Ethical Fashion & Fine Jewellery: How To Shop Wisely

Fashion Week may be over, friends — but today is as good a time as any to talk about your most-requested alternatives to “conventional” fashion and fine jewellery pieces. With glimpses of my own journey as well.

Changing. The fashion industry is changing. For the people and for the planet, activists, fashion designers, policy makers, writers, consumers have been campaigning, researching, discussing, creating…

And finally, there’s a mindshift happening in the mainstream — it’s becoming fashionable to care, and greenwashing as well as unsustainable practices are frowned upon more and more. Consumers call out companies on social media for the use of conflict ingredients, unsustainable packaging and unverified green claims, and they applaud the honest efforts for sustainable sourcing, ethical production and eco-friendly packaging.

Ethical Fashion: How To Shop…

1. SHOES — A REAL QUEST

Shoes, eh. Like anyone else on the green side of things, I’d love to have 100% ethical, fair vegan shoes in my wardrobe. Only — I can’t.

For the sad truth is: I’ve struggled for years to find shoes that would match my (life)style, my budget, as well as my idea of eco-safety and being bio-degradable … It has cost me time, lots of money, and then time and money again, and my experience is underwhelming:

Except for sneakers and simple summer numbers (and theeeese high heels), I wasn’t able to find anything that would win me over for good.

Toxic PVC stills seems to be a trusted companion for most vegan brands — an environmental no-go that makes me furious — and the quality even of some of the most expensive pieces was so bad wearing them that I now can’t recommend those brands to anyone. Some shoes broke apart, some hurt badly wearing them. Mind you: we’re still talking about expensive, ethical vegan shoes.

Let me only mention as a side note here that it’s all too easy for some companies to gleefully market their conventional, stinkin’ cheap, sweatshop-made shoes as “vegan-friendly” and to mark them up for this “animal-friendly feature” — I have notbeen testing nor am I recommending those.

So, my everyday shoes today are Ethletic sneakers, Abury and Avesu sandals — all of which are ethical and vegan, and… quite old conventional albeit quality and made-in-Europe leather shoes. If I’m honest, I dread the moment they come to the end of their lifespan.

The problem with leather goes beyond slaughterhouses (of course, leather is dead animals’ skin in any way but you can obtain said skin using either some horrendous methods, or with respect to animal welfare). Conventionally tanned leather is loaded with toxins, and the toxic tanning process itself creates water and soil pollution that no human being would intentionally support. Thankfully, there are alternatives to that.

Let’s have a look at some tox-free leather footwear with vegan-friendly options.

Colour In The City: Ekn Footwear

Some of you wrote that you need versatile sneakers and boots, stylish but “not too fashion”, for everyday wear.

Enter Frankfurt-based Ekn Footwear specialising in urban style, swish kicks, boots and sandals for women and men.

The colours, either muted or bright pastels, are beautiful, easy to style and very Frankfurt if you wish.

Ekn shoes are ethically produced by artisan shoemakers in Portugal, using leather that’s Chromium-free (and 100% vegetable-tanned on the inside) and outer soles upcycled from shoe industry waste. Vegan-friendly styles are made using microfibre “leather” and organic cotton.

At a price of 69-169€, Ekn offer quite an alternative to most high street brands.

Ethically Exotic: Alina Schürfeld

Green luxury babes, this one’s for ya — a great alternative to “conventional” luxury pumps and flats.

If you desire a statement shoe, a piece to turn all the heads with the dangerous appeal of exotic leather, may I introduce you to: Hamburg’s Alina Schürfeld, established in 2009.

The quality and the signature style of Alina Schürfeld shoes — aggressive shapes, eye-catching colours, striking details like the huge barbell “piercings” — go hand in hand with an ethical, artisanal production in Europe. Chromium free salmon leather and vegetable-tanned leather look good together.

Signature loafer Loulou sells at 390€, pumps at 490€, high boots at 690€, summer sandals start at 150€ (and the sale section is worth a glance as well).

2. FAIR FASHION

When fashion only began to grow fair and eco-friendly, it seemed to go two ways first: uber-expensive, experimental high fashion made-for-catwalk-style — or shapeless and washed-out looking stuff that seemed to follow the premise of being a punishment for your old over-consumption.

But in 2019, complaints about fair fashion not matching your style is pretty much invalid. Floral prints, black lace, trendy cuts, classic quality basics, novelty fibres: there’s plenty to choose from!

And as you can probably tell, I prefer companies who have decades of experience and a standing in the industry to most start-up labels with sometimes unverified “green” claims they can’t verify when you ask.

Vegan Knits: Lana, est. 1987

Vegan-friendly, chic summer (and winter!) knits were a reader request, and what can I say?
Enter Lana.

Lovely feminine, trendy, colourful and well-fitted styles from essentials to trendy pieces are what the German brand have become known for. Organic cotton knits are beautiful and classy, summer or winter. The collections are made in Europe and reasonably priced.

The most recent cooperation with the upcycling jewellery brand Fremdformat brings us a belt bag and a range of statement necklaces, bracelets and earrings this summer (prices start at €49.90).

A note to all new mothers: Lana has a beautiful organic collection for babies and kids.

Ethical Wool, Silk, And Leather: Lanius, est. 1999

Those of you looking for mulesing-free, ethical wool; GOTS-certified silk or for statement colours/prints and lace/transparency — look no further: Lanius is a great resource for that.

Leather accessories such as belts, sneakers, sandals and a few fashion styles are made using either deepmello rhubarb-tanned leather or other tox-free leather.

Lanius also have an on-going cooperation with Germany’s leading women’s magazine Brigitte: an affordable, easy to mix and match capsule collection of statement and trendy pieces.

3. HOSIERY & INTIMATES

Underwear and hosiery as well as lounge- and nightwear — they were my first clothes to source in eco-ethical quality. After all, these are the garments in direct contact with your skin: so it makes a lot of sense to start there.

Thankfully, in 2019, chic style and eco-friendly, ethical undergarments can go hand in hand.

Cradle 2 Cradle Innovation: Wolford

Who asked for stylish and eco-friendly essentials such as leggings and tops?

Since April 2nd, Austria’s own Wolford is the first fashion company to carry a double Cradle to Cradle® certification at GOLD* level.

After years of R&D, Wolford have launched a fabric that allows for a waste-free life cycle and they used it to create the Aurora collection: a pair of leggings, a pullover, a sleeveless top and a tee.

All Aurora pieces are made of three fibres: Lenzing Modal®, obtained from sustainable forestry; infinito® by Lauffenmühle, a biodegradable polymer; an ultra-stretchy, biodegradable ROICA™ premium smart yarn by Asahi Kasei; these components comply with safety standards for biological cycles by the Material Health Assessment supported by EPEA Switzerland. At the end of the products’ life cycle, Wolford can return them to an industrial composting station.

The second C2C innovation will allow for the creation of a legwear collection, to hit the stores in 2020, so we’re sure to stay tuned.

* To understand C2C levels of certification Bronze through Platinum, read here.

The World’s “Greenest” Bra Quest: Lovjoi Intimates

Well-fitting, completely eco-fair lingerie, anyone?

The 2014-born German brand Lovjoi has made itself a name with basic styles with a twist, and a particularly fair and ethical approach to manufacturing and sourcing.

With their brand new collection Lovjoi Intimates, the young brand level up even more in terms of style and production. With the intention of creating the world’s greenest bra — no toxic or unsustainable materials used for padding (no polyurethane foam cups) nor for the underwires and other parts — they present a collection of nine different bra and tops styles, along with chemisettes and panties.

4. ACCESSORIES

Solar Backpack: Knowledge Cotton

Solar-powered backpacks were a request from those of you who spend a lot of time out in the sun and need to rely on their mobile devices.

The water-resistant solar backpack by Knowledge Cotton will charge your smartphone, tablet, power bank, briefly any 5V devices with renewable energy.

Made from recycled polyester, the backpack is vegan-friendly, available in two sizes and two colours, a neutral grey and a beautiful denim blue. Retails at €199.95 (12 litre volume), €229.95 (16 litre volume) in the Knowledge Apparel online shop.

5. FINE JEWELLERY

Engagement Rings: Quite Quiet

Fine jewellery and engagement rings are a recurring request. Readers look for styles that are special, unique and yet flattering (read: not too experimental).

And so you might remember Quite Quiet from my last year’s articles on understanding ethical gold and a selection of ethical engagement rings.

Their TRANSITIONS collection features Fairtrade Gold and lab-grown, 100% conflict-free gemstones with the physical, chemical, and optical properties of the real gems at only a fraction of CO2 emissions cost (here: a new style featuring two beautiful, dark purple alexandrites) in a stunning signature design that turns heads.

Affordable, 100% Fair Fine Jewellery: The Boyscouts

Those of you looking for modern, affordable, ethical silver, gold plated and ethical gold jewellery — in particular for gifting — have a look at this new brand from the Netherlands: The Boyscouts.

The sustainable silver rings start at €70, the solid Fairtrade gold rings (yellow or pink gold) at €90.

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About Nath @ BEAUTYCALYPSE

Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at BEAUTYCALYPSE.com (Illustration/portrait by A. Goncharenko)