Fashion isn’t cheap – the environmental costs are astounding. The fashion industry is a pollution powerhouse, fouling our air and water. But we can lessen the impact that our wardrobes have on the world around us by being eco-conscious consumers.
For some, that might mean shopping vintage and second-hand shops for new-to-you clothing. For others, it might mean giving a fresh take on an old garment through the magic of upcycling.
Fortunately, the Pittsburgh area is blessed with many forward-thinking fashionistas who prioritize sustainability and offer local folks a greener way to shop. The next time you’re in the market for clothing, consider supporting one of these local designers and shops:
Pittsburgh-based Etsy shop Calligramme is a specialty lingerie boutique founded by local gal Marissa Vogel. Calligramme offers domestically manufactured lingerie as well as lingerie and loungewear customization services.
“Our American made mission cuts down on environmental distress caused by overseas shipping and production while also creating skilled employment (opportunities) for U.S. workers. Offering small-batch and custom designs means that most of our pieces are made-to-order and less likely to end up in a landfill than the fast-fashion, over-produced pieces you tend to see in big-box retailers,” Vogel explained.
The shop carries hundreds of unique vintage loungewear pieces that she says “transcend time.”
“In the continuum of sustainable ways of shopping, vintage should be near the front (with domestic manufacturing right at its heels),” Vogel said on social media. “It is the total opposite of throwaway fashion, being rare, coveted, and re-sellable. Giving a new life to old clothes also eradicates the need to produce virgin fibers, dye, or finish fabrics which are all processes with enormously dubious environmental (oil-based petroleum) and human impacts (factories with low standards of ethics).”
At Flux Bene, the focus is always on sustainability. The brand prides itself on zero-waste design, and produces clothing that are more than just stylish: They are also functional and durable.
All pieces are cut and stitched by independent seamstresses who “reimagine” both existing garments and upcycled raw materials.
“The use of hand-dyeing techniques combined with up-cycled materials ensures that each Flux Bene piece is one-of-a-kind. The line is zero-waste & gender-neutral,” the Flux Bene website indicates.
Did we mention that 100 percent of both the design and production work takes place right here in Pittsburgh?
Meet Idia’Dega, a global eco-design collaboration of Maasai, Oneida, and African-American women designers and artisans headquartered right here in Pittsburgh. Founded by Tereneh Idia, a former professor at Parsons and visiting scholar at Yale-NUS, the company’s specialty is elegant, ethical apparel.
Her team is composed of women artisans from around the country, and their pieces incorporate indigenous adornments and traditional textile arts with a sustainable design.
Idia’Dega offers everything from formal options like suits and dresses to casual, upcycled T-shirts that have been hand-painted.
You can learn more about Idia’Dega on its website, and follow the company on Instagram.
Kelly Lane Designs was founded in 2006 by the Lawrenceville native, who creates Bauhaus-inspired, eco-conscious clothing and accessories for men, women, and children. Her colorful designs are made locally from organic fabrics.
The Kelly Lane Designs website reads: “Kelly’s new vision for her brand is re-imagined as a lesson in creative constraints. “How can I create better with less?” From selecting materials, finishes, and packaging to developing her designs, this is the question that guides her process from start to finish.”
Kelly Lane has an entire webpage that expounds on the shop’s sustainable practices, which include everything from using water-based inks and low-impact dyes to donating scrap fabric to the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse.
The designer has also launched what she is calling The Remnant Lab. The goal? To transform the scrap pieces of fabric from designs that would otherwise be thrown in the trash into new products. You can read more about the project, which is seeking collaborators, online.
Knotzland Bowtie Co.
Homewood-based Knotzland Bowtie Co. has a sustainable design approach that it says is a win for partners, customers, and the environment. The company’s specialty? Extending the life of fabrics and textiles that already exist.
“We take the best in textile discards and reuse it to create stylish accessories that everyone loves! – Bowties. In doing this, we are vastly reducing the disposal of fabrics that may otherwise be deemed unusable and ultimately end up laying around and polluting our environment,” founded Nisha Blackwell explained on her website.
To date, Knotzland has rescued more than 1,700 pounds of textile waste – with more than 1,000 of it (and counting) already “on the necks of our amazing customers!”
Blackwell’s newest designs? Double-sided cloth face masks for customers who want a stylish (and sustainable) way to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Founded in 2015, Knotzland’s vision is just the first step: “Knotzland aims to build a powerhouse up-cycling business with goals of creating an ecosystem that supports people and the environment all while using items that already exist in the Universe. “
You can learn more about Knotzland Bowtie Co. on its website, and follow them on Instagram.
Mossy Lane Products’ inspiration? Founder Elaine Tierney’s mother, who used to tell her, “It doesn’t pay to buy junk!”
Why buy clothing designed to wear out, forcing you to buy more and support the fast-fashion industry wreaking havoc on the environment? That notion inspired Tierney to create a clothing company that specializes in high-quality, one-of-a-kind, handmade designs – fashion to last a lifetime.
ruhling // woven
Looking for some ‘90s fashion goodness? Maybe an ‘80s art deco piece for your living room? At ruhling // woven, you can buy second-hand, small-batch fashion and home goods.
The brick-and-mortar boutique in Lawrenceville was founded in 2018 by sustainable stylist Kathleen Fanto, who describes her shop’s offerings as being, “artful apparel + objects inspired by shape + color stories.”
Pittsburgh-based high-end fashion designer Sofiya Mozley writes on her website that her pieces, while contemporary, “are also tied into the hope for a sustainable way of life.” Her designs have been seen everywhere from the runways of Paris to right here in her hometown, where she is currently sewing masks to help people stop the spread of COVID-19 (masks that are, in some cases, being crafted from her leftover fabric scraps). You can find more information about her work on her website and Facebook page.
Three Pigs Vintage
At Three Pigs Vintage, you’re not just buying a piece of clothing – you’re purchasing a piece of art. Their upcycled styles are one of a kind, with each hand-painted and reworked item produced in the artist’s home studio.
“Immersed in inspirations from the 60s-00s, we combine the art of vintage fashion with our expertise in other forms. From painting and photography to set, make-up, and fashion design, each piece is carefully curated, perfected, and styled within the playful world of our surreal, industrial-glam fantasies,” the shop’s website explains.
Editor’s Note: Is your favorite local sustainable designer or shop not listed? Email email@example.com to have it added. Interested in learning more about the environmental impacts associated with the fashion industry? Wondering what you can do as a consumer to stave off clothing waste that fouls our air and water? Then join GASP for its Making the Connection: Fast Fashion & the Environment event slated from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4. The online discussion will feature local sustainability leaders and fashionistas who champion upcycling and prioritize sustainable design. The event is free and registration can be completed online.