Los Angeles. Beaches, surfers and Rodeo Drive may be the first things that come to mind when conjuring up images of the iconic West Coast city, but it’s also becoming home to a booming sustainable fashion movement. Brands influenced by the relaxed, organic culture of California are re-imagining the shopping scene with a conscious and ethical approach.
This fashion favorite has six Golden State outposts and has branched out across the United States, opening brick and mortar stores in Massachusetts, New York, Texas, and Washington D.C. The effortlessly chic, California cool clothing line impressed their mark with their repurposed vintage clothing but has made strides with their ready-to-made line of dresses and jumpsuits created from deadstock fabrics, and sustainable materials like Tencel, viscose and organic cotton. Each step is considered, as the brand uses only recyclable packaging, invests in green building infrastructure, using only ethical and sustainable suppliers and recycling 75 percent of their waste through compost, excess textile donations, and traditional recycling practices. They give back to their community too—each employee is given one paid day off a month to volunteer, donating to countless environmental charities across Los Angeles. Sustainability doesn’t mean just being environmentally conscious; it’s also about providing employees a meaningful wage, so the hourly wage for staff is above the minimum requirement. Pro tip: visit the Santa Monica location, just steps from the beach, to get the broadest range of Reformation’s colorful offerings.
This luxury brand has sustainable footwear mastered. Designed and hand-crafted by 20 Los Angeles shoemakers, Rafa’s vegan shoes transcend trend to embody elegant, timeless styles that can be worn for any event. There is a touch of Californian adventure in the brand’s aesthetic: there are no black shoes in sight. Each pastel-colored pair is made with eco-friendly processes and materials, and Rafa’s collection includes kitten heel slides, versatile mules, chunky wedges, mary janes with thick heels, and dainty strapped sandals. Shop online or in brick and mortar stores across Los Angeles. All three third-party stockists occupy iconic Los Angeles addresses such as Assembly Los Angeles and Reformation.
Designer Christy Dawn grew up in Placerville, California, a small town about an hour’s drive from Sacramento in Northern California. She eventually moved to LA and started her eponymous brand because of her love for vintage fashion. Each dress is made by artisan seamstresses in downtown Los Angeles, an area populated by The Last Bookstore, street markets, and the colorful Arts District. Each dress is designed with deadstock fabric, and timeless silhouettes and styles to fit every woman.
The bamboo clutches in bright colors that Instagram style bloggers like Lauren Conrad and Jessi Malay own are made by Cult Gaia. Founded by Jasmin Larian in 2012, the brand considers every piece to be an objet d’art inspired by Mother Nature. Recently, Cult Gaia expanded to include silk gowns, summery separates, chunky bangles, and even shoes, filling a lookbook with Larian’s vision. The result is an ultra-feminine, Grace Kelly lifestyle brand that’s drawn celebrity fans like Jessica Alba and Chriselle Lim. All of the products are made in Los Angeles, and Cult Gaia can be found online at Net-A-Porter, Selfridges, and Shopbop, and in brick-and-mortar shops across Los Angeles County like Alchemy Works and Atelier 7918.
Fewer, better things is the motto of this international retailer. It seems jarring, at first, that leather and Scottish wool can be sustainable, but co-founders Karla Gallardo and Shilpa Shah are here to prove that sustainability doesn’t mean sacrificing style. Cuyana, which means “to love” in Quechua, strives to take the customer back to a product’s essence: material and craftsmanship. Every Cuyana piece is infused with an origin story to further the wearer/product relationship. Scottish cashmere scarves, for example, are made in Scotland and sourced from a family-owned supplier that’s been in the cashmere business for decades (Scotland itself has a history with cashmere, and the carding practice can be traced back to the 1800s). Other pieces like trench coats, silk blouses, travel cases, and sweaters can be traced back to Italy, Argentina, China, New York and, of course, Los Angeles. The designs are cultivated to encourage lean closets, proving that versatility and simplicity are the best ways to rework pieces for every occasion. Many of their garments are made of baby alpaca, one of the most sustainable fabrics in the world. Alpacas are shaved in the summer to prevent overheating, and the wool that comes from it is an elegant, durable fabric that doesn’t snag, pill or shed. Cuyana has two brick-and-mortar locations in Los Angeles alongside the online store. The Venice Beach location is just a few streets away from the famous boardwalk.
Words: Erica Commisso