Sustainable fashion, mindful fashion, ethical fashion, conscious fashion: whatever you want to call it, it’s come a long way in recent years. Whether you’re looking for high-end responsibly produced pieces or more reasonably priced, yet well crafted everyday pieces, the industry is finally catering to a mix of fashion lovers. Those who care as much about how their clothes are made as how well they look.
Street style, however, is one area that’s still trying to strike the right balance. There are, however, a few labels who are killing it. For us, stylish streetwear that’s as cool as it is fair and sustainable, we look no further than SWETE.
One of the freshest new leisurewear brands, SWETE is an environmentally motivated streetwear brand that brings the cool game to street style with a conscience. This is all down to the design eye of Australian-born, Parsons NYC educated designer Emily Nam. Her vision came from the need to create clothing that responds to your body; SWETE wants you to “wear your clothes, live in them, feel them and engage in this world.” This is modern leisurewear at it’s coolest and a streetwear label with a softer edge.
Image courtesy: SWETE
The label does a nice job of creating pieces that are as beautifully designed as they are ethical in creation. By using recycled polyester and Australian-certified, organically-grown cotton, all of SWETE’s fabrics and production processes are free from chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. The designs themselves are influenced by art, luxury, street culture, people and Nam’s global conscience; the designer herself wants to create clothing that you not only look good in, but you feel good (and happy) in, too.
Taking inspiration from streetwear, art and fashion, the label thrives on street culture where you can mix high-end with casual, pairing a dressed up look with a simple tee to create your own look. Basically, a lewk we all try to achieve most weekends. The campaign stars ultra-cool artist/model/out-spoken feminist Phoebe Collings-James and is shot by Francesca Allen.
To get to know more about the label, we spoke to Emily in New York via the wonders of email and then caught up again during her recent trip to London.
‘In the last several years, I have noticed there has been a big shift in our awareness of the importance of sustainable fashion practices. There is more information not just in fashion, but also globally that our environment is in a critical situation and as we become more educated on these issues, it is forcing consumers to question the impact their behaviours are having on the planet. We are also seeing big brands lead the way in making changes. While smaller brands are making great efforts, it’s big corporations that have the power to really drive the whole industry forward. Vivienne Westwood has been instrumental in voicing her opinions and she has great influence in the industry. The key, I think, is that we don’t need to label it as ‘ethical’ fashion versus ‘standard’ fashion anymore. Everyone needs to implement better practices in their business models that are long term and that take responsibility for the social and environmental impacts that these decisions have. Money and profit in business is often what overrides being accountable for these issues – that attitude is what needs to change.
‘A foundation for starting the brand was that I was interested in style and design, and sustainable practices were also very important to me. Without trying to section off ethical fashion as a certain ‘style’, it was very hard to find clothing that met both my aesthetic and sustainable expectations. I wanted to show the industry that it is possible to make clothing that is stylish (and with colour!) whilst having the environmental considerations. A really challenging part for us when launching the brand was that as soon as you said the brand was environmental, standard clothing stores for example would turn away when our product was in fact better quality than what they were selling. Ironically, ethical organisations also found it hard to accept us, as we didn’t meet the stand expectations of what the ‘ethical’ aesthetic was assumed to be. The plus side is this has allowed us to develop relationships with likeminded people who really are interested in developing better practices, and I think that is really important when trying to make changes. It’s not something that you can do on your own but there is an incredible community growing who are interested in both style and sustainability.
Image courtesy: SWETE
‘It took a lot of time to find materials and production facilities that met our expectations and also to find people who understood that these issues were important to us as a brand. We were really fortunate to find a company manufacturing a wide range of sustainable materials and who built the business from the ground up based on these goals. The factory itself is amazing, it is certified organic, they recycle all their water and disperse it to local farms – it’s those relationships that have been key to us being able to engage in developing the brand. In the UK, the Ethical Fashion Source is an incredible resource for connecting manufactures, designers and specialist in the industry. It is finding these relationships where there is a common thread. Once you start tapping into these communities you realise there are more businesses engaging in sustainable practices that you were aware of and it really is not difficult to find those key relationships that you need.
Read content labels and know what they mean. Cotton versus organic cotton, polyester versus recycled polyester. Learn what each product means and how it is farmed or produced. Ask the brand questions like; Where are the products made? What materials do they use? How do they ship items? Do they have a sustainability policy? The customers are the leaders in this change becoming a substantial shift in the industry and questions will force them to respond to meet customer demands. Big companies are being forced to establish environmental policies, which you can find on their websites. I think it is a process of educating yourself, making changes within your means and with common sense. It is a shift that needs to happen globally across all industry, so if we all start being more aware and thinking about how we consume products, there will be a change.