Top 10 Eco Fashion Trends for Fall

by Kate Black

The latest looks for fall, styled by ethical fashion designers

After the long hot summer, fall fashion offers a chance to break out the boots and sweaters and add bold bursts of color. While runways from New York to Paris couldn’t quite agree on a unified look, the trends offered something for everyone and ethical fashion designers kept up the pace.

Below you will find some of our favorite runway trends from ethical fashion designers, and the latest ways that fashion is becoming more ethical.

1. Fair Trade

Not just for coffee and chocolate, organizations from the WFTO to FairTrade USA have started certifying apparel and footwear brands, ensuring that when you see a fair-trade label, the makers were paid a fair price; no child or forced labor was used; and that respect was paid to the environment. Fair Trade-certified options include denim and sweaters from Patagonia; everything from People Tree; underwear, socks and tees from PACT, or shoes and boots from Oliberté.

2. Texture

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Thakoon, Lanvin and more proved that fur (faux or real) and brocade will still be adding bold texture this season. Newly launched British faux fur fashion label Shrimps will be your go-to for brilliantly colored faux fur vests or jackets. If you prefer a subtler take on texture, try boots from Sydney Brown (pictured). At the forefront of innovation for vegan footwear fabrics, the fall collection includes fabrics made from shaven straw and various grains, which have been bonded to organic cotton.

3. Monochrome

Thai tank and handwoven Lineas wrap from VOZ. Photo credit: Abdul Abasi
Thai tank and handwoven Lineas wrap from VOZ. Photo credit: Abdul Abasi

This fall’s focus on classic black and white and neutrals means less need to buy many new pieces. Update classics with a geometric piece like something from VOZ, a NYC label empowering indigenous artisans and their craft or from Osei Duro’s collection from Ghana, inspired by traditional textiles.

4. Transparency

Focusing on transparency is one of the best ways to educate customers. Brands like Everlane and HonestBy are revealing not only the entire supply chain, but the costs invested in each garment. For Study NY’s Conversations in Craft Project, embroiderers in Peru, Afghanistan and the U.S. were given an image of a pre-designed embroidery pattern, a fixed dollar amount of $24 to cover labor costs, the required yarn, and instructions to stop working on the piece once they’ve reached the limits of the wage in their respective countries. The discrepancy in wages is evident visually by the amount of embroidery completed by each country, making these shirts not only unique but a great conversation piece.

5. Tencel®

One of the world’s most sustainable fibers, Tencel® is made from the pulp of eucalyptus trees in a closed-loop manufacturing process that recycles 100 percent of the solvent. Used in everything from diapers to denim, this season finds Tencel® featured by brands such as Eileen Fisher, AG Denim, Citizens of Humanity, J Brand, Rag and Bone, and HouseLine, the in-house line produced by Portland Garment Factory.

6. Made in America

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Reshoring manufacturing back to the U.S. has increased jobs at an average rate of 152,400 since 2010. Brands like Zady are contributing to the effort by focusing on the source for its 100 percent grown and made in the USA organic cotton T-shirts and wool sweaters.

7. Fringe

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Everyone from Tom Ford to Burberry is still channeling the ‘70s for fall, and the updated take on fringe is one trend we can get behind. For her eponymous label, Laura Siegel collaborates with artisans in rural villages to sustain traditional crafts. For those who would rather accessorize with fringe, vegan shoe and bag designer Cri de Coeur offers several handbag designs with stylish fringe.

8. Celebrity Commerce

Several celebrities have joined the “fashion for good” movement. Check out TheLittleMarket.com, supporting artisan goods curated by Lauren Conrad; Preserve.us, the part magazine/part e-commerce lifestyle site from Blake Lively; and ConsciousCo.co, the philanthropic conscious commerce site co-founded by Olivia Wilde.

9. Orange

Coat from H. Fredriksson. Photo credit: Jonathan Hokklo
Coat from H. Fredriksson. Photo credit: Jonathan Hokklo

Pantone may have called Merlot, but this fall, Orange is the new Black. Sustainable knitwear brand Chinti and Parker has several options in the collection of fairly produced sweaters, while Swedish-born, Brooklyn-based H. Fredriksson combines her two worlds with a 100 percent wool coat, above, made in the USA.

10. Florals & Bold Color

It’s not just orange that is popping this season. Marc by Marc Jacobs, Erdem and Carven all seemed to draw inspiration from their grandmother’s closet. Layering will also add to the trend. Stella Jean, inspired by the Indian Himalayas, works with artisans in Burkina Faso, Mali and Haiti.

Kate Black is the author of Magnifeco: The Head-to-Toe Guide to Non-Toxic Beauty and Ethical Fashion (New Society Publishers).

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How to Shop for V.A.L.U.E. in Ethical Fashion

When shopping ethically, things often cost more. Most of us are “value” conscious and shopping at fast-fashion chains can be a hard habit to break, thanks to their alluringly ine xpensive clothes.

But the trade-off is that when we pay less, we also get less: less transparency, less accountability, fewer ethics and lower quality. We want low prices, but not at any cost. What we are really seeking is value. Use this checklist to help you discover ethical fashion pieces from unlikely places.

V (for vintage or second hand)

This is an ideal choice for trend-driven pieces like this fall’s fringe or floral pieces. Choosing a second-hand or thrift item saves both money and resources.

A (for artisan)

The Ethical Fashion Initiative (which works with designers like Stella McCartney and Stella Jean) believes in “not charity, just work,” highlighting how supporting artisan means supporting artisans (usually female) in the developing world, who are creating pieces that are handcrafted, handmade, collectible or one-of-a-kind.

L (for local)

Most fast-fashion and mass-manufactured brands offer lower prices due to lower worker costs. Supporting small ethical designers (or brands that produce in the U.S.) supports the local economy and reduces the carbon footprint of garments that are coming from the other side of the planet.

U (for upcycled)

Anytime something can be saved from the landfill, ethical fashionistas rejoice. Whether it’s a trainer made by adidas from “ocean plastic” or handbags made from truck tarps by Freitag, upcycling utilizes existing materials and refashions them for reuse.

E (for ethical)

This covers aspects that are related to personal values. This includes: cruelty-free options like vegan shoes and bags; fair trade options that ensure workers were paid fairly; and sustainable textiles that are kind to the planet (like Tencel®).

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