Veganism, clothes sober, plastic-free these are the trends for the years ahead. Brands are having to adapt to try and save our planet but also to save their own business. Never ending sales is not going to last and making more and more to fill our world is not the answer. Businesses need to change and so do consumers buying habits. It is a time for businesses to be innovative, to consider environmental impacts and be a powerful ethical brand.
Many bridal brands and fashion brands now say they are sustainable and eco-friendly. However, I believe some brands need to be questioned on this topic and find out for yourself if is it truly environmentally friendly?
Large retailers keep producing more and more clothes, some that are non-biodegradable, and it is estimated that the fashion industry uses 79 billion cubic metres of water per year and this could potentially double by 2030 (found on the Common Objective https://www.commonobjective.co/article/the-issues-water) Other factors are many brands still use child or slave labour and are being paid below the minimum wage, (perhaps think again about that cheap wedding dress) they continue to make clothes season after season, produce more emissions, and all for their profit margins.
How does this relate to the wedding industry? I work in the bridal business as a designer, and I have to consider all possible solutions for an ethical brand. Where and how are my dresses are made, what fabrics am I going to use, how many are going to be made, where can the dresses be bought? If I make one dress, I may use up to 6 metres of fabric. If I do a collection, times it by ten! And then add more for having several stockists, and what happens if the stockists are worldwide, wouldn’t that be contributing to the carbon footprint? A huge amount of raw material is being used. Silk is a wonderful natural fibre and environmentally friendly however the ethics of its production might concern animal activists. The process involves boiling the silkworm chrysalis before the moths have emerged. There is a silk out there called Peace Silk, which uses a non cruel way of harvesting the silk. However, it is more costly to buy. Businesses want to expand, grow profits and unfortunately this ends up impacting the environment and the more eco-friendly you are the product is usually more expensive. It is a tricky conundrum!
Buying a costly dress is a big factor when budgeting for your wedding. Mine price between £2000-3500 I do get a lot of brides saying I can't afford this dress and then opt for a cheaper one else where. However, are those brands supporting sustainability and do they support slow fashion? To overcome the price burden, there may be options to pay in instalments, the dress could be sold after on pre-loved or it could be recycled into a christening gown, or dyed into a party dress? It might ease the thought of the cost and you would also be supporting a brand that cares about the impact of textiles on our planet.
My efforts on being an eco brand!
My collections are now on paper, supported with fabric swatches and embroidery samples to reduce the use of raw materials. A bespoke process but with sketches to give dress inspiration to my brides. I will only make 3 samples to any boutique in the UK.
I started to minimise my use of raw materials, after hearing that a lot of textile ends in landfill and it is one of the largest polluters in the world. In the textile industry high amount of green house emissions is produced, water withdrawal is vast, and toxins through clothes dying or cotton cultivation enters into our ecosystem. I design dresses with bamboo silk and lined with bamboo. I absolutely love this fabric as it has so many great qualities.
(Beautiful Bamboo Silk Above)
We should be using more and more of this wonderful fabric. The downside is that it creases a bit more, it is quite light-weight so it wouldn’t suit a more structured wedding dress and there isn't a huge variety of bamboo fabric available. But because it is so soft and I love the feel of this fabric I line all my wedding dresses with it!
The Lyra dress: top made from bamboo silk and silk chiffon. Lined with bamboo.
Distribution is another key factor in the fashion or bridal industry. Having stockists worldwide will impact the carbon footprint, therefore I only design bespoke dresses for international brides and I only stock my clothes in the UK and my designs are made in London. Currently, I am exclusively stocked in Willoughby and Wolf, in Marlborough, Wiltshire. I was brought up here and my mother still lives in the area. Working with a local boutique or business will ensure less travel therefore less harmful emissions.
So this is how I work, a bespoke designer with bridal collections on paper, dresses mixed with bamboo and silk, and I recycle my off cuts, send them to my children's school, or make flower girl gifts.
I hope brides will start to question the eco-brands, investigate on their eco credentials then decide for themselves whether they are truly environmentally friendly.
Flower Girl Gifts from off-cuts of Jessica Turner's wedding dresses
Angela Ward Brown Photography
Creative Director & Stylist: @katecullenstyle