Lingerie of the Future: Ethical, Sustainable, AND Stylish?
Jo Godden is a specialist swimwear designer with 20 years international experience, including in the US for a variety of lingerie and swimwear brands including GapBody, M&S and Victoria’s Secret. Jo now lives in the UK and has launched RubyMoon to combine her expertise with her passion for 'doing the right thing' in terms of designing and sourcing great sustainable products that make a positive social and environmental impact.
Living in a 21st century consumer society, when it comes to shopping, I think we’re a little spoilt for choice. Within the underwear sector alone, there are thousands of brands to choose from to suit all tastes, all with distinctive and alluring differences. I don’t think I’m the only one who has ever gawped longingly at the lacy folds of a beautiful balconette bra or a tiny pair of satin knickers sat on their very own pedestal in a designer boutique! In the world of swim and active wear, it is the same case - and why shouldn’t we make an investment in these things? Intimate garments all see a lot of wear, and so our obsession with the look, the feel, and the fit of these products is second nature. These garments are designed to fit hand-in-hand with our lifestyles, and so luxury, comfort, and aesthetics are - and should be - important features of these purchases.
However, another factor becoming increasingly focused upon by many brands in recent years is improving the ethicality with which their products are produced. For example, by implementing fairer wages and labour conditions for their workforce or using a local supply chain in order to reduce the production of carbon emissions. According to Womens Wear Daily, there is more awareness in the area of sustainability in fashion, and this year’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit hosted speakers on sustainability in the fashion industry from brands such as Nike and Vivienne Westwood. As consumers become increasingly environmentally conscious, the emergence of responsible and purposeful brands is changing up the industry...and also proving that you don’t have to sacrifice style for more sustainable or ethical clothing along the way. Many of the brands which are doing more to have a positive impact match and even exceed current leading brands in terms of the look of their products, producing pieces that are just as magnificently designed - and with a great company ethos to boot. It is now perfectly possible to buy stylish products from brands that use sustainable fabrics and have ethical production.
It is fairly hard to convey the seriousness of this issue and the terrible effects that an unsustainable textile industry inflicts on the 1/6 of the world's population that works within it- 80% of whom are women. As the most polluting industry after oil, the textile industry is an enormous negative drain on the world’s resources. However, imagine if this industry could be turned around into a force for good? How wonderful and liberating would it be to be able to bring decent employment, working conditions and true sustainability for other women?
I firmly believe that how we spend our money is the most effective way we can affect positive change. That, and we have to learn to love and cherish our clothing rather than having multiple disposable pieces that wreck the planet and our future. Sustainability to me means making sure we produce without polluting and ensure an actual living wage is paid to all. Unfortunately, many large brands are just paying lip service to their compliance commitments.
I am someone who has seen more than my fair share of how damaging the fast fashion world of intimates production has been, having worked internationally for large corporations and witnessed firsthand the pollution created and the exploitation of the work forces involved. Whilst compliance teams tick all the right boxes, dye continues to spew into local water supplies and unsafe working conditions continue overseas where most of our intimates are now produced.
I have chosen some examples of purpose-led brands from the lingerie, swim, and active wear sector that are making steps in the right direction and doing it beautifully at the same time.
I created RubyMoon in 2011 as an active swim brand that has both a positive social and environmental impact. I wanted to create a not-for-profit business that considers both people and planet as well as bringing desirable products to market. Each garment can be worn at the pool as well as in the gym and is produced using fabrics that are made from ECONYL® nylon yarn derived from used fishing nets and other waste materials that would otherwise pollute our oceans. All profits from sales of the garments are invested to provide small loans to female entrepreneurs in other countries, helping women to become more self-sufficient and lift themselves out of poverty. The RUBYMOON range is produced in its entirety with this ethos at its heart, with exclusive prints on unique and stylish garments that are designed to last five times longer than similar products. Prolonging the use of our garments is the most effective way of reducing our carbon footprint - as well as reducing water and textile waste.
Anekdot is a third purpose-led brand, committed to sustainability in choice of materials. They operate from a Berlin-based studio, and manufacture lingerie and swimwear from upcycled materials leftover from the luxury fashion industry. End of line fabrics and offcuts are recycled into designs sold exclusively through their website. This black bikini is just one example of their simple and striking range of designs which are both high quality and eye-catching, as well as sustainably sourced and produced. Not only are the products produced from material that would otherwise go to waste and end up in landfill, the pieces are also truly individual and fashion forward. In addition to lingerie sets and loungewear, the brand also sells "extras" like hair ties and soap.
Mighty Good Undies is an Australian startup that aims to build a strong Australian-based, ethically produced cotton underwear business. Their hope is that fairtrade and organic undies will become as widely accessible as fairtrade and organic food. Launched via a recent crowdfunding campaign, Mighty Good Undies' supply chain is certified by the Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) as well as the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation - two organisations considered to represent the gold standard of worldwide ethical textile production. In addition, the brand promiser to have a "carbon emissions offset effect." For each pair of undies sold, money goes towards other projects worldwide that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They eventually plan to make a wide range of styles, from Bikini to Boy Leg to Brief, all available in black, sand, and white.
These are just a few selections from the rapidly expanding sector of ethically produced, sustainable active, swim and lingerie. Purpose-led, as well as pretty, these brand can not only help you look and feel great, they also have a hugely positive social and environmental effects.
What are your thoughts on ethical and sustainable lingerie? Do you try to buy ethical when you can? Is this an issue that matters to you?