In 2023, it’s never been easier to shop sustainably. While the industry’s retailers and the world’s biggest brands all make an attempt to be more earth-friendly, there’s also an astonishing amount of new labels that focus solely on eco ethics without compromising style. The early days of the pandemic in 2020 seemed to inspire many, and with that, came a rush of new brands offering one-off pieces sourced from thrifted fabrics or equally inventive brands that launched with a premier focus on fashion that creates less waste.
It used to be that earth-friendly fashion was marked by a certain granola aesthetic, but those days are long gone. We’re heralding a new era of sustainable fashion that’s not only expressive, but also uniquely individualistic. Plus, with retailers like Nordstrom and MatchesFashion leaning into emerging designers, new, sustainable brands have never been easier to find (and shop).
Whether it means producing small batches, upcycling deadstock fabrics or using organic and ethically sourced materials, the new wave of sustainable fashion brands is impressive, and constantly on the path to improvement without compromising aesthetic. Below, shop the new guard of sustainable brands to know now.
In 2020, the joyful street style star and Thailand-born fashion consultant Katie Ruensumran launched her brand, The Meaning Well, as a one-size-fits-all small-batch collection of voluminous dresses, oversized blouses, big skirts, and other essentials that resembled her own unique wardrobe staples. Today, her pieces come in a range of sizing and continue to utilize leftover materials and deadstock fabrics from clothing and upholstery manufacturers. Artisans upcycle each piece–from lush oversized velvet cotton midi dresses to puffy taffeta gowns embellished with girlish bows.
Few, if any, activewear brands appeal to the maximalist, eclectic crowd while still maintaining sustainable values, but that’s where Strawberry Western fills the void. Founded in October 2022 by Kisa Shiga and Eli Libman, the duo takes inspiration from Harajuku street fashion, alt subculture and music. Strawberry Western yields strawberry-printed sherpa fleeces and polka dot plaid sports bras embellished with dainty bows in an inclusive size range up to 3X. The label’s sports bras, shorts and leggings are made with 73% post-consumer recycled polyester, and the cotton pieces all use 100% recycled cotton.
Elisa Keeler and Jordan Conder may have founded their label, Maroske Peech, in 2017, but the Gen Z loved brand known for its micro mini belts and whimsical striped tights has only become even more popular as of late–with a cameo on Jules (Hunter Schafer) in Euphoria last year and mainstream stockists like Nordstrom and Ssense. The subversive, quirky aesthetic is all there, and the materials are upcycled—with belts made of reclaimed woven sateen suiting and wool pleated skirts constructed out of reclaimed twill suiting.
There is nothing quite like wearing a Room Shop hair accessory. The Philadelphia-based brand founded by Shelly Horst is a surefire and guaranteed conversation starter. In 2019, when the scrunchie craze took off, Room Shop led the movement with its sheer and silky oversize delicacies made from vintage materials. Today, the zero waste brand offers giant bow hair clips made from upcycled fabrics as well as copious variations of its beloved giant scrunchies that started it all.
Undeniably playful, Ugo Paulon footwear is the ultimate exercise in extreme sustainable footwear. Think: chunky, bulbous forms done up in painterly swirls and stripes. Founded less than three years ago in London by a designer who prefers to remain rather mysterious (known simply as Elise) and who has collaborated with the likes of Ottolinger, Ugo Paulon’s shoes are handmade with repurposed heels and post-consumer materials. Each piece is hand-dyed and often limited edition.
The artist Dan Colen operated Sky High Farms for nine years (donating 100% of its yield to food insecure communities in New York) before introducing the clothing component of the brand in 2022, which now includes functional boots, funky denim workwear, kitschy embroidered shorts, and printed tees, all produced in partnership with Dover Street Market. All pieces produced include the use of vintage, deadstock, and recycled fabrics, and each purchase supports the non-profit organization.
Central Saint Martins graduate Kevin Germanier is changing the perception and aesthetic of sustainably upcycled fashion by eschewing patchwork and bohemian sensibilities in favor of total eclectic glamor. Think denim covered in amoeba-shaped crystals or feather-trimmed sequin dresses. Zippers, buttons, beads, and feathers are upcycled for his fantasia-like creations.
Known as an all-female collection putting a focus on small-batch garments utilizing deadstock fabrics, Rhi Dancey is the answer for those looking for inclusive, colorful pieces with mind-bending art prints that look like they’re from another world. Dancey founded the label in her living room during the early days of the pandemic and her pieces have since gained popularity in the expressive TikTok fashion community.
If it’s bodycon knitwear with a directional and good-for-the-earth edge you seek, look no further than A. Roege Hove. Amalie Røge Hove plays with diaphanous textures and tactility so that her pieces look as cool worn solo as they do layered over staples within your wardrobe. As a brand that shows at Copenhagen Fashion Week–perhaps the fashion week with the most rigorous sustainability requirements of any fashion week globally–A. Roege Hove utilizes no waste knitting techniques, upcycles past season samples into new collections, and produces with organic cotton in responsible factories.