Three Sustainable Brands Forging Unique Identities

It goes without saying that the fashion industry is undergoing a critical moment of self-evaluation regarding its sustainability practices. Almost daily it seems, new brands are emerging with the goal of creating clothing that is environmentally conscious and ethically sustainable. In fact, a quick google search will reveal hundreds of clothing brands at various price points that occupy this new space of “sustainable fashion”. So why, when there are so many environmentally and ethically conscious brands out there, does it seem that this category of clothing has adopted a single, refined aesthetic consisting mainly of earthy tones, simple cuts, and unexciting silhouettes? Wanting to call attention to this self-imposed creative barrier, I looked at three ethically and environmentally sustainable clothing brands with unique visual identities, proving that sustainable clothing does not require its own proprietary aesthetic that visually separates it from fashion more generally.

With a statement about resisting the aesthetics of sustainability on it’s own website, ECOALF sets out with the intention of creating on-trend clothing from recycled materials. Amongst the wide range of products ECOALF offers, are gorgeous and durable winter coats in a variety of shapes and color ways, and graphic tees with provocative imagery and statements. ECOALF also offers a selection of visually interesting, yet functional, bags and backpacks. Happily, ECOALF’s price range is quite wide which makes it accessible to shoppers of most budgets, though it should be noted that sustainably sourced clothing tends to be more expensive, in part because its producers are paid living wages.

Stylish winter coats are a trademark of ECOALF. Image  Via
Stylish winter coats are a trademark of ECOALF. Image Via

At a decidedly higher price point, Matter Prints is a purveyor of sustainable and ethical clothing and accessories that specializes in creating basic clothing in sophisticated but relaxed prints and patterns. Though it is true that the shapes of the pieces are largely uninteresting, the bold, eye-catching patterns applied to the pieces add visual excitement and prevent Matter from falling into the monotony of the traditional sustainable aesthetic.

Sophisticated yet fun prints define Matter Prints’ aesthetic. Image  Via
Sophisticated yet fun prints define Matter Prints’ aesthetic. Image Via

Having skyrocketed in popularity over the last several months, it is an understatement to say that VEJA Sneakers deserves a spot on this list. Founded 15 years ago after troubling evidence emerged concerning the conditions of shoe production around the world, VEJA has remained committed to producing ethically sourced, environmentally conscious vegan shoes made from rubber and recycled plastic bottles among other materials. Ironically, VEJA is so good at designing and producing fashionable, comfortable shoes, that many people who know of the brand are unaware of its mission of sustainability. In this regard, VEJA is an exemplary sustainable fashion brand that has established its own visual identity without feeling it necessary to make explicit ties to sustainability. Prices for VEJA shoes range between $95 and $200 making them expensive, but not out of the realm of reasonability for sustainable clothing.

Meghan Markle wearing VEJA trainers. Image  Via
Meghan Markle wearing VEJA trainers. Image Via

There must be a reason why sustainable clothing brands have largely tried to assimilate under a set of shared aesthetic principles, but as was the case with electric vehicle designers working too hard to ensure that their designs “looked electric”, the bid to visually distinguish sustainable fashion from the larger sphere of fashion may serve to alienate customers who care for the environment but don’t feel that it is necessary for their clothes to announce that care. For those who care about the survival of humanity but fear being labeled a treehugger, there is ECOALF, Matter Prints, and VEJA.

Featured Image via

Tagged : / / / /

Fashion and the Attention Economy

In an era defined by attention-seeking, pop-art inspired designer clothing, where immediate brand recognition and camera-readiness take precedence over the quality of a garment, it is easier than ever before to dismiss the work of a designer or creative director who values the depth and integrity of a piece of clothing more than its ability to make a fleeting impression on the street. 

The current state of streetwear. Image  Via
The current state of streetwear. Image via 

Viewed primarily through YouTube videos and Vogue Runway stills, it is the designers who give deference to the feel and sounds of a garment, qualities which cannot be captured by photography, who are pushed to the periphery of the collective sphere of fashion, while monogrammed tracksuits and logo-covered handbags are showered with seemingly endless affection. And, while I dare not claim complete immunity to logomania, in writing this article I hope to pique interest in the less considered aspects of clothing, such as texture, sound, and context. 

One lovely fall afternoon, desperate to avoid schoolwork, I wandered into Powell’s Bookstore on 57th street and went to the fashion section, where I happened upon two photo-books by the accomplished Juergen Teller for Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton. Flipping through the pages of Season Three, which documents Louis Vuitton ready-to-wear from 2015, I became lost in the intense textures and sculpture of the garments which could only be thoughtfully appreciated in these intimate, close-up photos or in person. The difference between viewing Ghesquière’s work this way and viewing it through somewhat anticlimactic YouTube videos or stills was dramatic; this series of photos transformed an indifferent viewer of Ghesquière’s work into a bonafide fan, and led me to become a regular window-shopper along Chicago’s Rush and Oak streets, where I began to examine and understand the three-dimensional, layered beauty in Maria Grazia Chiuri’s couture, and felt the magnificent texture of Goyard’s eponymous Goyardine canvas. In the case of M.G.C.’s work at Dior in particular, critics have been quick to point out the apparent lack of visual excitement and engagement that her couture offers to viewers, forgetting that couture is first and foremost designed and constructed for the sensorial enjoyment of the wearer, and as such the time needed to create these intricate garments can easily exceed 140 hours. It seems, though, that by and large, the public fails to acknowledge the process and simply critiques the raw visual impact of the final product, and this is perhaps the most devastating symptom of the emphasis on visual excitement in fashion.

One of a series of intimate portraits by Juergen Teller for Louis Vuitton, 2015. Image  Via
One of a series of intimate portraits by Juergen Teller for Louis Vuitton, 2015. Image via

This tactile exploration of carefully considered textures and sounds in clothing put me on the path toward finding other brands that held often-overlooked qualities of clothing in high regard. The work of Japanese designers like Keisuke Konda, who once famously used rice bags to create clothes with unique textures, and Mint Designs, a brand which emphasizes the unique qualities of different fabrics and textiles rather than focusing primarily on the form and cut of a garment, as is the modus operandi for both European and American designers. In focusing on the process of garment construction itself, which necessitates considering every facet of a piece of clothing equally, avant-garde Japanese designers in particular, Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake among them, have excelled in reframing what makes a piece of clothing remarkable.

Mint Designs, Tokyo Fall 2020. Image  Via
Mint Designs, Tokyo Fall 2020. Image via

As my search for clothing and designers that seek to connect with their audience on a deeper level than simply visual continues, I encourage those who make quick judgements about a designer’s talent based on photos or videos to visit one of their boutiques in person or at the very least consider the context and complexity of their creations before writing them off; after all, who knows how many wonderful designers and garments we have dismissed in the past simply because we were too lazy and dismissive to consider them for longer than the runtime of an FF Channel video? While the world around us becomes ever more digital and streamlined, it is more important than ever before to advocate for quality, texture, and variety in fashion.

Cover image via

Tagged : / / /

How The Resurgence of Vintage Clothing Is Engaging A New Generation

Right now, the fashion community is coming out of a significant period of time in which newness and futurism were key selling points and design inspirations; from new trends like designer sneakers and celebrity collaborations with established watchmakers to the monster of fast fashion, it’s safe to say that we have been conditioned to expect new designs and trends from the fashion sphere on a near daily basis. And, while one could argue that this constant release of new products has its merits, I want to focus on the fact that this way of life has led an entire generation of fashion admirers to unflinchingly look forward, rarely pulling from fashion’s long and illustrious history to find style inspiration. In my opinion, and one which is held in common with many of my peers, this phenomenon of constantly looking forward for design inspiration has led to a proliferation of unimaginative, drab, and forgettable movements and collections in fashion. However, thanks to recent international interest in vintage fashion, young people immersed in the world of clothing design are beginning to rediscover fashion’s most iconic moments through dedicated vintage instagram accounts, physical vintage stores, and resale apps, and this has led to renewed interest in creating collections which are been unabashedly inspired by the past. In this piece, we will honor the social media accounts and stores which have made this revolution possible in part to give credit where credit is due, and in larger part, to inspire our readers to look back in addition to looking forward.

SuperModel Claudia Schiffer holds bag from Chanel Spring/Summer 1995. Image  Via
SuperModel Claudia Schiffer holds bag from Chanel Spring/Summer 1995. Image Via

Before listing the vintage accounts which offer items for sale, I thought it more appropriate to point readers in the direction of several accounts which exist for the purpose of reminding us just how great the last 20-30 years in fashion were. Though I’m sure many accounts of this sort exist, I will highlight my favorite three, starting with @diorbyjohngalliano. Being partial to Dior when it was under the creative direction of John Galliano from 1996-2011, I am definitely biased in saying that this account is the best of them all; with campaign ads, runway clips, runway photos, and highly detailed captions, this account which boasts over 61 thousand followers is truly exemplary. In a very similar vein, the next account worthy of your follow is @diorinthe2000s. Because Dior was under the creative control of Galliano throughout the 2000s, many of the images on this account have a similar look to those found at @diorbyjohngalliano and have very detailed captions as well. One large difference between the two accounts, the difference which I think makes them both worth following, is that @diorinthe2000s focuses much more on Galliano’s ready-to-wear contributions than @diorbyjohngalliano does. The final archival account that I am enthralled with is @datewithversace, an account I credit with engendering my love for the house of Versace; this account mainly posts ad campaign photos, though it also sprinkles in action shots from the runway, and it does a great job highlighting the golden age of Versace beginning in the 1990s. Perhaps what’s even more exciting about this revival of love for vintage fashion is the rise of physical and online shops which deal exclusively in rare, historic pieces.

Gianni Versace 1994 modeled by Christy Turlington, Nadja Auermann, Cyndy Crawford, Stephanie Seymour, and Claudia Schiffer. Shot by Richard Avedon. Image  Via
Gianni Versace 1994 modeled by Christy Turlington, Nadja Auermann, Cyndy Crawford, Stephanie Seymour, and Claudia Schiffer. Shot by Richard Avedon. Image Via

Even before Kylie Jenner and her friends began posting photos of themselves wearing vintage Chanel and Dior pieces on yachts in exotic locales, instagram accounts like @pechuga_vintage and @whatgoesaroundnyc (whose Senior Vice President is @ambriany and whose Head Luxury Buyer is @paigerubin) had been revisiting, collecting, and selling iconic and rare pieces from fashion’s past. Through detailed photos, descriptions, and captions, these instagram accounts and many more use the profession of vintage luxury resale to introduce younger generations, and remind older ones, of the daring, provocative, and extravagant clothes and accessories of the 1990s and 2000s. For those of us who like to interact even more intimately with vintage pieces, there are rare shops like @treasuresofnyc in New York’s NoHo, which has a small physical space in which to look at, touch, and buy unique pieces from brands like Chanel and Dior, also boasting a fashion themed coffee shop on the ground floor of the building (@coffeenclothes).

Paige Rubin (@paigerubin) holds a stack of clothes (left) and a Galliano era Dior top (right). Image  Via
Paige Rubin (@paigerubin) holds a stack of clothes (left) and a Galliano era Dior top (right). Image via

 It would be easy for a person to spend hours getting lost in the feeds of these instagram accounts as I often have, and it is my honor to share them with you. Now that the fashion world has once again recognized the value of its past, we can all look forward to more engaging collections which succeed in uniting the past, the present, and the future.

Dior Couture Spring/Summer 2007. Image  Via
Dior Couture Spring/Summer 2007. Image via

Feature image via

Tagged : / / / /

Drink to Health

The Pret A Manger Green Good Stuff juice, despite its uneven balance between fruits and vegetables, is a convenient grab when in a rush.

A few weeks ago, I began posting rather subjective “juice reviews” on my Instagram Stories, where I would rather briefly elucidate the qualities of the juice I drank that day and compare it to other juices from Hyde Park. I was rather surprised to find that people actually cared about these reviews and wanted to hear more, so naturally I jumped at the chance to expound upon my thoughts in The Maroon

To begin, I’ll run through the criteria by which I judged each of the five juices on this list, and then I’ll rank each juice from worst to best. For me, the criterion of utmost importance when ranking a juice is the ratio of vegetables to fruit. Juices which favor vegetables to fruit are not only healthier, since they contain less sugar, but are also a better value proposition if you consider the nutrients, rather than its flavor. My second metric is price, and the final one for ranking these juices is taste. Because “good tasting” juices often have a lot of apples or bananas, I choose to take aspects which make a juice more nutritious into more serious consideration. 

Fifth Place: Naked Boosted Green Machine Juice Smoothie

Astoundingly sugary, overpriced, and falsely marketed, NakedBoosted Green Machine Juice Smoothie sits rightfully at the bottom of this tier list.

Let the record show that this juice is being reviewed only as a point of comparison for the four other juices in this piece. Contrary to common belief, this drink is not healthy. With an ingredient list that favors fruit and fruit derivatives, this juice mainly satisfies flavor requirements instead of nutritional ones. For instance, this juice contains 28 grams of sugar—more sugar than many doctors recommend should be consumed daily. Additionally, the ingredient list includes “natural flavors,” a vague term companies use to disguise the inclusion of preservatives and other unnecessary ingredients. This juice receives a 3/10 because it satisfies the desire for a good-tasting juice, but fails to be nutritious and costs $7.30. 

Fourth Place: B’Gabs Goodies Mighty Green Smoothie

Though this option isn’t technically a juice, I chose to include it because B’Gabs is close to campus, and the smoothie itself is a great value proposition. B’Gabs does have pressed juices, though not any which contain the ingredients I often look for in a juice. The Mighty Green smoothie constitutes of greens, avocado, zucchini, parsley, green apple, and banana. Though I don’t know what exactly constitutes the “greens,” the smoothie does have a faint taste of dark green vegetables. Additionally, because this option is a smoothie and not a juice, one can add ingredients like avocado and banana. Thirty-two ounces of Mighty Green costs $10, which makes this juice the best value proposition out of any on this list. It’s also worth mentioning that B’Gabs Goodies is a fully vegan restaurant, so you can treat yourself to a snack while waiting on your smoothie. Because of the value of this juice and its fairly robust ingredient list, it receives a 6/10. 

Third Place: Pret A Manger Green Good Stuff

For University of Chicago students, this juice is already preferable to others on this list because it can be bought in Reynolds Club with Maroon Dollars when you’re in a rush to get to class. Green Good Stuff has a small and relatively clean ingredient list, with apple, cucumber, spinach, celery, and lime, although there is a large imbalance between vegetables and fruits. Because of this, Green Good Stuff has a startling 33 grams of natural sugar, which is five grams more sugar than the Naked Juice which landed at the bottom of the list because of its sugar content. So why does this juice make it to third place? Because of the convenience of this juice (located in Reynolds Club), its fair price of $6.49, and its transparent ingredient list, this juice outshines Naked’s offering and scores a 7/10. 

Second Place: Bonne Sante Health Foods Get It Green Juice

If I had the time in my schedule to go to Bonne Sante Health Foods on 53rd Street every single afternoon to procure this juice, I would. The ingredients include kale, apple, cucumber, celery, parsley, lemon, spinach, and ginger, and the juice is offered in two sizes, though you may as well go with the larger 16-ounce bottle to save trips to the store. The ingredient list has a healthy balance between vegetables and fruits, and I especially love to see that both kale and spinach are included. Before tax, the 16-ounce bottle costs $11, which is certainly not a good deal compared to the Mighty Green smoothie. However, the fact that the former is a pressed juice and the latter a smoothie explains much of the cost difference. To sum it up, I place this juice near the top of the list at 8/10 because it has the most robust ingredient list, comes in a good portion, and is competitively priced amongst similar pressed juices of the same size.  

First Place: Joe & The Juice Green Tonic

Standing proudly at the top of the list, Joe & The Juice Green Tonic has a flavor that matches its ingredients, and its healthy blend proves to be a stellar option. Featuring a painting by Nik Chapleski.

This juice easily wins first place. Though it’s true that most Joe & The Juice locations are in the Loop and therefore terribly inconvenient for UChicago students to buy, the offerings contain really short ingredient lists (between three and 10 ingredients) and are reasonably priced between $5 and $12. The location I frequent is located at 980 North Michigan Avenue at the end of the Magnificent Mile, and my drink of choice is a menu item only offered at certain locations known as the Green Tonic. The Green Tonic consists of kale, celery, and cucumber, and this juice ranks the highest out of all those reviewed because it has two vegetable ingredients and only one fruit—and a particularly healthy one at that. It should be said, however, that the flavor of the juice accurately reflects the ingredient makeup, so if you value the sweetness of your green juices, this will probably not be a good option for you. Considering the price and ingredient list, the Green Tonic is the clear winner, and is accordingly ranked a 9/10. 

None of the juices on this list ultimately received a 10/10 because all of them are packaged in single-use plastic. My local juicery in New Jersey uses glass mason jars and takes a dollar off the price of a juice purchase for every glass bottle a customer returns. Considering that sustainability, specifically the ubiquity of single-use plastics, is a major issue here, the failure of these juices to be green in this sense of the word means no 10s were given today. 

Tagged : / / /