From profit sharing to planet-friendly fabrics and community-focused British manufacturing, for Earth Day we’re celebrating the fashion brands that show true innovation when it comes sustainability
Fashion has always been about invention, creativity and expression. And right now, these qualities couldn’t be more vital when it comes to addressing the challenges presented by the climate crisis. It’s a time for fashion to do what it does best – innovate and evolve with the times.
To mark Earth Day, an annual event celebrated around the world to demonstrate support and raise awareness for environmental protection, we want to hold up those brands brought into the John Lewis fashion family that are true game-changers when it comes to sustainability.
Achieving sustainability is not a one-size-fits all solution and it certainly takes time to affect change across multiple brands, products and a complex network of supply chains. It’s a journey, and one that is being prioritised at John Lewis so that we can all make a difference together.
‘Accelerating our efforts to reduce our impact on the planet is a priority for us,’ says Partner and Fashion and Beauty Director Christine Kasoulis. ‘We have made three commitments to achieve this. We will develop a “take back” or “buy back” solution across all product categories by 2025; all key raw materials in our own-brand products will be from sustainable or recycled sources by 2025; and we’ll develop sustainable rental and resale options for customers.’
Meanwhile, there is a lot already to be celebrated. ‘The denim used for our in-house womenswear brands uses the EIM (Environmental Impact Measurement) System, which was developed by Jeanologia,’ adds Partner and Head of Womenswear, Jo Bennett. ‘It measures the environmental impact of the water, chemical and energy used in the washing process in our denim production.
‘And the majority of Viscose used in our womenswear own brand clothing is made using at least 45% LENZING™ ECOVERO™ fibres which are extracted from sustainable wood pulp and produced via an environmentally responsible fibre production process.’ The JL&P in-house cashmere is also of the highest quality, sourced from trusted suppliers and fully traceable.
When it comes to new brands, Christine says, ‘We also continue to build and evolve our fashion brands with sustainable credentials and have recently launched Thought, Baukjen and Community Clothing among many others. These brands all focus on considered design and responsible sourcing.’ Read on to find out more about the exciting brands that are leading the charge when it comes to sustainable fashion.
Pretty polka print dresses, light blue denim shirts and wide-leg organic cotton sweatpants – Baukjen encapsulates how we want to dress now and has ethics to believe in. ‘At Baukjen, we are champions of slow fashion and are passionate about giving radical transparency into our sustainability and ethics,’ says co-founder Baukjen de Swaan Arons. ‘Our clothes are designed for good, giving women the option to shop consciously and buy less, but better.’ The brand was recently celebrated as the highest-scoring Fashion B Corp in the UK – certified B Corporations are companies which have the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. ‘Their work and achievements really inspire you to look at your own wardrobe in a different way,’ says Partner and Buyer Billie Nicholls. ‘They mix timeless trends with modern details – I particularly love their printed dresses paired with trainers and a sweat or heels.’ So, what’s next for the brand? ‘We are actively working towards increasing the customer’s awareness around sustainability and ethics,’ says co-founder Geoff van Sonsbeeck. ‘We are highly scientific in how we measure the accurate level of sustainability of our garments and today 93% of all our fibres are responsibly sourced. This will be close to 100% by the end of the year.’
British-made clothing brand Community Clothing was born five years ago when founder Patrick Grant spotted a gap in the market that desperately needed to be filled. ‘Long-lasting, high-quality, affordable clothing was missing from the British clothing landscape,’ said Grant, in his recent interview with The Edit. ‘With the launch of Community Clothing we wanted to give our customer a great choice of beautiful, made in the UK foundation pieces at affordable prices,’ adds Partner and Menswear Buyer Edyta Knapinska. Think workwear-inspired cotton twill jackets, quintessential striped rugby shirts and the perfect casual sweatshirts and hoodies. ‘Supporting the British clothing sector and wider communities is at the heart of the brand,’ Edyta adds, ‘so it was an obvious partnership for us as those values are extremely important to us as a business and to our customers.’
Sydney-born contemporary brand Thought came from an early passion for natural and sustainable fabrics. ‘The first styles we made were simple. We were eager to show the beauty of these kinder yarns so didn’t overcomplicate our designs,’ says co-founder John Snare. This ethos comes through in the label’s hard-working pieces that you’ll want to wear again and again, such as the oversized blazer (made from Hemp), pretty printed skirts crafted from sustainable super-fibre Tencel™ and dream jeans made from premium organic denim. ‘Thought is a go-to for contemporary classics,’ says Billie. ‘From beautiful prints to a perfectly-priced bamboo legging, their pieces make you look and feel good, highlighting how small changes we make in our shopping habits can make a positive impact on the planet.’ What’s next for the brand? ‘Our focus in the coming season is to continue to be at the forefront of cutting edge sustainable fabrics and practices,’ says co-founder and creative director Rachel Kelly. ‘We are specifically looking at traceable and recycled wool, working with our production partners on further certificates and external validation of their factories, and we’re conducting a full review of our packaging to see where we can reduce our impact.’
‘We create without compromise’ goes the mission statement at the East London-based womenswear label led by sustainable fashion pioneer Amy Powney. ‘Creativity and ethics sit equally in our brand philosophy,’ explains Amy. ‘We believe in delivering beautiful clothes without compromising on integrity.’ Known for voluminous shapes, statement prints, fluid tailoring and distinctive detailing, Mother of Pearl pieces have that distinctive wow factor when you wear them, and are made well and made to last. John Lewis partnered up with Amy on an exclusive collection that embodies the brand’s ethos and aesthetic at a competitive price. ‘Amy is focused on using sustainable fabrics but also on making beautiful, well-crafted and unique garments that the customer will want to cherish for many years,’ says Partner and Buyer Jo McKee who works with Amy on the collection. ‘She has encouraged us to question everything we do and how we can make improvements that have a more positive impact on the planet. It is the antithesis of throw-away fashion and that's why we love it!’
Could there be a better kidswear clothing partner than The Natural History museum? Shining beacon of education, inspiration… and dinosaurs! ‘The thinking behind the range was to provide fun and educational clothing for kids,’ says Partner and Kidswear buyer Lindsay Dickson. ‘To celebrate the environment and remind them how important it is that we care for our planet and the many animals that share it with us.’ The collection mixes up super-comfortable cotton jersey T-shirts, sweatshirts and leggings featuring endangered animals, wildlife and thoughtful slogans. Perfect for future climate activists.
Girlfriend Collective makes activewear from recycled materials ‘because trash looks better on you than it does polluting the planet’. Its philosophy of not making waste but rather wearing it extends to taking back previously worn pieces to recycle and create new products. The collection of high-rise leggings, simple crop-tops and colour-pop bras are functional for a work-out and comfortable enough to wear everyday.
London-based casualwear brand Ninety Percent’s motto is, ‘For the world we want’, an ethos that begins with its radical business model that sees 90 per cent of profits shared between five charity organisations and the people who make the clothes. This means each purchase benefits not only the customers, but the producers they work with and the planet we all share. ‘It is perhaps a mad concept,’ says co-founder Shafiq Hassan, ‘but it was developed with real passion that is alien to the traditional business culture. Our life experience has taught us to focus on two aspects – protecting the most vulnerable wildlife and environment plus disadvantaged women and children.’
Then there’s its commitment to use only sustainable materials, from organic cotton to Tencel™, natural linen and Hemp, and transparency around its manufacturing partners, with main supplier Echotex in Bangladesh being something of a pioneer for ethical working practices and sustainable innovation. The collection comprises those core casual staples that have just the right amount of cool, without being ‘trendy’. Think signature tie-dye prints, T-shirts in every cut you desire and the perfect hoodie.
Read more about Ethics and Sustainability at the John Lewis Partnership here