Tome's white shirt collection.
Sustainable fashion has never been more appealing. Here are our favourite ways to shop (or borrow) slow fashion online.
The vintage authority
Hearing Sofia Bernardin tell the story of how the idea for luxury-vintage website Re-SEE was born – it was over lunch in Paris – is how we imagine all great fashion ventures get their start. “My partner, [stylist] Sabrina Marshall, and I were discussing how fast fashion has become,” she says. “There are many great collections from the past that remain relevant today, and we wanted a place to find these pieces curated and styled for today. Et voilà! Re-SEE was born.” Two years later, the site carries thousands of pieces at any given time, from archival Schiaparelli Couture to Dior’s iconic Saddle bags. The search for these rare finds takes Bernardin anywhere from a château in France belonging to a muse of Yves Saint Laurent to the back streets of Tokyo. As for what makes a piece worth purchasing? “Vintage is only special if it’s wearable,” muses Bernardin. “That’s what makes Saint Laurent one of the most coveted and referenced brands of all time. The pieces from the ’60s and ’70s are still relevant. Fashion is such a polluting industry, partly because there is so much pressure to be on trend. We want to show the value and importance of wearing pieces from the past.” She calls out Helmut Lang pieces from the ’90s, Nicolas Ghesquière-era Louis Vuitton and ’80s Alaïa as the best investments. But even today’s high fashion will become tomorrow’s vintage. Bernardin refers to Demna Gvasalia’s work for Vetements and Balenciaga and Phoebe Philo’s designs for Céline as “future vintage” – wise purchases to make now and treasure for decades.
The value system
You likely already filter your online shopping searches by size, colour and style. But have you ever shopped by ethics? Well Made Clothes, an e-commerce shop that stocks over 70 consciously produced brands, sorts its wares by eight tenets, including sustainability, gender equality and transparency. Each of its brands, like Filipa K, Kowtow and Baserange, meet at least one criterion, and shoppers can set ethical priorities before browsing. If you’re new to the eco-fashion world, the site’s co-founder Kelly Elkin suggests upping your knowledge of fabrics. “Conventional cotton uses 11 percent of the world’s pesticides and 24 percent of insecticides, which is why you should try to opt for organic cotton,” she says. Elkin also recommends fibres like Lenzing-certified modal (made from sustainably grown beech trees), Tencel (made from wood pulp) and bamboo – soft and durable textiles that are produced using closed-loop production processes. When it comes to clothing consumption, shoppers also need to shift their thinking, says Elkin. “Ask yourself a few questions before buying something: ‘Do I really need it? Will it go with other items in my closet? Is it filling a gap in my wardrobe?’” Finger still hovering over the purchase button? Elkin offers a mantra from designer and activist Vivienne Westwood: “Buy less, choose well, make it last.”
The luxury player
At first scroll, Maison-de-Mode looks like any luxury shopping website: An uncluttered interface displays the season’s trendiest pieces, like tinted aviators, ruffled blouses and high-waist loose-leg trousers. But a deeper look reveals that all the items are selected based on ethical principles. There’s Amour Vert’s feminine basics, made with non-toxic dyes, and Khokho, a brand of artisan-crafted woven bags from Swaziland. Maison-de-Mode was born when animal-rights activist and fashion editor Amanda Hearst interviewed sustainable-fashion designer Hassan Pierre. The pair bonded over their shared values and began to host roving pop-ups before launching the website in 2015. The duo also introduced a white-shirt collection by Tome – one of New York’s best-known sustainable brands – to the site with proceeds going toward Freedom for All, a charity fighting to end human trafficking. “It’s not just about purchasing something,” says Pierre. “It’s about having something timeless and rare.” Here’s to never having buyer’s remorse again.
Online luxury-clothing rental service VillageLuxe might be the sartorial equivalent of having your frozen cheesecake pop and eating it too. Think of the concept as Airbnb for your closet: You can rent out your treasured but seldom worn threads or browse through the site’s offerings of Dior earrings and Isabel Marant minidresses. Unlike with traditional dress-rental services, the inventory comes from the closets of stylish women (a.k.a. “Luxers”). “We’re bringing a sense of friendship and sustainability to high fashion,” says founder Julia Gudish Krieger, who started the site after seeing the impact of the sharing economy on industries like transportation and hospitality. Each member sets up a detailed profile so that lenders know exactly who’s taking out their Narciso Rodriguez slip dress for a night on the town. Gudish Krieger recommends the borrowing route for pieces that fall outside of your fashion comfort zone so that you can invest in the items you truly love. There's just one catch: The service curretnly has a 20,000 wait list (womp womp). Gudish Krieger plans to expand to other major cities in the future, though shipping to Canada is already available. Can’t wait to start sharing? Consider Toronto-based Boro Clothing. This new service lets you borrow anything from a lacy Self-Portrait dress to bubble-gum-pink 3.1 Phillip Lim flats from fellow Canadians’ closets for either four or 10 days. The best parts? You don’t have to worry about dry cleaning, and you don’t pay if an item doesn’t fit.