A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH TO FASHION
Sustainability has never been more fashionable or more urgent than now. Instead of designing the traditional collections of their dreams and seeing how sustainable methods can fit in after the fact, a new crop of designers is building sustainability in as their brand’s founding pillar. It’s enhancing rather than limiting their creative output. Wone, Brother Vellies, Futura and Rentrayage are four emerging brands with a strong sustainability ethos, available at The Webster.
Wone’s Kristin Hildebrand spent her career working at Fortune 500 companies like Liz Claiborne, Target and Nike, where she was creative concept director. Wone, the activewear line built on the principles of measured, high-quality design she launched in 2018, was born from the frustrations Hildebrand felt working under the traditional big business fashion system. “It was sort of just ingrained in how we did business — ‘Of course, you’re supposed to do it X,Y, Z way’,” she says. “From a supply chain standpoint, you work around margin. In general, I thought that was ridiculous. A lot of the industry is built on these preexisting blueprints and structures that are outdated, archaic, silly. I wanted to build something that was completely opposite of that.”
Wone’s minimalist designs adhere to thoughtful, common sense practices that dovetail with sustainable standards. There is nothing extra or superfluous, like zippers, buttons, pockets, mesh inserts, seaming or prints. For example, for now Hildebrand works only in black for several conscientious reasons: It’s the number one seller. “For us to be offering colors and potentially sitting on inventory is not sustainable,” she says. And the fabric and color is designed to last for 50,000 washes to ensure that it has a long life.
Aurora James of shoe collection Brother Vellies, which is handmade in Africa, is committed to working with leather that is a byproduct, using vegetable dyes whenever possible, employing local artisans and farmers and reducing carbon footprint. The New York-based jewelry brand Futura uses only Fairmined Certified Ecological 18k gold to avoid the common gold production process that results in mercury being emitted into the environment.
Any measure of sustainability should be applauded, but the most effect and purest form of it is to not produce at all. Rentrayage is a new collection by Erin Beatty, formerly of Suno, that is made entirely from vintage pieces. Suno closed in 2016, after which Beatty found herself questioning how to continue working in fashion in a positive way. “I knew that I if I ever wanted to do something again, it had to be sustainable,” she says. “As I researched the fabrics and the dye techniques and everything else that goes into sustainable manufacturing, I realized how limiting it all was. The only way I could create something that felt really elevated and weird and different would to be to work with vintage clothes.”
Beatty put together her first collection for Rentrayage, a French word that means mending or darning, in three months. She describes the aesthetic as “different, feminine and simultaneously a little bit weird.” She sources vintage pieces from a group of trusted dealers and “there are unlimited opportunities on eBay, of course.” Everything is one-of-a-kind for now, although pieces made from deadstock fabric are coming next season. There are limitations, but Beatty is embracing them. “The limitations are obviously scale,” she says. “You just can't grow it too big. But I actually think that that's beautiful.