With winter in full swing, it's easy to slide down that slippery slope of aimlessly shopping for sweaters, coats, and jackets galore simply because you're cold and tired of wearing the same three warmest things in your wardrobe on repeat. Well this winter, we want to challenge you to think before you shop. These days, if brands aren't at least thinking about sustainability and fresh ways to maximize their efforts to finally do some good for the environment, they're doing it wrong. However, knowing where to turn for clothing that is both seasonally appropriate and sustainable can be tricky and time-consuming, which is why we are here to help you navigate the space.
Buying clothes that keep you warm is of the utmost importance during winter, and last time I checked, wool was a great material to help facilitate that. Recent innovations and procedures have helped turn wool into a sustainable material that can now be manipulated to create products such as denim and athletic-wear. Thanks to The Woolmark Company, brands are now utilizing this material to further their sustainability efforts and design products that are both stylish and seasonally appropriate. So if you are trying to place all your efforts on shopping more sustainably, let the brands ahead guide you.
Below, read up on all the good these four designers are doing in the sustainability space, and shop the products you'll need to start an environmentally conscious winter wardrobe.
For Trendy Pieces:
3.1 Phillip Lim
Phillip Lim recently implemented a new innovation when dealing with wool in which he uses merino wool Sherpa fabric as a natural fur alternative. What this means is that instead of the fur or hide that is usually taken from the animal toward the end of its life, the Sherpa fabric Lim has a traditional shearling look but is made from the fibers that are just shorn, allowing the sheep to continue living. While, yes, natural wool still comes from sheep, this kind of production works into the natural ecosystem of the animal's life. As you know, wool is one of the warmest materials one can wear in the winter, and doing it sustainably is even better.
Additionally, the brand overall has made strong commitments to reduce its use of man-made fibers overall. This fall/winter collection is currently composed of 82% natural fibers, reducing its use of man-made fibers from last year by 22%.
“Sustainability is really about balance, not perfection. It starts small, with the knowledge that we can do the most good when we hold ourselves, and each other, personally accountable. I am looking at what is possible for my brand and trying to make the changes that I think will eventually amount to a greater shift. On a personal level, it feels so rewarding to return to nature and rediscover the unlimited potential of the natural materials that exist in our natural world. My simple goal with our continuation of exploring merino wool is to pivot from a mindset of age-specific seasonality to a season-less, timeless covetable cool.” — Phillip Lim
For Practical Pieces:
If you're already familiar with Colovos, you're well aware of the fact that the brand has been pushing the boundaries of sustainability in production for quite a while now. It won the International Woolmark Prize in 2019, and it's championed for its innovation when it comes to how it produces its denim. Instead of using excessive amounts of water and cotton (both of which are harmful to the environment), Colovos opts for a unique approach by using wool as the main component in its denim. The puffer coat below is made with water-resistant merino wool and is stuffed with raw wool versus the typical down or synthetic filling. These pieces were also made with Greenpeace Detox–certified mills, a program that's dedicated to eliminating harmful chemicals while producing clothing in 2020.
“Our goal was to create a luxury, modern collection with a fully sustainable proposition,” explained Michael Colovos, the brand's co-founder. “We are committed to principles of zero waste in manufacture, so all production waste and end-of-life garments will be recycled to create new fabrics, a process that uses steam, heat, and citrus to break down the fabric waste and create a new fiber to be spun into fully recyclable yarns.” — Michael Colovos
For Winter Workouts:
Not only is Nagnata one of the hottest athleisure brands to know (at least in my opinion), but it is doing so much good as well. The entire stylish collection is made with intentional reductions in the use of synthetic fibers that are typically used in activewear. Instead, Australian merino wool is used as the main ingredient. While wool might seem like the last thing you want to wear while you work out, I can personally attest to the brilliance of this product, especially in winter. Innovative knitting technologies are used to create yarn and fabric that have a synthetic core but ultra-fine merino wool on the outside so that what touches your skin is soft and performance-ready. This collection was also created with no material wastage or overuse due to the brand's zero-yarn-waste process.
“As designers, we are driven by design and textile innovation. Our aim was to develop an innovative performance wool seamless-knit fabrication that wasn’t already on the market and which could provide a super-soft second-skin hand feel using the highest possible content of natural fibers. We wanted to work with merino wool initially for sustainability reasons, as wool is a natural, biodegradable, and renewable fiber. Merino wool is also one of the world’s most technically advanced fibers and works in total harmony with the wearer’s body. We believe style and quality do not need to be sacrificed in the pursuit of sustainably produced fashion.
“Our skin is our biggest organ and absorbs the toxins and chemicals from the textiles we wear on our bodies. Synthetic fabrics are mainly derived from petroleum and these petrochemicals are not something you want your skin absorbing, especially in yoga and breath-focused practices when your pores are so open.” — Laura May, Nagnata founder and creative director
For When You Need a Break From the Cold:
If all this talk of winter is making you, well, cold, then let's take a step in a different direction and talk about some shopping you can do should your winter plan be to go somewhere warm. Typically associated with vacation-wear and beachy landscapes, LemLem is a brand you should be shopping this season in preparation for all your travel plans—hypothetical or not. The brand recently released an eight-piece travel collection that uses Australian merino wool and Ethiopian cotton. The benefit of this is that it actually enables you to travel with much less than you normally would, as these wool garments are not only versatile but also don't need to be washed as much as other fabrics.
All of the products in this collection are made-to-order and woven by hand in Ethiopia four weeks from ordering to reduce the overproduction of garments that otherwise would end up in a landfill. To help further educate and provide transparency to its customers, every piece in the LemLem x Woolmark collection comes with a little NFC chip that enables consumers to follow the journey of their garment from the fiber source in Australia to the production in Ethiopia.
“Ethiopia is one of the few places left where traditional clothing is still very much a part of everyday life. There are so many interesting and historic design elements incorporated into Ethiopian weaving, and we work together with our artisans to include these in our LemLem designs. Our collections are best known for summer weather with our light, gauzy handwoven signature cottons. Now, we have this incredible opportunity to incorporate wool into a new sustainable travel collection. As part of this collaboration, The Woolmark Company is sharing its farm-to-factory sustainability expertise with our design team and artisans. With their support, we are helping our weavers build skills so they can earn a good, sustainable living doing work they love and at the same time encouraging the fashion industry to look to Africa as a source of incredible high-quality craftsmanship.” — Liya Kebede, LemLem founder