Regenerative Fashion: what it is, plus six pioneering brands leading the way.

The latest buzzword in fashion is ‘regenerative’, but what does that actually mean?

Fashion is generally understood to be one of the most polluting industries in the world, often placed among the top three alongside agriculture and fossil fuel. The climate crisis, biodiversity loss and land degradation have prompted fashion designers to rethink the disconnect between what we wear and our knowledge of its impact on land, air, water and health. Be it cotton, wool or leather, so much of our wardrobe comes directly from nature. So, the latest shift towards regenerative agricultural practices makes sense for a more positive future. This means farming practices that rebuild soil organic matter and restore soil biodiversity by integrating livestock, no-tilling and growing a range of different crops.

Regenerative fashion is one step further than describing clothing as organic or sustainable. While sustainable fashion focuses on doing less bad or having less of an impact, regenerative fashion focuses on doing more good and creating a positive impact. ‘Everything that we buy and eat and wear is farmed. It all comes from soil,’ said British designer Anya Hindmarch earlier this month during a presentation at Shoptalk Europe on how to achieve lasting sustainability. Regenerative fashion is when brands can trace their ‘ingredients’ all the way back to the farm.

By replenishing ecosystems, regenerative fashion enriches the earth and has a positive impact on the planet. ‘It’s investing back in nature, in biodiversity,’ says Marc Palahi, chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance. Regenerative fashion refers to clothing made in ways that support circularity, either through the soil-to-soil cycle of regenerative agriculture or by upcycling materials otherwise discarded.

In order to transition towards a more regenerative based system, fashion brands must understand where their fibres are grown or how their materials are farmed. Just using organic cotton or Responsible Wool Standard wool is no longer enough to create a better world. ‘The idea of regenerative fashion – which actually restores and renews natural ecosystems – will continue to take hold this year, as brands look at how they can actually have a positive effect on the planet,’ as written in Vogue. ‘A key part of this is looking at how materials are sourced, and whether regenerative techniques are being used to produce fibres used in the industry, such as cotton and wool.’

It’s early days in the world of regenerative fashion and it can be difficult to ascertain with real transparency how far a brand is adopting regenerative agriculture. Most brands only have selective stock that comes from regenerative sources. One way to check is to see if a brand is Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) or marked ClimateBeneficialTM which is certified by Fibershed.

These six pioneering clothing brands are pledging to create a positive impact on the planet.

Solai




Imagine clothes that can photosynthesise like plants. With a mission to go beyond mere sustainability and to create climate-beneficial clothing, Solai is trailblazing the regenerative fashion market. The slow fashion start-up has designed a carbon capturing top which enables it to absorb CO2 and release oxygen during the use phase. Shop the collection here.


Patagonia




For quite a few years, Patagonia has been experimenting with regenerative farming to help mitigate fashion’s destructive force on the planet. The outdoor brand has been using organic cotton in their clothing since 1997 and it now pilots regenerative organic certified cotton to improve soil quality, enhance animal welfare and support farmers. It is investing in Regenerative Organic, a method of farming that uses practices like no- to low-tilling and composting to build healthy soil. Shop the collection here.


Sheep Inc




Soft sweaters, bold mission. This relatively new company claims to be the first carbon negative clothing brand. It combines age-old techniques and modern innovations to create sweaters that do the planet more good than harm. ‘Farming has a huge impact on the environment. So, when we started looking for our wool provider, we endeavoured to find the highest quality with the lowest impact,’ says the founder. The sheep are sheared in a humane way and the wool is fully traceable back to the individual sheep. Shop the collection here.


Harvest & Mill




Based on ecological and ethical principles, Harvest & Mill sells organic cotton tops, shorts and joggers that have been grown, milled and sewn in America. It is a proud member of Fibershed, the non-profit developing regional fiber systems that build soil and protect the health of our biosphere. All their designs are available in their natural undyed, unbleached clean finish fabric. All their materials, from their organic fabric to their compostable packaging, is recyclable. Shop the collection here.


Stella McCartney




https://www.net-a-porter.com/en-gb/shop/designer/stella-mccartney
Alongside Burberry and Zalando, Stella McCartney is among a group of fashion brands that recently signed up to a new regenerative fashion manifesto. They have committed to moving towards a regenerative fashion approach, including circular economy models and a move to bio-based feedstocks. ‘We challenge and push boundaries to make luxurious products in a way that is fit for the world we live in today and the future,’ Stella McCartney says. ‘No compromises.’ Shop the collection here.


Anya Hindmarch




‘There is no waste in nature,’ Anya Hindmarch explains. ‘If an apple falls from a tree, it biodegrades, it breaks down, it's eaten by flies, it sinks into the grass and nourishes the soil, compost and feeds the next growth in the soil.’ Hindmarch has long been championed as sustainable pioneer in the fashion industry. Her ‘Return to Nature’ collection focuses on where fashion comes from and regenerative design. ‘How to design the end of life into the design of the products is really something we need to all be thinking about right now,’ she said. Check out her new recycled nylon. Shop the collection here.


Keen to learn more about regenerative fashion? Look at these sites



Kiss The Ground
The ‘new, old approach to farming’ of regenerative agriculture is explored brilliantly on this online platform. Learn how we can balance our climate, replenish water supplies and feed the world.


Textile Exchange
‘Regenerative agriculture is really the future,” says Beth Jensen, director of climate+ strategy, a community of brands and farmers working towards a more purposeful production from the very start of the textile supply chain. ‘It’s about working in harmony with nature, increasing biodiversity, addressing water concerns [and] everything that’s related to soil health.’


Fibershed
Made Trades’ non-profit partner is Fibershed, a leader in the movement towards re-establishing regional, regenerative textile systems. Through research, education, events and partnerships, it shares its vision to combine regeneratively grown fibers with localized manufacturing. It has built a mega network of farmers, designers, sewers, knitters, land managers and regional fiber systems.

By Annabel Jack
June 2022

Annabel Jack

Contributing Editor

Annabel is a regular contributor to The GWG, with a taste for finest in food, fashion and interiors.

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