Clean, ethical and progressive fashion from the north that has its sights set on creating a sustainable industry.
Scandinavia – that obscure northern region home to beautiful blondes, mysterious folklore and long, cold nights – is also the origin of some of the most innovative fashion designers of our time. Based in cultures that have always had a deep connection to the nature that surrounds and sustains them, respect for the environment shines through as a key factor, whether with the use of natural materials, recycling or intelligent design. Due to harsh living conditions and short growing seasons, traditions and practices of re-use, maximum throughput, and efficient implementation, have carried through to the modern day, as is evident from these designers’ work.
With a mindful and artistic approach that transcends the supposed disconnection from other fashionable nations, Scandinavia has created a sought after and highly revered design aesthetic all of its own. The eight fashion designers and labels we’ve chosen to feature are style savvy and original, forging their own sustainable and successful fashion paths in a world where marketability and points of sale have become the main focus for the supposedly “artistic” fashion industry.
Anja Hynynen is a Swedish-Finnish designer and artisan committed to the use of organic textiles and handcrafting. “Being fascinated by the story that leads to our clothes and the story we create them with, I wish the clothes [I make] to have a good story to tell – from seed to finished garment.” Anja often works directly with the farmers, spinners and weavers that make her textiles. She uses an old-fashioned wood-fired barrel for natural dyeing, and experiments with low-impact processes and textile printing methods. The result is a unique collection of handmade, timeless designs that embody the purity and natural beauty of Nordic aesthetics.
Finnish designer Minna Hepburn is based in the UK, where she creates ethereal collections of sheer dresses, flouncy tops and dreamy bridal wear. Her designs are made out of organic, recycled and locally produced textiles, employing sustainable production techniques such as hand embellishment, local manufacturing and zero waste pattern cutting for each garment. Minna is dedicated to maintaining an ethical and environmentally friendly brand, constantly searching for new ways to minimize her impact while still offering gorgeous clothing. Her latest bridal collection is entirely handmade in her London studio, and is the pure definition of delicate, vintage elegance.
Nudie is a jeans and casual wear label founded in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2001. With a strong commitment to ethical labor standards and minimal environmental impact, Nudie is one of the most responsible jeans manufacturers on the market today. The label prides itself on its passion for denim as a versatile material that improves with age. Nudie offers a wide selection of organic cotton denim for both men and women, alongside sweaters, shirts, tees and even underwear made from organic textiles that are made in Italy. They even offer low-impact dyed colored denims.
Anniina Nurmi is a Finnish designer dedicated to quality clothing and durable design. Her collections echo the fusion of minimalism and functionality found in the work of several compatriot furniture designers with garments that are practical and designed to fit many body shapes. A focus on sustainability is inherent through Anniina’s use of organic cotton, hemp and recycled textiles alongside a commitment to transparency through local, ethical and monitored production. Nurmi collections comprise everyday basics that are versatile and timeless, and the label has recently offered up a range of jeans made from 55 percent hemp, 45 percent organic cotton blend.
Inspired by a collection of ’70s clogs found in a old basement in Sweden, Swedish Hasbeens loves to re-create retro shoes, bags and belt styles for the modern market. Committed to quality and environmental manufacturing, the label uses ecological natural grain leather and the finest alder and lime wood to achieve the best finish on all their products. Assuring that production methods are kind to nature and to people, all Swedish Hasbeens shoes are made by hand in small factories by skilled Swedish artisans. Ethical, environmental, durable and outrageously cool, what’s not to love? As the label says: “even Sarah Jessica Parker has now switched from her Manolos.”
As a pioneer of ethical, high-end and couture fashion, Trash Couture is redefining upcycling by creating gorgeously breathtaking gowns, cocktail dresses, and bridal wear. Ann Wiberg and Nanna Lowe are the fueling force behind the label, utilizing leftover fabrics like off-cut natural silks and vintage laces from famed couture houses to design unique and limited edition garments. The entire collection is hand-sewn and embellished at the label’s Copenhagen atelier, ensuring fair and monitored working conditions, minimal material waste and elimination of excess production. The label’s stunning and practically otherworldly gowns, dresses and corsets have gained a strong following that has attracted the likes of celebrities and even royalty.
7. V Ave Shoe Repair
Probably the most avant-garde label on this list, V Ave Shoe Repair blends ubiquitous Swedish style with artistic handcrafting and cutting-edge technology like 3D printing. The minimalistic aesthetic and skilled use of various textiles result in tailored, expertly draped garments that have made their way to the runways and high fashion boutiques around the world. All V Ave Shoe Repair items are handmade in their Stockholm atelier under the supervision of co-founder Astrid Olsson, ensuring fair labor processes and high quality, monitored end products.
Zion Clothing is one of Sweden’s emerging street style brands, but one that definitely stands out for its sustainable practices and processes. The label uses organic cotton, fair labor and water-based dyes that are free of heavy metals for the production of all garments. Investment in sustainable and environmental schemes is also part of the label’s philosophy, which is evident through their support of a Tanzanian tree-planting initiative for reducing carbon in the atmosphere.