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Sustainable Fashion Outlook: What’s Coming in 2013?

{r}evolution apparel

We’re deep in the throes of fashion weeks across the globe – some of which are including the growing ethical fashion industry on their platforms. More than ever before, ethical fashion is coming in to its own, mirroring the fashion industry’s tiers and offering the conscious consumer everything from couture alternatives to ethical street wear.

I spoke at length with both sustainability strategist and branding consultant Shannon Whitehead and ethical fashion stylist Lucy Harvey to compile a guide to what we can expect from sustainable fashion in 2013.

In 2010, Shannon co-founded {r}evolution apparel, a sustainable clothing company for female travelers and minimalists that was featured in The New York Times,, and Yahoo! News. She now works with companies and designers to propel them forward as frontrunners in the sustainable fashion movement.

Lucy is the creator of, where she seeks out the best of ethical and sustainable fashion, helping the positivity created by good style and good ethics become a way of life for her clients.

Events to watch:


  • Upcycling, and sourcing within a brand’s own country. A prime example of this movement is Antiform, whose entire production process is conducted within a 20mile radius of their shop.
    For both sourcing and manufacturing, Shannon said she sees Made in the USA becoming stronger this year — in the fashion industry and beyond (even Apple announced it will be doing some American manufacturing in 2013). “I would like to see designers and companies sourcing domestically wherever in the world they may be, reducing the environmental impact of shipping and revitalizing local economies,” she said.
  • Designers working with recycled fibers.  According to Shannon Whitehead, some smaller U.S.-based knitting facilities are making plans for domestically-sourced PET (water bottles) for their recycled poly fabrics. She’s also hoping to see more domestically-sourced materials, in general less organic cotton on the market. “Of course recycled poly isn’t perfect,” she said. “But it uses less water and aims to make a solution out of problem (removing plastic bottles from landfills).”
  • Waste reduction, recycling, and repurposing as goals within both the sourcing and design –  Repreve (by Unifi) could be a big player for 2013 after joining up with the X Games and Lauren Conrad. “I see them making moves to appeal to the mainstream consumer,” Shannon said. “There isn’t a ‘perfect’ fabric yet, but things are improving.”


  • Modern –  large shapes, angular cuts – “if there are nods to the past they lean towards the modernist vision of the future or the ironic ‘garishness’ of pop art,” Lucy said. “A sort of retro-future if you like.”
  • Modular – “I love the modular design concepts that are becoming more popular,” Shannon said. “NYC-based designer Carrie Parry is an excellent example. Modular design focuses on interchangeability and customization, so the pieces stand the test of time (and stay out of the landfill).”
  • Upcycling –  examples of this trend include Antiform UK, Elizabeth Brunner of Piece X Piece in San Francisco and Orsola de Castro’s “Reclaim to Wear” project with fast-fashion giant Topshop.
  • Custom made – “I’m…seeing more demand for custom-made, tailored staples,” Shannon said. She pointed out that this is encouraging the slow fashion movement –  exemplified by brands such as Bow and Drape.Still 142


“I think the future of fashion really lies in the hands of the designers who are looking at the real issues of the fashion industry —  waste, pollution,  overconsumption — and trying to find innovative solutions,” Shannon said. Included in her top designers were Susan Woo, Lily Ashwell and Yael Aflalo.

  • Susan Woo recently won the 2013 Ecco Domani Award for Sustainable Design, so she was featured at New York Fashion Week.
  • Lily Ashwell is an up-and-coming designer who recently launched her first line with a focus on “dead-stock” fabrics sourced locally in L.A.
  • Yael Aflalo is also a designer who is taking advantage of surplus materials and trying to reduce waste.

“I’m over vintage and overly feminine fashion,” Lucy said. “I’m a fan of large shapes, angular cuts.” Included in her top designers were RHLS NY, Kowtow NZ, MaxJenny! DM and Antiform UK:

  • Kowtow NZ only uses 100% fairtrade certified cotton, as certified by the Fairtrade labelling Organisation.
  • RHLS NY hails from Brooklyn, NY, where Designers R. Mackswell Sherman and Sarah Jones look to the future for their inspiration.
  • MaxJenny! DM is a young, niched and pioneering fashion brand, situated in Copenhagen, totally dedicated to innovation, wearability and function.
  • Antiform UK aims to push the boundaries of ethical, sustainable design by using reclaimed materials and mixing fashion forward shapes with heritage craft.

Connect with Shannon on twitter.
Connect with Lucy on twitter.

Photos via {r}evolution apparel. Used with permission.

Written by Shanley Knox

Founder/owner of the Nakate Project, an initiative bringing third world female artisans to high fashion. I am passionate about all things that are truly sustainable, and truly making a positive difference in the world around us.

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