By Claire Roussel
Making the decision of building a sustainable lingerie brand, as meaningful as it may be, is full of obstacles. But resourceful, committed designers are striving everyday to implement sustainability in their process.
From fighting waste issues to chemical control, there are many aspects a brand can focus on to have a positive impact on people and the environment !
We therefore selected four lingerie brands with strong ethics and aesthetics, to analyze how they dealt with those aspects and what positive practices could be learned from them.
Who Made The Clothes ?
One of the most common aspects brought up when talking about brands’ responsibilities is the working conditions along the supply chain. Some brands dedicate a lot of their initiatives to this important issue, like Nette Rose. As they explain on their website, they work with a very small team making the lingerie sets right inside their studio. They can therefore be completely transparent about the famous question #whomademyclothes? As the craftswomen are literally working 20 feet away from the communication team.
Nette Rose can manage this high level of transparency notably because they produce a small amounts of designs, allowing them to keep control of their entire manufacturing process. Another way for brands to ensure a responsible production is to partner with certified suppliers.
This is the way Underprotection is working, as their factories are dispatched around the world. Their suppliers are either WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production), Sedex, GOTS or BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) certified. This helps the brand to know they work with factories ensuring proper working conditions and a fair wage.
Keeping it natural
Many sustainable underwear brands choose to focus a lot of their efforts on the materials they are using and how they are treated to become garment fibers. As lingerie is really close to the skin, some brands make the use of natural materials and dying techniques an important part of their process.
Minimalist brand Baserange for example uses organic cotton (which requires much less chemicals and water use than regular cotton), silk and linen, a plant known for its very low water consumption as it can survive off rainwater. These materials’s sustainability is supported by certifications like Global Organic Textile Standard or Oeko-Tex. Regarding the dying, which can have an important chemical impact, Baserange has one of its factories using a natural dyeing process with plant-based pigments.
The initiatives listed above (use of organic cotton, GOTS certification, natural dyeing process…) are fairly common for responsible brands, but sometimes natural materials can come from unexpected sources : Underprotection notably uses banana waste to make one of their fibers. They partner with farmers and collect leftover stalks from banana plants after the fruits have been harvested for food. The fabric resulting from this process is certified 100% natural by the Union of Natural Fibers and Oeko-Tex certified. The brand also uses Lyocell, a soft and breathable material made out of wood pulp.
Natural materials therefore offer many positive options for creative sustainable brands !
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Opportunities in circularity
Finally, circular practices are an important part of sustainability for lingerie brands. Indeed, many of them can choose not to work only with natural fibers, but with upcycled or recycled ones. This is the case of French label Jolies mômes : they source their materials from French brands deadstock and upcycle these into glamorous lingerie sets.
They also tackle waste issues by producing limited series only, encouraging a mindful consumption for their customers. This way, they avoid materials to be wasted before and after transforming them for their designs.
Some brands think even bigger and go for circular solutions outside of the textile industry. Underprotection uses milk (yes, the drink) from the dairy industry to develop a bacteriostatic fiber, perfect for underwear manufacturing. In order to achieve this, the brand extracts a protein from sour milk that is transformed into a shiny fiber later used as fabric. As this process requires almost zero chemicals and is Oeko-Tex certified, it is a clever way to use food waste for a responsible purpose.
Circular practices can therefore be used by brand as a whole business model or as solutions to particular situations. In any case, it is appreciable that brands stay transparent on the matter. This is the case of Nette Rose, who explain on their website that they produce small quantities of textile waste but do not yet know how to reuse them. They are therefore storing them for the moment while waiting to find a nice way to upcycle them!
As these four brands show, responsible practices can come in any shape and form for a lingerie label. We wanted to show how each of them, thanks to the creativity and commitment of their teams, managed to incorporate some into their manufacturing process.
The industry should hopefully see this kind of initiative multiply, to create an always more meaningful fashion.
This article may contain some affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase, KeiSei Magazine receives a small percentage of the sale price, or some brands may have paid a small fee to be featured. We only recommend brands that match our sustainable and ethical criteria and that we truly believe in.