As we collectively start to grasp the sheer extent of harm the fast fashion industry is inflicting upon our world today, Geraldine Carton takes a look at some local innovators who inject positivity into the mix by making it their business to provide Irish consumers with eco-conscious, sustainable and ethical alternatives to their everyday apparel.
Committed to more than just designing beautiful garments, the brands and individuals below are designing a new way of doing business, and are making conscious efforts to change the legacy they leave behind.
In recognising the resilience of repurposed fabrics; the fragility of the environment; and ultimately the need for change, these individuals are creating beautiful, thoughtful and practical garments that stand the test of time, and represent a movement towards a more responsible, sustainable way of living.
From established businesses to school-going teenagers, here are some of the people making waves in an industry that is flooded with bad press and demands for change. Here's hoping that a monsoon of success may come their way.
Mamukko was founded in 2011 by two Hungarian brothers, Levente and Attila Magyar, who had a dream of continuing their fourth generation leather crafting family heritage while making a movement toward cleaner seas and a clearer conscious.
The brothers believe that every up-cycled material has a past, and this provides the inspiration for every satchel, tote, hat, wallet, belt and basket they create. The products have also been greatly influenced by the surrounding Cork landscape and the brothers’ love for sailing, fishing and the history of the land. Each piece is 100% handmade from scratch in their Kinsale workshop, before being brought to their shop in town.
“We have dedicated our work towards creating an eco-fashion lifecycle and we want to spread a conscious message that promotes the use of eco-friendly, local, handmade goods to be enjoyed by all. Our products are designed to be long-lasting, sustainable, functional, original and locally produced.”
ICYMI: The ugly side of fast fashion: This is the scary impact it's having on our world
Jump The Hedges is a recycled bag-making studio based in Belfast. The company was set-up in response to the lack of sustainably made functional bags available on the market.
“I was so frustrated to not be able to find a bag for my yoga mat that was water-resistant, eco-conscious and suitable for cycling with, so I decided to make some myself”.
Founded by designer Síofra Caherty, the ethical, sustainable fashion brand creates colourful, well-structured bags from reclaimed materials such as truck tarpaulin, aeroplane seats and sailcloth. The emphasis is on reclaiming what materials are already there, and redirecting them away from a landfill future. Síofra currently sells yoga bags, stash bags, bum bags and tote bags, and has plans to expland this range and launch more styles in 2019.
Photo credit: Malcom McGettigan
GROWN launched in summer of 2016, and immediately set itself apart from the rest as a young, vibrant, ethical fashion business held strong by an environmental backbone and the desire to “challenge people to create change”.
“Everything we make, every action we take and every system we have, goes through rigorous sustainability auditing because we strongly believe that clothes shouldn’t cost the earth”, says Stephen O'Reilly, GROWN Co-Founder.
Currently the only clothing brand in Ireland to be a member of the “1% For The Planet”, GROWN actively invests in environmental nonprofits creating positive change; only uses 100% certified organic cotton; engages with 0% forced labour; and is involved in a certified planting programme of indigenous Irish trees on Irish soil, planting “one tree for every tee” (although in reality they plant a tree for every item they sell).
Passionate about the great outdoors (and protecting it) Lynn Haughton created The Upcycle Movement with the intention to transform used wetsuits into bags and accessories "for everyday adventures".
Having lived both in Australia and at a lake activity centre in Ireland, Lynn came to realise that wetsuits aren't recyclable and don't biodegrade. This presented sports enthusiasts with the problem of figuring out how to dispose of their old suits without causing harm to the environment.
Lynn realised how durable the material was and that it could be used in so many other ways; and decided to take t upon herself to give these cast-off wetsuits it a new lease of life and purpose. “When I design I challenge what a material or textile can be. I love to discover a new purpose and reveal a new beauty in something that many would otherwise overlook”.
Lynn's upcycled products now include wine bottle sleeves, pencil cases, earrings and backpacks, and she is keen to keep this range ever-expanding.
Related: Want To Be More Green? 8 Small Changes To Make Today
Belfast-based Irish Designer Marie Nancarrow started Titanic Denim as a way to make her own personal contribution to the planet, all whilst paying homage to her rock‘n’roll upbringing.
Being born in the late 1960s into a family of musicians, Marie is a true child of the revolution; “My dad played guitar with Van Morrison and my brother had his own band too, so patching up jeans became the fabric of my teenage years. Few people know that fast fashion is a major contributory factor to landfill and greenhouse gases, or that it takes an average of 7,000 litres of water to grow enough cotton to make one pair of jeans. I wanted to create an ethical fashion brand that helps to deal with these issues; even if it’s in a small way."
Marie now repurposes old denim into affordable, wearable “pieces of art” – everything from jackets and dungarees to kidswear, aprons and laptop covers.
Fresh Cuts Clothing is Dublin's only dedicated ethical and sustainable clothing store. Spread over two floors in the heart of the creative quarter, this independent Irish business hosts a curated selection of the best men's and women's ethical brands.
The Fresh Cuts label is a quality collection of casual lifestyle wear, based on minimal branding and the finest of fabrics. The signature graphic t-shirts are designed and printed in Ireland on bamboo and organic cotton; everything you'll find here is eco-friendly; made to last; and manufactured under fair and safe working conditions. Fresh Cuts stocks brands such as Mud Jeans, Armedangels, Wills Vegan Shoes, and EcoAlf, as well as its own Fresh Cuts range.
Young people taking charge...
Bad Sister is the sustainably-focused, vintage fashion brand run by 17-year-old Ava Tuohyon via her Etsy page. The brand specialises in vintage and upcycled clothing for the “peacocks” of the fashion world (peacocks being those who wish to stand out from the crowd).
'I am a “peacock” myself and I set up Bad Sister in 5th year at secondary school as a creative outlet and an escape from the everyday drab of books, uniforms and general conformity. As my sense of style grew and changed, I found it increasingly difficult to find clothes at high street stores that “sparked joy” for me so I turned to vintage/ independent brands and started modifying pieces to suit my taste.'
Ava ensures that all her clothes, fabrics and accessories are ethically sourced, and everything she sells is secondhand or made from recycled materials (unless stated otherwise). Ava hopes that with Bad Sister she can reach out to more teens to help them realise the importance of sustainable fashion and understand how their fashion choices can impact the world around them.
Dare to Care is a startup jewellery brand that aims to promote the sustainable and ethical production of jewellery that will stand the test of time. Established in 2018 by Katherine McNamara, a 17-year-old with a passion for style that doesn’t harm our planet, this brand of jewellery offers something very special in that each piece is handmade from sea glass, river rocks or vintage buttons.
Katherine sources all of the materials she uses herself; trawling beaches for sea glass, sea worn pottery and driftwood. “I also visit Glendalough to collect river rocks, and use the plethora of vintage buttons I own, which formerly belonged to my grandmother and my aunt. I have found inspiration for my jewellery designs through all of these materials.” Katherine sells her jewellery via her Instagram page, but hopes to expand this to an online site in the near future.
Related: Recycling Symbols: They don't always mean what you think