As we settle into 2020 something is definitely noticeable. There is now a surge in brands spouting about their sustainability credentials, but how easy is it to tell them apart and figure out who’s genuinely committed to conscious consumption over the ones spinning a clever marketing line? A good starting off point is to make sense of the many references and terminologies related to sustainable materials and processes. Of course, you can’t be expected to know everything, so don’t overwhelm yourself. Instead, start by making yourself familiar with the most commonly used terms such a Econyl or organic cotton, so you have a better understanding of what they really mean in terms of their sustainability attributes and then build from there.
Image courtesy: South African wool farming | The Savory Institute
It’s about making the connection between brand and land direct and undeniable.
The Savory Institute, a U.S. charitable organisation, facilitates large-scale regeneration of the world’s grasslands through Holistic Management. Together with Savory’s global network of Hubs, the Savory Institute equips farmers and ranchers around the world with education, training, and implementation support to achieve success within their cultural and ecological contexts. The Institute removes barriers and creates enhanced conditions for large-scale progress by informing policy, engaging the marketplace, and increasing public awareness. Savory’s long-term goal is to positively influence the management of 1 billion hectares of grasslands by 2025, thereby contributing to global climate, water and food security.
Further, developed in collaboration with leading scientists and researchers around the world, Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV™) is an empirical and scalable soil and landscape assessment methodology that tracks outcomes in soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem function and ultimately, the world’s first regenerative supply chain.
Partners include luxury fashion conglomerate Kering and US fashion label Eileen Fisher.
Eileen Fisher is waving a flag for regenerative agriculture. The ethical women’s clothing brand has pledged to combat biodiversity loss, soil degradation and habitat destruction as a “frontier founder” of Savory’s Land to Market program to promote and support the regenerative production of raw materials and utilize Savory’s pioneering methodology, EOV™.
Eileen Fisher is implementing this program initially with their wool sourcing. The brand has been sourcing merino wool with OVIS XXI, a B Corp based in Argentina, that manages a collaborative network of producers that implement EOV. OVIS XXI has played an essential role in the foundation of this global regenerative sourcing program. The leadership at OVIS was instrumental in designing the EOV protocol and the cooperative is now using EOV as the ecological assessment tool with their livestock farmers. The Savory Institute and EILEEN FISHER will spend the next year exploring additional opportunities to expand the shift towards regenerative practices on other continents and into their leather and other fibre supply chains.
Eileen Fisher will include ecologically verified merino across more than 40 styles in their upcoming fall and winter lines. All products made with the verified regenerative Ovis XXI wool, can be identified via the hangtag that reads, “Our wool supports Argentinian ranchers who regenerate depleted grasslands through holistic farming methods.” A similar copy can be found on qualifying products when shopping on the Eileen Fisher website.
“Eileen Fisher is committed to leading the change towards sustainable clothing,” says Megan Meiklejohn, the company’s Sustainable Materials & Transparency Manager. “By sourcing wool from ranchers practising holistic and regenerative land management, we’re supporting more than just a sustainable fibre, we’re supporting whole ecosystem health. Regenerative agriculture results in increased soil fertility and biodiversity, leading to carbon sequestration, drought resistance, and plenty of grass for the sheep to graze. By partnering with Savory, we have the assurance that the Land to Market producers are realizing continuous improvements in ecological health through verified outcomes. We’re proud to be working with Savory and like-minded brands to expand regenerative farming.”
“Cultivating market pull through for those who are farming in nature’s image creates the deepest levels of synergy and exudes positive benefits for society as a whole.” said Chris Kerston, Director of Market Engagement at Savory Institute. “Formalizing a partnership with Eileen Fisher has been nothing short of a dream come true. This is a brand that isn’t simply adapting to meet a new trend; using business as a force for good has been core to the company’s very essence since its formation.”
Kering, the luxury behemoth and parent company of brands including Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga, has also joined forces with the environmental non-profit to promote the role of regenerative agriculture within the fashion industry.
The luxury conglomerate has announced that it is now a ‘Frontier Founder’ under Savory’s ‘Land to Market’ program, which works to develop the regenerative agriculture framework in global fashion supply chains, in an effort to reduce the negative impact that the industry has on the environment. This includes reversing the effects of soil degradation and the conversion of natural ecosystems, as well as biodiversity loss. Kering will use The Savory Institute’s ‘Ecological Outcome Verification’ methodology in its leather and fibre supply chains that come from grazing systems, meaning that the brand’s wool and cashmere production will be more sustainable.
“Regenerative agriculture is a multi-benefit solution which supports Kering’s sustainability ambitions to mitigate our environmental impacts and deliver positive outcomes along our supply chain,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of international institutional affairs at Kering, in a statement. “We are proud to collaborate with Savory to pioneer innovative and nature-based solutions in fashion as part of our broader commitment to contribute to solving our industry’s global challenges around biodiversity and climate change.”
This is at the very core of responsible manufacturing, and while some brands may not have the luxury of having these processes at their disposable, the very fact that leading luxury brands are investing in these initiatives should be a call for celebration!
Are Beauty ‘Capsules’ the Answer to Sustainable Skincare Innovation?
A revolution is taking place in skincare, and it’s happening inside tiny, squishy orbs. Beauty “capsules” house oils, serums and powders in self-contained, monodose pods and they are popping up everywhere. They often don’t look like much, but inside are unique formulas and textures, not to mention a host of eco-friendly possibilities.
“Encapsulated beauty products could be more or less sustainable than comparable products that are not encapsulated,” explains Mia Davis, Director of Mission for Credo Beauty, “providing they are made of naturally-derived, biodegradable casings.”
This is surely music to the ears of consumers who are becoming increasingly conscious about supporting brands with sustainable practices. And beauty companies are listening carefully.
Kat Von D is launching Von D Shoes, a collection of sustainable, vegan footwear that includes designs made from apples.
A favourite amongst daring make-up lovers, Kat Von D, known for the original liquid lipsticks and the cult-favourite liquid eyeliner, will soon be diversifying her creative output. The gothic queen has been a vegan since 2013, however it recently dawned on her that her choice of footwear was at odds with her living a full vegan lifestyle, with her shoe collection containing designs created with leather or snakeskin.
Having set out to find cruelty-free footwear that was in keeping with her style and failing, this drove the boundary-pushing artist to create Von D shoes – a line of cruelty-free, vegan, high-quality shoes that will be on every badass, rock chick’s radar. And, handmade in Florence, Italy in the same factories as Chanel and Gucci, no less.
As well as being vegan, the collection also includes sustainable options that have been produced using animal leather-like materials to mimic the non-vegan fabric, including materials made from apples, pineapples and even mushrooms.
In a recent Instagram post, Kat Von D announced that the limited release will include “platforms, flats, boots, sneakers, sandals, slip-ons, creepers, winklepickers, and even a pair of furry moon boots.” She also said there will be unisex shoes, making the line inclusive in even more ways, and that 100 per cent of proceeds from certain styles will be donated to animal shelters.
In a progressive move, the 2019 Helsinki Fashion Week introduced a ban on animal leather, which took place in the Finnish capital from 19 to 22 July, with designers instead encouraged to work with plant-based leathers and other sustainable textiles and eco-friendly supply chains.
Fashion “needs to rapidly develop” beyond animal leather says Helsinki Fashion Week founder Evelyn Mora. Believing that the fashion industry should expect a major upheaval, as customers start to demand more eco-friendly products, fashion designers and brands need to start swapping animal leather for sustainable alternatives, or risk alienating themselves from consumers, she explained.
Image courtesy: New York-based brand Ultrafabrics, which manufactures a range of innovative leather-like materials.
“I think that in the near future there’s going to be a big shift,” she told Dezeen. “Everybody is going to take a big leap towards sustainable fashion.”
“Right now we are all talk, everybody is talking about how important sustainability is, but we need to see results.”
“The companies have to go where the money is, and that’s where the consumers are – they are changing their minds and they’re starting to be more conscious,” said Mora.
Image courtesy: Evelyn Mora, 27, founder of Helsinki Fashion Week
The aim of this year’s event, according to Mora, was to send a message to the industry that it can no longer ignore the impact that leather farming has on the environment, particularly its contribution to climate change. She wants Helsinki Design Week to go beyond the traditional role of a fashion event and become a platform that facilitates change through innovation.
To celebrate the creativity on display, Mora named the five designers that made the biggest impression, presenting designs that brought together innovative new textiles, recycled materials and ethical manufacturing practices:
Image courtesy: Shohei | Wongwannawat
Austrian fashion house Shohei was among those that took notice. Its show featured textiles from New York-based brand Ultrafabrics, which manufactures a range of innovative leather-like materials.
Image courtesy: ABCH
Led by designer Courtney Holm, ABCH promotes the circular economy in every collection. The Melbourne-based label only uses raw materials that naturally biodegrade or can be reused, and operates a recycling programme that helps to prevent old garments going into landfill.
Belgian designer Mandali Mendrilla is trying to encourage a sustainable mindset in her collections by only using vegetarian-friendly materials and combining these with a process she calls Yantra Couture, which involves creating custom patterns based on natural vibrations. At Helsinki Fashion Week, the designer presented brightly coloured garments made using both recycled silk and peace silk, along with natural dyes and the dust of 16 crystals.
Image courtesy: Kata Szegedi | Wongwannawat
Often using custom-made and recycled vintage fabrics in her designs, Hungarian designer Kata Szegedi brings greater transparency to the manufacturing process. Her latest collection sees her textiles transformed into immaculately tailored suits, dresses and playsuits.
The event also featured an exhibition from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, which is developing a leather substitute made from mushroom mycelium, and a space called the Bio Playground, where brands showcased pioneering materials and responsible supply chains.
Mora launched Helsinki Fashion Week in 2012, aged just 22. Featuring both Nordic and international designers, the event had a focus on sustainable fashion from the start, although this year’s was the first to introduce a leather ban.
adidas by Stella McCartney Pilot Fully Recyclable Hoodie
The new sustainable initiative by adidas by Stella McCartney turns waste into usable fibres in the coolest of ways by using liquified old cotton to create sustainable sportswear.
The two pioneering brands have teamed up with innovative sustainable company Evrnu to turn old clothing into new garments in an attempt to address waste in the fashion industry. The prototype represents the world’s first fully recyclable hoodie, one of two prototypes for the new collection and major progress for sustainable fashion.
The new clothing line uses a technology called NuCycl, which purifies and liquefies old cotton and transforms it into new material ready to be made into adidas x stella mccartney sports-luxe clothes. Stacy Flynn, co-founder and CEO of Evrnu says, “our goal is to convert that garment waste into new fibre so that we eliminate the context of waste in the supply chain.”
Image courtesy: adidas by Stella McCartney ‘Infinite Hoodie’ and Biofabric Tennis Dress
To avoid weakening the original fabrics, Evrnu uses the chemical-based NuCycl process to break down the cotton to its original polymer. Once the polymers are extracted and are a liquid pulp they are put into a 3D-printer-like machine which forms new yarn, which will be used to make the sustainable line of adidas by Stella McCartney garments.
Pieces such as the “Infinite Hoodie” incorporate a jacquard knit comprised of 60 per cent NuCycl™ regenerated fibre and 40 per cent organic cotton that has been diverted from landfills, which when combined creates a stronger and more durable compound than the original fabric. The inaugural NuCycl pieces will be produced in a limited run of 50, which will all be given to athletes.
Image courtesy: adidas x Stella McCartney
This is the second drop, with the first being a pioneering 100% biodegradable biofabric adidas tennis dress. Created in combination with Bolt Threads – a company specialising in bioengineered sustainable materials and fibres, including a leather alternative made using mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms – the dress is made from cellulose blended yearn and Microsilk, a protein-based material made using renewable ingredients such as sugar, water and yeast, and has the ability to fully biodegrade at the end of its life.
In a statement, Stella McCartney says: “Fashion is one of the most harmful industries to the environment. We can’t wait any longer to search for answers and alternatives.
“By creating a truly open approach to solving the problem of textile waste, we can help empower the industry at large to bring more sustainable practices into reality.
“With adidas by Stella McCartney we’re creating high performance products that also safeguard the future of the planet.”
The Stella Mccartney adidas partnership is a long-standing one, dropping hyper desirable pieces that have included Stella McCartney trainers including the Stella McCartney Ultra Boost.
Made in partnership with textile innovations company Evrnu, the hoodie is designed to be reused and remade in the future.
Currently just 50 hoodies have been made and gifted to adidas VIPs and influencers, but there’s nothing to say they won’t hit the production lines soon so watch this space.
Plus, should either of these products ever reach mass production, such items would create a loop in which fashion products would suddenly be capable of biodegrading and returning to the natural ecosystem. Oh, what a day!
New York City is considering a proposed legislation that would ban the sale of fur.
City council officials Corey Johnson, Mark Levine and Fernando Cabrera have sponsored a proposed local law that would ban fur sales throughout the city’s five boroughs.
“As an animal lover, I believe it is cruel to kill an animal just for the purpose of people buying and wearing a fur coat. There is really no need for this,” Johnson said to the New York Post. “In a progressive and modern city like New York, banning the sale of fur clothing and accessories is long overdue. Saying no to fur is fashionable and a symbol of progress. This proposal is about protecting animals and their unnecessary killing.”
Following similar moves by other American cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Berkeley, where legislation has been passed to ban the sale of fur, New York would be the first city on the east coast to enact such a ban.
Momentum has been building since New York Assembly woman Linda Rosenthal introduced a bill proposing to make it illegal to “sell, offer for sale, display for sale, trade, give, donate, or otherwise distribute a fur product” in the state of New York by 2021.
“Increasingly, consumers are looking to make ethical and sustainable purchases — fur is neither of those”, said Rosenthal as quoted by the New York Post. “Fur farms across the United States raise animals like raccoons, foxes, mink and chinchillas to kill for their fur, often using cruel and inhumane methods”.
Image courtesy: Cara Delevingne in a faux fur cape for Burberry 2018
The proposed legislation was celebrated by animal rights activists. Commenting on the bill, Priscilla Feral, President of Friends of Animals, said in a statement: “Finally the day has come that city council members see the handwriting on the wall as well. NYC can be the ultimate fashion forward role model by passing this legislation and ending what most of society has come to understand: cruelty is not fashionable.”
Rosenthal’s bill is similar to the one recently passed in Los Angeles, the biggest American city to ban fur so far. The prohibition, which applies to apparel and accessories, will come into effect on January 1, 2021. San Francisco also banned fur sales last year after a historic unanimous vote by the city’s Board of Supervisors.
Veja’s New Vegan Leather Sneakers Made From Corn Waste
Veja’s new “Campo” sneakers drop is making big waves and not because of some random celebrity endorsement. Rather it’s down to the conscious footwear label’s choice of a new type of raw material: ‘corn waste’ based material C.W.L.
The shoe’s upper fabric is made with vegan ‘leather’ produced from canvas and corn—and Veja says it’s the first time the material has ever been used in this way.
In response to the increasing demand for cruelty-free leather alternatives, the brand have released the new vegan sneaker range. The Campo sneaker is the result of a 5-year project with the purpose of researching and developing an ecological substitute for real leather. What the brand finally found was this bio-sourced material developed by an Italian company, made from a waxed cotton canvas consisting of 50% corn waste from the food industry, making it a 63% biodegradable fabric.
The shoes are said to look and feel just like animal-based leather. Available in six different colours, the sneakers have a thicker sole than the previous range.
Following the success of its first collection of vegan sneakers, the footwear manufacturer now has 20 models which contain zero animal products – the company also avoids using any hazardous chemicals.
The company’s name, Veja, translates to “look” – with a hidden meaning that consumers should look beyond the sneakers and focus on how they were made.
Co-founder of Veja Sébastian Kopp, who has been searching for sustainable and eco-friendly materials since the company started in 2005, told Luna Journal that the shoes have a “long service life.” He added that they are waterproof, resistant, and “less rigid and more comfortable than leather.”
Business firm Grand View Research predicted in 2017 that the global faux leather market will hit $85 billion by 2025 as consumers shift toward animal-free products.
“Animal rights laws in several countries have become a major hurdle for natural leather manufacturers,”the report reads. “Growing awareness among consumers regarding animal killings” has also played a major role in the upped demand for cruelty-free materials.
Already offering a range of vegan shoes made from eco-conscious materials like organic cotton, vegan suede and nubuck, recycled jute, and recycled polyester, this new leather imitation has the potential to challenge not only these, but perhaps even the signature genuine leather styles in the collection.
London’s vegan offering is ramping up for 2019, building on the capital’s array of delicious vegan eateries, with the announcement of the launch of the world’s first vegan hotel suite.
Hilton’s London Bankside hotel has consulted with The Vegan Society to create the world’s first vegan hotel suite. Instead of using leather, the furniture is upholstered with Piñatex – an alternative made from pineapple leaves, all cleaning products used by the housekeeping staff in the suite are non-animal tested and everything from the pillows to the furniture is made from plant-based materials.
On entry, guests staying in the suite will be greeted at a special check-in desk in the lobby upholstered using Piñatex – a leather alternative made from pineapple leaves – and are given a keycard made from the same material.
Inside the room guests will find pillows that have been made using environmentally friendly materials, not feathers, including a pillow filled with organic buckwheat husks, a kapok pillow made from natural kapok, a millet pillow that consists of organic millet husks, an orthopedic memory foam pillow made with bamboo shredded fibre along with an anti-allergy foam pillow, made with 100 per cent recycled cluster polyester. With the bed’s headboard also made from Piñatex leather and hand-embroidered by local artist Emily Potter.
The stylish, solid stone-grey flooring with a distressed finish is made with 100 per cent renewable and sustainable Moso Bamboo. The suite also includes responsibly sourced organic cotton carpets for guests to sink their feet into.
While the desk chair, pouffes and cushions that feature in the suite have been created using Piñatex leather, too, the desk comes kitted out with stationery from notepads, pens and pencils that are all vegan-friendly with no animal traces in the paper or ink.
In the bathroom, the suite provides products from vegan friendly brand Prija ginseng and essentials such as the shower cap and nail kit have been made using recycled packaging.
The mini bar offers a variety of locally-sourced, vegan treats including Graze protein powder, Naked fruit and nut snacks and Deliciously Ella energy balls in different flavours.
While the in-room menu includes various vegan lunch, dinner and breakfast options, the latter including fruit juices, muesli, hummus, potato hash, grilled Portobello mushroom, avocado and scrambled Quorn and quinoa.
Even the hotel’s housekeeping trolleys have been refreshed with eco-friendly products, including Method’s range of nature inspired, non-toxic and non animal-tested cleaning products. And all linen is washed with environmentally friendly detergent.
James B. Clarke, the general manager of Hilton London Bankside, said: ‘Here at Hilton London Bankside, we’re always looking at ways to innovate and bring new experiences to our guests.
‘Our Oxbo restaurant offering is already expansive, catering to many different dietary requirements so we thought, why not apply the same concept to our rooms?
‘Veganism is not just a dining trend, it has become a lifestyle choice for many and in turn, we want to be the first hotel to be able to offer those who follow the plant-based lifestyle the chance to fully immerse themselves within it from the moment they walk into the hotel.’
While Danielle Saunders from the Vegan Society added: ‘Having been involved with the planning of Hilton London Bankside’s Vegan Suite since the early stages in 2018, we’re thrilled to see the concept come to life.
‘The hotel has carefully selected different plant-based features with exceptional attention to detail and we’re pleased to see that those who live the vegan lifestyle are now able to expand their plant-based options with the opportunity to enjoy vegan travel.
‘We are excited to be able direct our followers and supporters to a hotel which incorporates the whole lifestyle experience from checking in, to sleeping in plant-based linen and furniture.’
Is ‘vegan leather’ more sustainable than animal leather?
Increasingly, more and more of us are trying our best to lighten our social and environmental footprint, but we’re often faced with the dilemma of knowing which is the lesser of two evils. Case in point, ‘vegan leather’ vs. animal leather.
There is a huge amount of contradictory discourse on whether vegan leather is or isn’t more eco-friendly than animal leather, so it can be tricky to figure out which is the worst offender. Of course, every manufactured product inevitably has an environmental cost, and there’s a myriad of aspects to every stage of both leather and faux leather production that can cause serious harm to both people and the environment. Of course, it’s all subjective and the better choice will depend on your values. Still, let’s explore the pros and cons of both materials.
What exactly is vegan leather?
Simply put, vegan leather is a leather alternative that does not involve animal products. Instead, in most cases it’s a synthetic fabric that is structured and printed to perform a lot like leather. This type of fabric is not new, even if the ‘vegan leather’ label is, although the technology has advanced considerably over the past few decades. Most faux leathers consist of a knitted polyester base with a PVC or polyurethane coating. And since they are essentially plastic-based and usually manufactured from fossil fuels, they come with many of the same environmental problems of other synthetics.
But there’s a demand for fake leather, and not only for people who want to avoid animal products. While there has been an increasing focus towards animal rights led by several organisations, this is coupled with a rising stringency in laws governing real leather which is propelling demand for synthetic leather. Some faux leather manufacturers are also refining their polyurethane products to reduce the amount of petroleum needed to produce them.
For example, designer Stella McCartney claims her “vegetarian leather” is made with a recycled polyester backing, solvent-free polyurethanes and a coating made from at least 50% vegetable oil.
To compare the environmental credentials of traditional leather versus ‘vegan leather’, it helps to understand a little about how animal leathers are made. In comparison to plastic-based leather alternatives, those within the animal leather industry point out that it’s basically a by-product industry and if it no longer existed, one could argue that we would have a massive amount of hides dumped, creating an enormous waste problem.
Chrome-tanned leather has been criticised for polluting waterways, but the industry has developed techniques for reducing and reusing waste. Chrome from the tanning process can be filtered out and reused, with the water recycled and purified for irrigation, according to the CSIRO. However, the problems Western countries faced in the last century are now being felt in developing nations. The environmental impact is still dramatic as they don’t have the financial resources to introduce the kind of technology needed to clean up the industry.
In comparison, vegan leather requires no grain to be watered and harvested for feed; nor animals to be reared and then slaughtered. It’s not a major contributor to water pollution, requiring only the land of the factory used to produce it.
Image courtesy: Stella McCartney has designed the first ever vegan Adidas Stan Smiths
Is vegetable tanning a natural alternative?
A much smaller industry than chrome tanning, vegetable tanning involves using the tannins that naturally occur in certain plants to transform a hide into leather. Vegetable-tanned leather is thicker and not as pliable as its chrome-tanned cousin, suiting it to heavy-duty applications like shoe soles and belts. But this method comes with its own downsides, according to RMIT textile technologist Mac Fergusson.
“Vegetable tanning materials, you’ve got to put a lot on. You’re putting on 20, 25 per cent of solid matter onto the leather,” said Mr Ferguson, who has spent 20 years working in leather and faux leather manufacture.
Image courtesy: Pinterest
Commonly used tannins come from trees such as oak or, closer to home, wattle, meaning these trees have to be cut down to harvest the chemicals. And it’s a thirsty process, requiring more water than chrome tanning. In fact, a 2016 study into chrome versus vegetable-tanned leather found no significant differences in the environmental footprint of each, but plenty of variation between individual tanneries.
In addition, it’s a good use of a waste product, but there’s a big difference between buying an Italian aniline leather shoulder bag and walking into a fast fashion store and buying what is being sold as a ‘leather’ bag.” Top-grain leather is often labelled as such, and carries a price tag to go with its premium status. Whereas the bottom layer of leather is sometimes called “corrected grain”, and you’ll often find leather-adhesive composites alongside “genuine leather” tags.
The ‘alternative’ alternatives
While the majority of faux leathers still rely on fossil fuels, recent innovations mean they’re no longer the only option for people who want to eschew animal products entirely. New leather-like materials are being made from products that would otherwise have gone to waste, such as cork, pineapple leaves by Pinatex and mushroom mycelium (the fungus equivalent of a root system).
Putting waste products to use diverts them from landfill, which makes environmental sense. That being said, these plant-based leather alternatives still require something to stick the cellulose fibres that make them up together, and that could often be plastic-based adhesives, so they’re not necessarily doing away with fossil fuels entirely.
Image courtesy: Goods made from leather-alternative Pinatex. Product prototypes: shoe by Camper (gold details), shoe by Puma, brown clutch bag by Ally Capellino, ywo iPhone covers by Carmen Hijosa, Backpack+ iPad cover by Smithmattias. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
So, where does that leave us? You go from one industry which is traditionally based on skins that come from the meat industry to another industry that’s heavily dependent on petrochemicals. There’s no right or wrong. It comes down to you as an individual and what you prefer. It may be the case that you will feel more comfortable investing in a pair of leather shoes which you will keep and re-wear for years, re-heeling and making a conscious effort to care for. Alternatively, for those who want to avoid animal products, there is a growing list of ‘vegan leather’ options that are considered cruelty-free.
Fashionable Female Villains You Can’t Help But Love
Turning to the dark side often comes complete with a killer wardrobe, dramatic beauty looks and a role that steals the show from the heroine.
Defying the stereotypical depiction of women on screen, these female villainesses packed quite a punch and have become icons in their own right, unaided – or perhaps even, unhindered – by men, with their unapologetic agency speaking for itself. Wearing clothes that were both stylish and dominant, each villainess was as assertive as they were powerful. The fact that they were evil was by the by.
Female villains were always the best characters. So, in celebration of spooky season, we’ve picked out our favourites; empowered, ballsy, interesting, stylish women characters, who stole the screen.
Image courtesy: BBC
Villanelle (Jodie Comer) – Killing Eve
Killing Eve, the BBC’s hit assassin-spy drama, Eve (Sandra Oh) is a slightly dappy MI5 officer who becomes obsessed with the mysterious assassin Villanelle; and Villanelle (Jodie Comer), a highly skilled and psychopathic killer, becomes obsessed with Eve in return. Eve often wears baggy trousers, loose and unstructured coats. She loses her luggage. She doesn’t have her shit together. Villanelle, in comparison, has a fancy apartment in Paris and a killer wardrobe that veers from pretty brocade tailoring to pussy bow blouses and that voluminous Molly Goddard dress.
Villanelle is also challenging the queer/straight wardrobe code, flouncing around in traditionally feminine fashions while plotting her daring, cold-hearted kills.
Image courtesy: Rex Features
O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) – Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2
Female baddies are often the best dressed characters. Sharp, tailored suits, cigarette holders, heels, single-dom. It’s played out again and again in film and TV. One movie franchise that celebrates fearless heroines better than anyone is Quentin Tarantino’s legendary Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2. The director has created some of the most empowered female characters on-screen. Powerful and intimidating women protagonists, they are also styled to perfection.
As the half-Chinese, half-Japanese head of the Tokyo underworld, O-Ren Ishii rules with an iron fist. A ruthless assassin and one of the most challenging nemeses The Bride has to conquer before getting to Bill, their epic showdown at the end of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is perhaps the best fight sequence in all of Tarantino’s movies and one where she manages to keep her white kimono pristine even after a sword fight.
Image courtesy: Rex Features
Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) – Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and 2
She may poison her enemies without flinching, but Kill Bill’s Elle Driver does so in the crispest of nurses’s outfits, complete with fine tailoring.
Image courtesy: Rex Features
Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) – Batman Returns
An awkward introduction of many a teenager to a world of fetish and BDSM, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman caused a sensation and no small amount of controversy when Tim Burton’s Batman Returns premiered in 1992. While the audience expected another superhero movie, Burton gave them a disturbingly dark gothic fairytale that caused some amount of unease among the viewers.
The same can be said about Catwoman. Michelle Pfeiffer plays Selina Kyle, a frumpy (yet obviously stunning) personal assistant of the ruthless tycoon Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). After she learns about his latest illegal venture, Shreck tries to kill Selina by throwing her from the building. But Selina miraculously survives and vows revenge. Armed with a whip and dressed in a self-made black vinyl catsuit (that looks more haute couture than DIY), Pfeiffer’s Catwoman walks the line between alluring and disturbing. And when she falls in love with the mysterious billionaire Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), it’s hard to say which of them seems more broken inside.
Image courtesy: Disney
Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty
There’s plenty of great villains in Disney’s rogues gallery but of late, one of them has gained more attention than her rivals – the evil sorceress Maleficent from the 1959 Disney animated film Sleeping Beauty. A 2014 live-action film tries to portray her as a misunderstood protagonist with a tragic past, played by Angelina Jolie.
In the 1959 version, Maleficent (voiced by and modelled on actress Eleanor Audley) is unabashedly evil. Building on a witch image established by MGM’s Wizard of Oz, Disney’s animators designed Maleficent as a unnaturally pale woman with a sharp nose dressed entirely in black. But where Evil Witch of the West is cackling menace, Maleficent is regal and vindictive. Oh, and she can turn into a gigantic black dragon! Elegantly evil at its best, and has become recognised as one of the best animated films ever made.
Image courtesy: Source unknown
Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis) – Natural Born Killers
Co-written by Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone’s satirical crime film Natural Born Killers follows Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis), a pair of psychopathic lovers, as they murder people all over USA. Juliette Lewis’ portrayal is freaky yet electrifying. And, her 90’s ensembles make it all the better!
Image courtesy: Rex Features
Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) – Basic Instinct
Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct. In it, troubled police detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) investigates a murder of a rock star which may have been committed by the smart, sexy, sociopathic and bisexual novelist Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone). Despite all the corpses piling up around Catherine, Curran begins a steamy affair with her, with deadly consequences.
A little white dress, stiletto heels and, famously, nothing else made Stone’s Catherine Tramell go down in history as one of cinema’s most seductive femme fatales.
Image courtesy: Rex Features
Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) – Mommie Dearest
Scandal may be the only thing Hollywood loves almost as much as money. In 1978, Christina Crawford published Mommie Dearest, a scandalous memoir about her childhood as an adopted daughter of the Academy Award-winning actress Joan Crawford.
Naturally, Hollywood jumped on an opportunity to adapt such a juicy narrative into a film. Paramount Pictures found its Joan Crawford in Faye Dunaway, another Academy Award-winning actress. In Mommie Dearest, Dunaway utterly commits to a role of a monstrously egotistical movie star that’s quite possibly insane. Released in 1981, the movie was met with mixed reviews due to its sordid nature. Since then, its over-the-top villainess has turned Mommie Dearest into something of a cult film.
Cashmere, one of the most luxurious fibres in the world, was once reserved for the wealthiest fashionistas. But over the past twenty years or so, its stature has skyrocketed and cheaper garments have flooded the market, turning a product that’s been historically marketed as a luxury item into something attainable for the many. That’s all well and good, but not if it means a degradation of the product itself and the processes surrounding its creation. Which is certainly true for cashmere in recent years.
There are, however, brands out there committed to producing cashmere in a fair way and to an exceptionally high standard, none more so than Naadam. A sustainable cashmere, direct-to-consumer business, Naadam focuses on designing beautifully crafted knitwear, ethically sourced directly from Mongolian herders in the Gobi Desert, and in the process essentially disrupting a 1,000 year old industry by cutting out the middlemen.
So, how does a brand of this kind create noise about its first official physical store in New York City’s Greenwich Village? With pictures of goats. Randy, breeding goats having sex. And lots of them. Over the past few week, New Yorkers may have noticed some of the 1,500 ads strewn across downtown Manhattan depicting the shaggy cloven-hoofed critters doing what they do, and as a result how Naadam is going to bring more cashmere to the world. We love it. And we love Naadam.
Image courtesy: Naadam
It might surprise you to learn but just like anything else, all cashmere is not created equal. While it’s common that all cashmere sourced from Mongolia is organic cashmere, environmentally sustainable cashmere is not and that matters a lot.
Naadam has created the only cashmere yarn that is Cradle to Cradle certified, which evaluates & sets a high standard to protect the earth and basic human rights for how the product is made. The brand has created Naadam’s Gobi Revival Fund, which has invested $150,000 into their nonprofit to inoculate 250,000 goats, and thereby directly supporting 1,000 nomadic herding families in Mongolia.
Treating their herders fairly, the label pays 50% more than traditional traders, meaning you pay 50% less as a customer. That means that just because you pay the big price tag does not guarantee the highest quality, softest cashmere. As with anything, from dirt-cheap to ultra-luxe, cashmere exists at almost every price, but what’s the fairest price?
Image courtesy: Naadam Store NYC
Naadam source their cashmere from the Zalaa Jinst white goat, the only entirely white breed of cashmere goat in Mongolia, with the longest, finest, and lightest in colour fibres. That’s about 30% longer than regular Grade A cashmere, which means the longer your sweater lasts.
Celebrating and upholding over 2,000 years of nomadic herding tradition, the fibres are then hand-combed by their herders, which is said to be the only cruelty-free cashmere since shearing goats can be a very stressful experience for the animals. Even though it takes more time & effort to hand-comb, this old-school practice is still considered the best thing for their goats and for maintaining the composition of the fibres.
Also, due to the harsh geography of this area, it means that only a very limited number of goats are combed by hand every spring. To put it into perspective, to make an average-sized jumper, it requires the wool from approximately 4 adult goats.What’s more, the brand use 100% clean energy powered production facilities, provide livable wages, programmes for healthier goats and more sustainable grazing practices, and never use harsh chemicals or bleaches. You definitely can’t say that about every other cashmere producer.
Image courtesy: Naadam
Caring for your cashmere
While pilling— the small balls that form on the fabric as it chafes — is a natural occurrence in cashmere and usually caused by friction such as from your bag strap, seatbelt or rubbing against another textured fabric, persistent pilling happens when lower quality manufacturers use short fibres. These days, manufacturers frequently make the clothes out of a mix of lengths to balance quality with cost. With Naadam cashmere, however, it pills only once (think of it like shedding a layer of skin), after-which it should not. Remember, longer fibres = stronger cashmere.
And when it comes to cleaning, it’s well known that cashmere should never be put in the washing machine. Instead, it’s recommended that you hand-wash your garments using a gentle baby shampoo and lukewarm water, gently swirling your cashmere and leaving it to soak for up to 30 minutes. To dry, the trick is to then lay out flat on a bath towel and gently roll the garment in the towel, absorbing all the water in a cashmere sushi roll of sorts. Sounds like heaven to us.
With autumn upon us and the winter months not far off, look no further than Naadam for your next knitwear investment.
After three years, Patagonia is reintroducing wool into its product offering, but this time with fresh standards and certifications.
Back in 2015 the label, a favourite amongst outdoor-types and fashion-girls alike, made a conscious decision to put a pause on their wool sourcing “until we can assure our customers of a verifiable process that ensures the humane treatment of animals.”
“We are happy to have accomplished our goal and to update you that as of Fall 2018, all of the wool in our products has been certified to the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), from farm to finished product,” Patagonia said. “In addition, our key wool partners have also met the even more stringent requirements outlined in the Patagonia Wool Standard (PWS). The development of both the RWS and the PWS took careful consideration of best practices in animal welfare and land management, and consultation with farms, animal welfare experts, brands and NGOs.”
As part of its wider responsibly sourced wool strategy, Patagonia noted that it has worked with sheep farmers and its manufacturing supply chain to obtain certification to the RWS, as “this ensures that the responsible wool that was shorn at the certified farms was not mixed or swapped with conventional wool from other sources. This effort has spanned multiple supply chains and countries.”
Beyond supply chain assurance from farm to finished product, Patagonia has itself obtained certification for its own brand, which involved changing the way they worked. “Obtaining a final stage certification mark is an important milestone for Patagonia as a brand,” the company said.
The company said it learned a lot during the process. For example, for the majority of wool sourcing brands, mapping their wool back to the farm is daunting due to the number of stakeholders including consolidators, agents and traders involved in the global wool market. Through diligence, the company was able to find wool suppliers willing to provide visibility to their farms and guarantee the traceability of the wool through the supply chain.
“One of the biggest challenges was finding suppliers who were willing to start this journey with us and accept our requirements for wool, not only in quality but also in animal welfare and land management,” the company said. “Our Patagonia Wool Standard is the hardest to meet. This is due to the fact that two of our additional requirements involve processes that take place after the animals are sold by the farmer.”
The iconic outdoors clothing brand said it feels its requirements have challenged farmers to change long-held wool ranching practices. But it was “inspired along the way by seeing how they overcame all the challenges.”
“Our progressive farm partners first and foremost care for their animals and their land, that is their livelihood and legacy and they took our standards and crafted careful plans that helped them achieve the most robust animal welfare practices we have ever seen,” the company added. “It is also important to recognize that the men and women taking care of the sheep that give our wool are constantly faced with incredible business challenges from market fluctuations, legislative/policy developments, a changing climate, obtaining financing for their operations and ensuring they train the next generation of farmers. We are honored they chose us to feature their wool in our products and applaud them for their commitment.”
Patagonia’s action comes as animal-based material sourcing has come under greater scrutiny. Many brands have pledged to stop using mohair under pressure from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Image courtesy: Reformation x Patagonia
Last month, Uniqlo and Zappos.com joined the more than 80 other major retailers worldwide that have banned mohair in response to PETA’s video exposé of the mohair industry in South Africa, the source of more than 50 percent of the world’s mohair.
All this proves to us that Patagonia is well and truly one of our go-to brands for outdoor wear.
Have we finally reached the point where buying fur is no longer acceptable?
Britain’s parliament, the UK’s top legislative body, is debating a ban on the sale of animal fur in response to the submission of the 425,834 signature strong petition delivered to Number 10 Downing Street by the #FurFreeBritain coalition earlier this year, in addition to another 110,000 signature strong online petition.
Ahead of the debate, designer Stella McCartney wrote an open letter in support of the cause, highlighting the recent shift in attitude toward fur as an indication that the country needs to take a step further and ban fur, to reflect the public sentiment.
MPs from all political parties spoke out in favour of a UK ban on fur imports on Monday evening, during a landmark debate held at Westminster Hall, voicing their concerns with the fur trade, calling it “vile”, “loathsome” and the “grimmest of human activities.”
While parliamentary debates don’t necessarily lead directly to changes in the law, they can influence decision-makers and significantly raise the profile of a campaign.
Image courtesy: Protesters calling for a ban on fur imports outside Westminster, where Parliament is debating the topic. (Humane Society International UK)
The campaign, in this case, reflects a larger movement that keeps on gaining momentum. In the past year, major fashion brands like Gucci, Michael Kors, and Versace have said they will no longer use fur in their collections. Meanwhile, the city of San Francisco banned all sales of fur, and both Norway and the Czech Republic announced plans to end fur farming in their countries.
While other parts of the world do not agree with this stance, with sales of fur items remaining strong in Asia, America and parts of Europe, especially when the fur is used as a trim, fur farming was banned in England and Wales in 2000, followed by Scotland in 2002.
However fur products can still be legally imported from other countries and sold here in the UK. Much of this fur comes from countries that have very weak or no animal welfare laws at all, which is where the dispute before Parliament now lies.
Image courtesy: Fur activists stage a silent protest outside Parliament, Maja Smiejkowska
The petition that prompted the debate says imports are coming from countries that aren’t safeguarding animals. While some fur products may never be legally imported into the UK the Government’s view is that national bans are less effective than working at an international level on animal welfare standards.
Mike Moser, CEO of the British Fur Trade Association, called it “seriously flawed,” in a statement issued by the group. The petition “erroneously states that much of the fur imported into the UK comes from countries ‘that have very weak or no animal welfare laws at all’ as justification for a fur import ban,” he said. “In fact, all fur farms, wherever they are, must be licensed by authorities and independently inspected in order to operate.”
Yet despite regulations already existing in these countries, critics of the fur industry point to investigations that keep turning up cases of animal abuse, despite regulations. Recently, 50 veterinarians and animal behaviourists sent a letter to Michael Gove, the UK’s secretary of state for environment, food, and rural affairs, saying there are “severe animal welfare deficiencies inherent to the fur trade.” They supported Humane Society International UK’s call for a ban on fur imports to Britain.
When the temperature drops, there’s nothing better than pairing your favourite jeans or long floral skirt with fluffy knitwear. The more textured the better. Yet, the days of looking out the perfect knitted mohair cardigan or jumper could be behind.
Zara, Topshop, H&M and Gap have said they will ban all products made from mohair – which is produced from the hair of Angora goats – following footage released by animal charity PETA [warning: graphic content], which showed the goats being violently mistreated at farms in South Africa.
The recently released video exposé of the South African mohair industry highlights twelve farms that showed workers engaging in unethical practices with the animals. According to the animal rights activist group PETA, farmers admitted that after shearing, most goats die from exposure to rough weather conditions and suffer cruel treatment at slaughterhouses.
As a result, PETA is urging law enforcement agencies to investigate and file charges, since it believes these farms are violating the 1962 South Africa Animal Protection Act that protects animals against unethical raising and farming practices.
Meanwhile, PETA has said that following the probe, Arcadia Group, Gap Inc., H&M and Inditex will work toward eliminating mohair in their apparel, accessories and footwear products. According to PETA, Gap Inc. said it will no longer source mohair products for its brands, including Athleta, Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy. PETA also said Arcadia Group will discontinue buying mohair for its eight brands, including Topshop. While Inditex’s seven brands, including Zara, Bershka and Massimo Dutti, will phase out mohair products by 2020, as well as H&M have said they too will make its eight brands mohair free by 2020.
A spokesperson for H&M said the supply chain for mohair is “challenging to control. Therefore we have decided to ban mohair fibre from our assortment by 2020 at the latest.”
More than half of the world’s supply of mohair comes from South Africa.
The PETA probe comes on the heels of other animal welfare milestones, as the apparel industry continues to improve its corporate social responsibility and material sourcing policies.
If you’re unsure, stick to supporting small, independent fashion labels who can track every stage of their supply chain, and who take pride in treating everyone and everything involved with decency and fairness, from people and animals to the environment.
Silk, that luxe natural fabric that hangs on your body oh so well and is a god-send when the thermostat rises. It’s little wonder the phrase ‘silky smooth’ is used so freely. But, ever wondered how this delicate material comes into existence?
A favourite amongst luxury and high-end designers, silk is celebrated for its ability to drape as well as its breathability and thermal properties that helps balance body temperature. A nice added extra, silk is naturally hypoallergenic, and is resistant to dust mites and mold. And despite what some may tell you, silk does not require dry cleaning only and can easily be hand-washed. It’s delicate but you you’ve got the softest touch. Right?
Image courtesy: The Ethical Silk Company, using Peace Silk
Traditional Silk Vs. Peace Silk
The traditional process of silk production involves boiling the intact cocoons of silk worms and unwinding the silk strand. This is done so that the silk fibres don’t break. However, that means that the silkworm dies in the process. This type of silk is produced from Bombyx mori silkworms that eat exclusively mulberry leaves. Researchers are working on finding other methods to extract silk from cocoons without harming the worm.
Peace silk, also known as ‘Eri’ or ‘Ahimsa’ silk is a process that allows the silkworm to emerge from their cocoon and complete their natural life cycle. The empty cocoons are then used to produce silk and thus makes Peace silk vegan. Eri silk-worms or Samia Cynthia worms feed off castor leaves.
Both types of silk production are considered to be sustainable thanks to their very low water footprint, produce almost zero waste and are biodegradable (within a couple of years compared to hundreds of years for synthetic materials). Not only this but when biodegrading, silk does not emit toxins, unlike synthetics.
So What’s Organic Silk?
Similarly to organic farming, organic silk production means that no nasty chemicals, pesticides, insecticides or synthetic additives (often used by some silk suppliers to provide additional softness to their silk fabrics) have been used in the production of the silk fibre and in producing the finished cloth. In fact, organic silk is most often produced in small villages by indigenous people and is the choice for the purest silk.
Organic silk farming has far reaching effects, in particular it promotes the sustainability of mulberry trees, which are the silkworms food source.
The challenge here, however, is that there are very few, if any, governmental bodies that regulate whether or not a piece of silk is labeled “certified organic”. The main issue that causes concern in determining if silk is organic is the dyeing processes. Some producers use environmentally friendly non-natural dyes that are claimed to be “organic.” The real deal is when the silk organic fabric is also handwoven and hand-dyed using natural dyes, as well as the mulberry trees they feed on are grown organically, without pesticides or fertilisers.
When it comes to silk production, it’s clear there are some tricky issues at play from the way in which it’s produced to how it’s designed and sold. That said, silk is undeniably a very sustainable, eco-friendly natural fibre with outstanding properties. So next time you’re looking for the softest touch, now you know to turn to silk.
Why You Shouldn’t Trust Beauty Brands That Sell In China
Remember your favourite hair care brand adverts of the past? With Amazonian goddesses with long, luscious manes, strolling under waterfalls, surrounded by nature and tropical fruit and birds of paradise. You, like us, could have been fooled into thinking these products were animal-friendly and made from natural fruit. But, in reality, they were neither natural nor cruelty-free.
Much like the growing attention currently placed on natural beauty products, for a period of time cruelty-free beauty products were high on the agenda and brands wanted to be a part of this movement. There is an assumption that these brands are still committed to cruelty-free, however that’s just not the case if they sell in China.
In China, animal testing is mandatory for all cosmetics companies. That means that if a brand says they are committed to cruelty-free but sell in China, they most certainly are not.
Pai Skincare is a natural, organic and cruelty-free skincare brand, who refuses to sell in China because of their animal-testing policy.
“Nobody seems to be talking about or challenging it while all these brands are literally getting away with murder and trying to act like they’re in the beauty business — I don’t find anything beautiful about testing on animals. We don’t sell into China and I hope the world will head that way,” explains Stella McCartney.
“All these brands are literally getting away with murder and trying to act like they’re in the beauty business…”
– Stella McCartney –
The designer has relaunched the Stella Peony fragrance, with sustainability in mind. Instead of using organic and natural ingredients, which can be harmful to the environment in terms of land and water usage, they mimick scents in the lab. The fragrance comes in recyclable outer packaging, an unheard of in the luxury beauty market. (Most brands use foil printing for high shine, but this is much more environmentally unfriendly.)
Image courtesy: Stella McCartney’s eco-overhaul of the Stella Peony fragrance
According to a US report, “China is projected to become the largest market for personal care and cosmetics products globally in the next five to ten years”, with well-known brands L’Oreal, Benefit, Rimmel London and Shiseido – which owns Nars – among its biggest sellers.
When cruelty free makeup brands put profits before ethics and decide to sell in China, it’s up to us to make smart beauty choices.
Outdated and uncreative. Those are some of the reasons given by Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri to explain the recent decision made by the Kering-owned powerhouse to go fur-free. A decision that was made with creative director Alessandro Michele.
Sure, this comes years after the famous ‘I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur’ PETA campaign of the 1990’s, fronted by the supermodels of the decade. While some backtracked on this like supermodel Naomi Campbell, Calvin Klein was one fashion house that has remained fur-free since 1994.
Image courtesy: PETA | Pinterest
Gucci’s recent decision can be attributed to a number of factors, including environmental and moral reasons, but largely it comes down to the bottom line. Millennials, whom consulting firm Deloitte describes as more ethically minded than previous generations, presently account for more than half of Gucci’s shoppers, up from 40% two years ago, according to analysts from Mainfirst Bank.
Interestingly, for Gucci it’s also about attracting and retaining employees. Bizzarri shared that he needs to do this “[otherwise] the best talent will not come to work for Gucci,”
Gucci joins the likes of Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren (2006), Tommy Hilfiger (2007) and Armani, which are all fur-free.
The ban will take effect with its Spring/Summer 2018 collections and it has signed up to the Fur Free Alliance, an organisation that promises to end exploitation and killing of animals for fur, as part of a wider sustainability plan.
Gucci shares the same parent company as Stella McCartney.
Could this be a turning point for the fashion industry as a whole? Could it go even further towards achieving greater sustainable fashion and ethical fashion goals? We think so.
Leather is big business, too. Today, the global leather goods business is worth over $100 billion a year and is used across the fashion, automotive, and interior design industries, and tops the charts as one of the world’s most widely traded commodities.
But the process of creating leather is still largely archaic depending on animal skins. Unique for its strength and suppleness, not to mention its aesthetic appeal and cultural links to bikers, rockstars and cowboys, it’s environmental impact is astonishing. The raising and slaughtering of the billions of animals whose skins fuel the leather supply chain each year is inefficient, cruel and comes with huge environmental impact. This is compounded further with alarming human-rights violations. As a result of long-term toxic chemical exposure in leather tanneries, workers suffer higher rates of cancer, respiratory diseases, and other life-shortening health issues than the average office worker.
And so, with technological advancements comes positive breakthroughs, not least by way of biotech firm Modern Meadow. The New Jersey-based start-up says it can “biofabricate” leather without the rest of the cow. It grows a strain of yeast engineered to produce collagen, the protein in skin that gives leather its strength and stretch.
Image courtesy: Swatches | Modern Meadow
No dead cows. No scars or marks on the leather. And none of the petrochemicals used to make pleather or vegan leather. This presents enormous opportunities, not least for the fashion industry and will no doubt unlock powerful business, creative and public relations benefits.
Interestingly, Modern Meadow’s technology also allows clients to bring processes like dyeing and finishing into the formation of the material, which unlocks further efficiencies.
“Luxury brands are really important because they tend to be the ones most focused on quality and creating things that are truly differentiated in terms of design and performance and bringing novelty and enduring value to consumers,” he continues. “Plus, the margins are high, so they can underwrite innovation. And they have a mindset for innovation,” explains Andras Forgacs, co-founder of Modern Meadow.
Not only confined to your food products. That Whole Foods peanut butter in your cupboard. Check the ingredients label. But it is also in your skincare products, lipsticks and self-tanning products. It will surprise you how pervasive palm oil has become.
“Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil on Earth. It’s an edible and highly versatile oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees,” Emma Keller, agricultural commodities manager at WWF, told Refinery29.
“Palm oil is in nearly half of all packaged products we find in supermarkets; it’s in everything from pizza dough to cookies and ice cream, as well as being found in our shampoos, soaps and even lipstick; it’s everywhere,” Keller explains. “Everything from creating the shine on your croissant to providing stability to a soap bar.”
Image courtesy: Into The Gloss
But why is this a problem?
Well, it’s one of the biggest environmental disasters of our generation.
“These trees grow best in the tropics and are highly productive, producing more oil per land area than any other vegetable oil! Together, Indonesia and Malaysia make up around 80% of the global palm oil supply.”
The problem arises when you realise that the overwhelming global demand for the tree – which grows over 20 metres tall, can be harvested all year round, and uses up to 10 times less land than other vegetable oils like rapeseed or sunflower – has devastating consequences on our environment.
The reason 80% of palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia is thanks to their rainforest-rich land and tropical environments. In fact, these two countries are so habitable for palm oil farms because they were previously home to some of the most biodiverse forests in the world. And the deforestation caused by palm oil production is devastating not just for the wide range of ecosystems but also for the Earth’s climate.
Image courtesy: WWF
“These forests are home to over 10% of global biodiversity, including some iconic and vulnerable species like orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants,” Keller warns. “In addition, the loss of these forests releases millions of tonnes of climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions, and more recently has been linked to the burning of peat soils which has caused a dense ‘haze’ over parts of southeast Asia, which threatens people’s health.”
Not only the environment, but palm oil production has huge social impact, too. Much of the indigenous land that has been lived and worked on for generations is now in the control of palm oil companies, handed over by governments.
So, what can we do as consumers? Keller argues boycotting is not the answer as this can lead to even greater environmental and social problems. Instead, ensure you are buying products from retailers and brands that only use sustainable palm oil. Find out who is doing that here. And if they aren’t, write to your favourite brand and encourage them to do so.
Your buying habits can make a big impact. And, it only takes small changes.
That time of year is creeping closer. When it’s legit to drink gingerbread lattes, eat carbs morning, noon and night, and trade that summer slip dress for being wrapped in the finest of fabrics; cashmere if you’re lucky.
Once a luxury, it’s now commonplace to see cashmere garments from scarves to jumpers to jogging bottoms now sold everywhere from luxury brands to high street store and even supermarket chains. “What’s the big deal?,” you might ask. Cashmere is no longer only reserved for the well-off but for everyone now, so that’s got to be fair, right? Wrong.
Like fashion, cheap cashmere comes at a price. So, if it’s not the consumer fronting the costs, someone or something else is.
Cashmere is one of the rarest natural fibres in the world. The fine, warm hair grown on a type of goat that resides in the Gobi Desert, which stretches from Northern China into Mongolia. Beneath the animals’ coarse hair lies an undercoat of superfine fibres concentrated on the underbelly. In May and June, when the goats molt, local workers comb the belly hair, sort it by hand, and send it to a dehairing facility (usually in China) to be cleaned and refined. Each goat produces maybe three or four ounces of cashmere. That’s enough for between a third and a half of a sweater, whereas an ordinary sheep provides three or four sweaters. You can start to see why those luxury pyjamas will retail for £500. Once cleaned, the cashmere is then baled and delivered to Europe, where it’s spun into fine yarn and sold to designers for roughly $114 a pound.
Image courtesy: Mongolian Goat Herdspeople | NPR
The amount of wool each goat grows and its quality though are “highly dependent” on the surrounding temperature. Colder is better, which means as temperatures rise, luxury brands—and consumers—will likely see “reduced quality.” However, surprisingly harsh weather and drought have already led to the deaths of millions of goats in recent years. As Mongolia produces a third of the global supply, and cashmere makes up 40% of the country’s non-mineral exports, Mongolian herders have increased their flocks to compensate for such volatility, with overgrazing quickly eroding the grasslands where they live. The result is undernourished goats with coarser hairs.
65% of Mongolia’s grasslands have been degraded due to overgrazing of cashmere goats and to climate change. The climate change has led to a 4-degree Fahrenheit rise in average temperature in Mongolia, outpacing the rest of the world by three degrees.
“Today, Mongolian rangeland is at a crossroads,” says Bulgamaa Densambuu, a researcher for the Swiss-funded Green-Gold project. Her organisation focuses on preventing overgrazing of Mongolia’s grasslands, which Densambuu calls “rangeland.””Ninety percent of this total degraded rangelands can be recovered naturally within 10 years if we can change existing management,” she says. “But if we can’t change the existing management today, it will be too late after five to 10 years.”
Trouble is, these goat herders in Inner Mongolia are shortchanged, selling their goat hair for as little as $2.30 a kilo. By the time it reaches the international market it can fetch up to $75 a kilo. And no longer are coats always combed to release the best-quality cashmere hair, but the animals are sheared, mixing the soft with the coarse. These changes conspire to change cashmere. It’s growing coarser and thus losing its USP. It can now take the combed hair of five goats and a year of growing to make a top-quality cashmere sweater. That’s not the sort of time frame that suits a global commodity (which cashmere has become).
Image courtesy: Lkhagvajav Bish’s herd of cashmere goats feed on the winter grass in a valley in northeastern Mongolia. The goats’ sharp hooves cut through the soil surface, and their eating habits — voraciously ripping up plants by their roots — prevent the grassland from thriving. Rob Schmitz / NPR
With 90% of Mongolia now fragile dry-land, it is under increasing threat of desertification (according to the United Nations Development Programme). In fact, as a result Mongolia and Inner Mongolia has actually suffered a cashmere shortage for the last 50 years, with this obviously having an impact on local communities, the animals themselves and the environment.
More recently though, most of the global cashmere output is coming from China, where producers are increasingly blending different qualities of cashmere to achieve volume. This is easy to understand when you consider the “democratisation” of the fashion industry has led to a huge amount of affordable, casual cashmere hitting the high street. Whereas luxury labels are a lot more picky in their sourcing, centring on Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, using only the finer, whiter fibres.
However, with demand for cashmere souring, a change in production has occurred which has placed great strain on the system and continues the vicious cycle. It’s not rocket science. More goats means more grazing. More grazing means the grassland is never given a chance to restore, further plunging it into a state of degradation. The result is malnourished goats which produce coarser hair, which is obviously less desirable and leads to a shrink in the supply of high quality cashmere.
Availability will be jeopardised leading to an increase in cost, as well as poor products undermining the very notion of luxury, as highlighted in a report drafted by luxury group Kering and BSR (a nonprofit consultancy that helps companies with their sustainability) which singled out cashmere, as well as cotton, and others.
So, how do high street brand such as Uniqlo supply genuine 100% cashmere sweaters in 25 colours for £60 a pop? Partly because they leverage huge buying power, as they point out. Yet, other than that it’s difficult to add much detail because, unlike Johnstons of Elgin, which still process cashmere in Scotland and follows its supply chain direct to herdsmen in Inner Mongolia, Uniqlo’s business model distances the producer from the product. Its cashmere story, which has fuelled the brand’s global expansion, omits goats and desertification and doesn’t explain how this extraordinary raw fibre will be protected in the future.
“There’s been an absolute avalanche of people wanting more and more cashmere, and pushing the price, pushing the supply chain,” says James Sugden OBE, a director of luxury cashmere clothing label, Brora, and former managing director of Scottish woollen mill, Johnstons of Elgin. “It has created a problem, in so much as in some areas, some growers, tempted by higher volumes have gone for volume rather than quality.”
Image courtesy: Brora collaborates with Eudon Choi
Quantity over quality has never been so glaringly apparent. And with rising temperatures, this will create another level of strain.
With luxury brands feeling the strain of sourcing high quality cashmere, and high street brands compounding this through their insatiable appetite for affordable cashmere, the problem can only get worse. It’s a raw material and it’s running out. To fix this, brands large and small, luxury and bulk buyers, need to realise they have to care as much for the people at the bottom of their supply chain as much as they do for those at the top, otherwise everybody suffers.
“Desertification also exacerbates economic hardship for herders and drives them into poverty and displacement to urban slums,” says Una Jones, chief executive officer of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), which was formed in 2015 to unite companies, governments and NGOs to tackle sustainability issues in the cashmere industry, by establishing the first Sustainable Cashmere Standard, piloted in 2016.
This is the stark reality behind the cashmere industry. So, what can consumers do to alleviate the strain? Be more mindful where you buy that cashmere sweater from and ensure you are paying a fair price from a responsible retailer for your cashmere mixed joggers. Those that are initiating market demand for fair, sustainable cashmere, if we want to see a widespread industry change.
The past few years have seen a massive shift in preference towards organic, natural skincare and make-up. In fact, luxury all-natural beauty brand Kari Gran’s September 2016 survey found that 55% of women asked read product labels prior to purchases in order to avoid chemical ingredients, while this was 62% amongst millennials. The ingredients those surveyed are most worried about? Sulphates, parabens, synthetic fragrances, and mineral oils. While 49% said that it was important to have natural make-up products, and 57% saying the same for natural skincare).
These figures are likely to be even higher now since people are beginning to learn a lot more about what goes into making their skincare and make-up products. Unsurprising when you consider that the skin is the body’s largest organ, so instead of just giving it surface treatment, we are now concerned with nourishing and feeding it only the best plant-based ingredients. No side of toxins here, please.
Navigating your way around the green beauty market can, however, be a pretty time-consuming undertaking. That’s why we’ve rounded up the 10 best natural beauty and skincare accounts on Instagram. Notes at the ready.
About: Born from make-up artist, Emmily Banks’ personal and professional transition to eco-beauty. It is an ever expanding platform bursting with highly informative, meaningful and mindful content. Driven by a holistic approach which incorporates beauty, health and wellness, the platform aims to empower people to make the transition to eco-beauty by embracing natural, organic, ethical and cruelty-free products and practices.
About: These two ladies started off as DIY skincare bloggers, a consequence of being dissatisfied with the beauty industry’s lack of transparency and mysterious labelling. Now a solid content platform, it features everything from product reviews, their own products, events including workshops and @wearecleancult, London’s first wellbeauty festival co-hosted by the brand. As mentioned, they are also the founders of 100% natural, vegan and super cool skincare label @bybibeauty. These ladies really know their natural skincare.
About: On a mission to prove an organic lifestyle can still be glamorous and beautiful. Often shares promo codes with her followers too, so keep peeled! “One of my favourite ways to practice self-love is to refuse to cover my body with toxins. So many things are a risk to our health these days so choosing to only use green and clean beauty is one major way I can invest back in myself,” explained Amanda. We hear you – we all deserve better than toxins.
About: Covering organic beauty, travel and wellness. The OBL Club regularly selects members to test natural beauty products and followers will receive discount codes on exciting new beauty products from independent labels.
Name: Lauren Alexa
About: Not specifically a natural beauty blogger but the account showcases the best in beauty which is interspersed with natural/organic skincare/make-up brand reviews. What we’re really hooked on, though, are the illustrations. Beauts. Reviews by @itslaurenalexa. Asked how she foresees the growth of the natural/organic skincare market, “it’s definitely going to take over the world any minute now”. We’re with you on that Lauren!
About: Proud organic beauty blogger with a real passion for non-toxic beauty. Inga offers detailed and practical reviews of a variety of organic beauty products with a particular focus on cost-effectiveness.
About: This account is for the beauty shop and spa, based in Portland, U.S. It features cool and interesting new products, as well as introducing new brands entering the natural skincare and make-up market. They also set up meet & greets with the brands themselves, every now and then. If you ever happen to be in Portland!
About: The ultimate guide to clean beauty, their strong commitment to quality and natural ingredients gives their readers the best mix of trendy yet green choices. In fact, these ladies partnered with the Clean Beauty Co. ladies above to co-founder @wearecleancult.
About: New Yorker native, Katie has turned an obsession on everything green and non-toxic in a very practical blog. Along with in-depth reviews of natural/organic skincare and make-up, she also rewards her followers with news about sales and promos.
So there you have it. As we move further away from chemical-based products, green, natural and ethical beauty is becoming more vital in our skin, hair and make-up products. Let these women guide you to a better skincare regime. After all, why would we want toxic chemicals on our skin when there is beyond better alternatives. Not only do they all look great but there’s comfort in knowing these products are free from the nasty business.
Industrial waste dumping has been accused of turning a group of dogs in Mumbai a strange blue colour.
First spotted on the 11th August, according to the Hindustan Times, the sightings of the strangely coloured stray blue dogs prompted locals to complain to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board about dyes being dumped in the Kasadi river, where the animals often swim.
Image courtesy: newsflare
Authorities in Mumbai have since shut down a manufacturing company after it was accused of dumping untreated industrial waste and dyes into a local river that resulted in the 11 dogs turning blue.
Unclear of what the company was producing, it raises yet further concerns over the dumping of toxic waste into local waterways. It leads one to wonder, if it can do this to animals, what is it doing to people?
“It was shocking to see how the dog’s white fur had turned completely blue,” said Arati Chauhan, head of the Navi Mumbai Animal Protection Cell, told the Times. “We have spotted almost five such dogs here and have asked the pollution control board to act against such industries.”
Chauhan had posted images of the blue dogs on the group’s Facebook page, saying the “pollutants from Taloja Industrial area not only ruining the water bodies affecting humans there but also affecting animals, birds, reptiles”.
This is alarming on many front but especially considering how densely populated the area is and how this case of chemical dumping is probably not an isolated case. It just happened to result in undeniable photographic evidence this time around.
Well-known for her prominent stance against using animal products in her luxury fashion line, McCartney steps it up by now challenging the need for using real leather by the luxury fashion market.
“Skin-free skin” challenges the need for using real leather in fashion
Refusing to use real leather for environmental and ethical reasons, to date the designer has avoided using fake leather because of the lack of quality in its aesthetic. However, with innovation comes “skin-free skin,” the modern animal-friendly technical fabrics that are indistinguishable from the real thing and now elevate the Stella McCartney label to new heights.
This also allows the designer to pose a question to the industry about why anyone needs to use leather anymore.