mile of using cassava root bags when packaging orders.

Wear-Forever Pieces

Maggie Marilyn is actively promoting a circular lifecycle for clothes, allowing fashion items to last forever.

From the supply chain to the final product, every step of the process is monitored to ensure that it is ethical and sustainable. 

After their use, she can take back and recycle those pieces into something new. As she stated, "sustainability shouldn't be a luxury but something everybody can buy." Therefore, her collections start at a very reasonable price to give everybody a chance to experience her concept.

The brand's 2022 Sustainability Strategy plans to address circularity and regeneration issues and aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

8. Rag & Bone

Founded by Marcus Wainwright, Rag & Bone is a sustainable luxury label that redefines the urban style as it is all about local production and sustainability.

The brand initially launched as a denim label, and its beginnings were also rooted in a love for casual wear, including t-shirts and jeans.

The Denim Recycling Project

Later in 2017, the brand partnered with Cotton Inc’s Blue Jeans Go Green to start a denim recycling program.

Through the program, customers brought their old jeans to the brand stores for recycling in exchange for a 20 per cent discount on the purchase of full-price jeans from the brand. 

The denim is recycled and transformed into insulation for homes and civic-minded buildings around America after the donation. Plus, this new insulation material is environmentally safe, free of chemicals and carcinogenic warnings, and contains active mould and mildew inhibitors.

9. Hillary Taymour

Hillary Taymour is the mind behind Collina Strada.

The brand has become one of the most talked-about brands in New York over the past few seasons. 

In line with its commitment to an environmentally conscious design, Hillary Taymour is mainly using deadstock and leftover fabrics to create her collections.

Recently, she has partnered with The OR, an organisation that aims at recycling used clothing. 

She also partnered with TheRealReal to recut and remake vintage pieces unfit for the site. So even though Hillary refuses to call her brand sustainable, Collina Strada is taking all possible steps to be environmentally friendly.

Designing Around Humanity, Animals and Nature

For fall 2021, she partnered with illustrators of the Animorphs book series to produce graphics that transform her models into another life form, connecting humanity, animals, and natural perspectives. 

Taymour used leftover materials from previous seasons, repurposed clothes from Ghana's Kantamanto market, created new material from past seasons, and used toiles in the lookbook.

10. Marine Serre

Marine Serre is a French fashion designer known for her cutting-edge, sustainability-focused designs that combine different cultural codes. Her work focuses on innovation and sustainability, mostly done by repurposing ubiquitous elements that she finds. At least half of her collection uses upcycled material.

Regenerated, Upcycled and Recycled

Marine Serre's Fall-Winter 2021 Ready-to-Wear collection, "Core", was not presented on a runway (nor a virtual one) but by a website www.marineserrecore.com. 

She uses this website to show her upcoming lineup and to educate consumers on how the brand regenerates articles of clothing from discarded material. 

This collection is made with upcycled and regenerated pieces and recycled fibres. The label spells out each material via the digital lookbook on its website. 

11. Emily Adams Bode

Emily Adams Bode, the founder of BODE — a brand considered by many to be the ultimate upcycled designer fashion, was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. 

In 2016, Bode launched her first menswear collection made from antique fabrics from all over the world. Her pieces have a zero-waste design, are hand-made by expert artisans in New York, and are limited editions to minimise waste.

Preserving Traditions and Stories

Bode cares about sustaining traditions and stories, not just reducing her carbon footprint, and she understands her role as an employer. So she continued hiring her team of craftspeople in India, Peru, and New York.

12. Ditte Reffstrup

Ditte Reffstrup is the creative director behind the brand Ganni. The brand champions sustainable fashion and has a cult following of #GanniGirls. Ganni is part of the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. 

Ganni states that “it’s not a sustainable brand” because of the “inherent contradiction between being in an industry that thrives and is driven by newness, and the concept of sustainability”.

Tackling Sustainability through Different Environment-Friendly Projects

Instead, Ganni works on different environment-friendly projects and policies.

For example, it promotes clothes rental through Ganni Repeat and uses deadstock fabric for its collections. 

For instance, 70% of the collection is made sustainably. In addition, Ganni aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 and to use 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025.

13. Gabriela Hearst 

Gabriela Hearst designs her namesake collection and is Chloé’s newly appointed creative director. In addition, she operates her family’s ranch in Uruguay.

Sustainability from the Collection to the Packaging

For Gabriela Hearst's fall's collection, she used 49% repurposed materials, close to her goal of 50% for 2021. Her current goal is to transition to 100% by the end of 2021 or early 2022. 

The brand is also very mindful of its environmental impact. The brand also uses renewable energy in its supply chain to reduce its climate impact. 

Some products involving wool use the wool coming from Hearst's sheep farm in Uruguay. Hearst is also the first brand to use Tipa compostable bioplastics for all packaging.

Hearst continued her low-impact practice at Chloé, creating a new line that's "four times more sustainable" than the last. Chloé has also removed synthetics and other artificial materials while sourcing organic silks and recycled cashmere.

How To Become A Sustainable Fashion Designer

Whether you have started or are planning to become a sustainable fashion designer, designing on sustainability principles is a lot more than using organic fabrics, dyes, and textiles.

60-80% of a garment impact on sustainability depends on the choices made at the design and development stage. Therefore, to become a sustainable fashion designer, you need to design anticipating the impact further along in the supply chain, be it at the sourcing, production and packaging phase. 

To achieve that, you will need to learn the different facets of sustainability and efficiently communicate and collaborate with other actors in the development process who also need to be educated on sustainable practices and can align with your vision.

To upgrade your skills and know more about sustainability in fashion, go for Sustainability in Fashion Course. The online course is self-paced and relevant for designers and product development team members at large, whether they are sitting in brands, retailers sourcing offices and vendors. 

And don't forget, as a simple citizen and consumer, you should also do your part by supporting sustainable fashion designers to make ethical fashion from the margins to the mainstream.

Read more

Sustainable Fashion Starts With Ethical & Fair Trade Design: Clothing For A Better Future

Sustainable Fashion Starts With Ethical & Fair Trade Design: Clothing For A Better Future

Is Fast Fashion Ethical?

Is Fast Fashion Ethical?

Why Choose Biodegradable Fabrics Over Recycled Fabrics?

Why Choose Biodegradable Fabrics Over Recycled Fabrics?