Both the coronavirus and the global Back Lives Matter movement have exposed the holes in the fashion model. Although some have argued that “we were all in this together”, the truth is, class has shaped experiences of the lockdown. While wealthy people and celebrities pleasantly quarantined in their second homes, millions are now pushed below the poverty line, as the world is headed into a recession. But by laying bare the failures of global capitalism, lockdowns have given us an opportunity to rethink our societies.
As the second most polluting industry in the world, fashion is responsible for producing 10 per cent of carbon dioxide globally, with 50 million tons of clothing discarded every year. As if that wasn’t enough, fast fashion’s production model also comes at the expense of labour rights.
This has given rise to a new generation of conscious consumers who want to make ethical choices and are in search of brands whose values reflect their own. Thankfully, a new wave of designers is committed to radically reassessing the fashion industry for the better.
Once deemed a niche option, sustainable fashion is now entering the mainstream thanks to cult avant-garde designers like Koché, Marine Serre and Emily Bode. Embracing upcycling (the process of making new clothes by reusing and re-designing old clothes or fabric that would otherwise have been thrown away) these brands are leading the way.
But while most high street brands champion sustainability as a PR strategy, upcycling is a part of these emerging labels’ DNA. Committed to exclusively making new out of old, they’re also proving that sustainable fashion can be cool.
Looking to build a more sustainable wardrobe? These are the best sustainable Arab fashion brands that use recycled garments.
Founded by Tunisian designer Riad Trabelsi, BassCoutur is entirely created out of deadstock clothing and fabrics as well as recycling and upcycling. Showing at Paris Fashion Week, BassCoutur makes ethical, gender-fluid and covetable clothes like no other.
This Iraqi London-based label loved by Jorja Smith exclusively uses upcycled fabrics and vegan leather. At a time when most sustainable brands are focusing on simple basics, Atelier Mundane is famed for its wild prints and vivid colours. And if you’re looking for a brand putting its money where their mouth is, look no further. Atelier Mundane has been designing facemasks with all proceeds going to Yemen.
Tala Barbotin Khalidy
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It’s important to collaborate with people whose interests align with yours, but also who will challenge you beyond your own perception of things. It’s always fascinating to see someone put on clothes you made and give them an entire new meaning with their presence, to see people embrace clothes that highlight textiles and crafts that are slowly disappearing and that have healing in mind, and see how it affects the way that they move into the world. I try to infuse every stitch with intention – the goal is equity between different cultures and colors and traditions – and it’s exciting to see when it translates this way. @felukah is wearing the Olivier Jacket and Carafe skirt, photo courtesy of @sammyraynelson, collab thanks to @aburecordings 💛
Love the feeling of wearing something nobody else has? Then you will treasure Tala Barbotin Khalidy’s pieces. This New-York-based Lebanese brand distinguishes itself by its artisanal craftsmanship and nostalgia-infused romanticism.
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Aptly titled Rebirth, this Paris-based brand gives worn-out clothes a second life. Reconstructing and customising basics like hoodies and oversized denim jackets; Tunisian founders Khadija Benachour and Salma Jnifen are fully embracing the current DIY trend.
By The Way
After five years spent working in the fashion industry for brands like Marc Jacobs and Vivienne Westwood, Paris-based Algerian designer Lotfi started selling his own designs online during quarantine on Etsy. Adopting a radical approach, his designs aren’t just sustainable – they are also zero waste, cementing that By The Way has high hopes of putting Algeria on the main stage.