Could Independent Brands Pave The Future Of Ethical Fashion?
Can you be stylish and ethical?
It’s an age old question. In a world that's finally becoming more and more environmentally conscious (although still a far cry from where we should be), people are finally taking note, and they’re literally using the clothes on their back in order to do so. As mainstream stores like H&M have a continued demand for their ethical branches this provides the opportunity for independent brands to take the stage. I spoke to Paula Haunit, founder of conscious clothing brand Sheer Apparel about how classic fashion and the environment can go hand in hand.
How do you go about getting people to understand the importance of shopping ethically?
For us it is very important to educate but never lecture. We have some customers that know a lot about sustainable fashion already, but some just naturally drift our way because they care about the environment and quality in other areas of their life, such as food. We try to enable a more conscious approach, such as partnering with stylists who write about finding a style that suits you. This means fewer shopping regrets and for us this is a key way to show how shopping in a way that makes sense for you is also automatically more sustainable.
Do you base your pieces more on current trends or general trends? Why?
We like to have fun with the latest colours, for example, and have some statement pieces, but our style is quite classic. Trends can be exciting, but once you realise that they go round in circles every few years, they don't seem so clever anymore. What matters far more for us is beautiful fabrics and a great fit, which is what our customers appreciate.
How important is style to you?
Style is very important for me. We all have our jeans and t-shirt days, but I love how beautiful clothing from a great fabric, with excellent tailoring makes me feel. I don't exclusively wear ethically produced clothing, partly because I still have favourite pieces from many years ago. But I also think it's important to continue to have fun with clothes - I don't deny myself anything, apart from poor quality clothes that definitely come from a sweatshop. And, as I say, ethical is a sliding scale, not a black or white situation. That said, when I buy new things now I shop from our own store, from other ethical brands or sometimes on amazing second hand platforms like Vestiaire Collective.
When leather (faux and real) and faux-fur are such stalemates of fashion, how do you find products that can play a similar role?
Our philosophy at Sheer Apparel is to not necessarily follow trends, so in fact 'sustainable fashion' is perhaps a bit of a misnomer for us.
That means we aren't particularly interested in fur - faux or real. Regarding leather, there are a variety of non-leather options both for shoes and accessories out there, though it is a little easier still to find attractive faux leather bags (think Matt&Nat and Wilby Clutch) than it is to find good shoes.
I would stress though that, unless you are vegan and it is a priority to not use animal products, it is not necessarily the case that all vegan leather alternatives are better for the environment than leather, because they are made of a petroleum derived synthetic and not biodegradable. I think it's important to remember that a more sustainable approach to fashion is not about being all or nothing. It's about being more thoughtful.
Written by Maria Loizou
Images taken by Francis Bodi for Sheer Apparel