Saying YES to ethical fashion

Saying YES to ethical fashion
UAE fashion brand Kaleidoscope by Mimi recently launched a collection based on the authenticity of human connections and the 'common threads' that tie different communities together

There is a dark side to fashion and it is harming the environment. Want to take action? Homegrown brands and retailers make it easy, fun and stylish to embrace sustainable fashion.

By Purva Grover

Published: Sun 24 Jun 2018, 8:33 AM

Last updated: Mon 25 Jun 2018, 12:10 PM

Healthy food can't be delectable and sustainable fashion can't be trendy. If we were to select two topics that are most debated upon at the dining table, then these have to be it. When you think of the former, you probably think of an unappetising bowl of quinoa salad; and when you think of the latter, you are likely to think of grungy fabric and outdated styles. Neither of which is true - not anymore. Because experts - and not just the environmental activists - but also chefs, designers, and entrepreneurs are working hard to bring a change.
Green smoothies have become the talk of the town, but green fashion is catching up only now. Why? "It's funny because you get dressed every day. But, research shows that even when people adopt a more sustainable lifestyle - whether that's because they're more aware of it, because they have children or because they've recently had an illness - fashion is the last thing that they change," Kelly Drennan, founding executive director, Fashion Takes Action, explained at a recent talkshow on the topic. So, what is sustainable fashion? It's not just about identifying the harm we're causing to the environment, but also saying no to unnecessary fashion purchases.
Where should you begin? We suggest by asking questions such as - Is one fabric better than the other?, From where was the cotton sourced?, Who were the artists behind the creation?, Can a consumer make a difference?, Is my favourite brand supporting environment-friendly practices?, What is a green-washed label?, Do I really need those extra pair of shoes? - and more. Call it sustainable, eco or green fashion, it's here to stay. Why should you embrace it? Because it offers you an opportunity to look and feel great, and reduce your carbon footprint and chemical load. Also, if you think you are no good at reduce, reuse, and recycle, then you can try 'repurpose, repair, and rent'.
P.S: Soon enough, you'll be able to order a pair of denim jeans that can last for 50 years. A kickstarter campaign called Half Century Jeans is currently working on it. We can't wait.

Most definitely on our wish-lists

Did you know that an average Tshirt uses 400-600 gallons of water to be produced (the equivalent of approximately seven to ten full
bathtubs)? In April 2018, the fashion brand Levis Strauss was called out over the climate impact by Stand. earth. Moreover, research has suggested that the fashion industry is the second-highest pollutant, after oil - just a few reasons why you should add these brands to your shopping cart.
In 2017, Adidas Parley line sold one million pairs of shoes made from ocean plastic. Interestingly, designer Stella McCartney too got involved in the drive to prove that recycling doesn't necessarily mean unfashionable choices. Apparently, each shoe is crafted with 11 reused plastic bottles and other recycled materials. Earlier, the brand had eliminated plastic bags from all their stores. Available at:
MAM Originals' handcrafted timepieces have been inspired by 'conscious living'. They use the finest recycled materials, including stainless and sustainable teak, to create minimalist watches, which have become quite popular with the modern shopper in the UAE.
Available at
H&M allows you to shop 'by concept'. On selecting 'Conscious' (identified with the green tag), you contribute to their commitment towards sustainable fashion. They have been encouraging shoppers to take better care of their clothes as well as recycle the old buys.
By 2020, the brand also hopes to get all cotton in their range from sustainable sources. Available at
Alasia Lifestyle is your place for handmade and sustainable leather sandals. All of their leather has been sourced from tanneries in Greece and Italy, who use non-toxic vegetable dyes. They've been practicing a zero-waste policy by only making what they need, and not keeping any stock. Available at
Future Fashions' mission is to be a one-stop shop for high-end fashion that is also environment-friendly and ethically produced. To make it to their portal, the brands need to score on strict criterion. Some of the brands on board include Abury, Woven Threads, Catrinka, and Indosole.
Available at

What really goes into a product

Looking to get eco-friendly, organic, sustainable and locally-produced products for your baby? Stop by at the store of homegrown brand, Eggs & Soldiers. "In my experience, parents largely want to use the most ethical and chemical-free items for their children, but not everyone has the time to research and shop around for those things. That's where we step in," shares Sofi Chabowski, mother of four and the entrepreneur behind the brand.
"Our customers often ask for organic and natural fabrics - which is great. But, if we ask them why they want organic, they often don't know why that is a 'better' choice. The world, in general, is becoming much more environmentally aware, and the UAE particularly has a green drive throughout so many areas. However, I'd say there is a lot more than can be done in terms of education," she adds.
"Leather is 100% biodegradable, and since we use vegetable-tanned leather, the sandals do not release any toxins onto the skin or environment. The lifespan of the sandals can be as long as you want it to be - as the genuine leather sole can be taken to your cobbler to resole at any time," says Anastasia Gerali, Alasia Lifestyle. "When we launched the store, we wanted to create a place where people
could shop for beauty products that were not only natural, but also effective, ethical and sustainable," says Vila Vasoodaven, founder, Green Chic, an online store that provides a curated selection of natural and organic beauty products in the UAE.
So, what brands are on board at the moment? "The brands that support sustainable practices in the packaging, sourcing of ingredients, and sometimes, even in the production process. All of them use recycled, recyclable and even plant ink in their packaging. This includes materials such as PET plastic, glass, paper and aluminium. They work with local and regional producers and organic farmers where possible or incorporate quite a bit of organic ingredients within their products. Ilia Beauty, for example, sources their ingredients from organic farmers and the ingredients are manufactured in an organic-certified lab," says Vila.

Supporting artisans

Looking for kaftans, kimonos, and pouches? Check out UAE's homegrown brand, Kaleidoscope by Mimi's latest collection. "None of the pieces sold online are created in factories. They're designed, sourced and detailed by individuals in the Middle East, India, Thailand, Morocco among other destinations," says Mimi Shakhashir, founder and head designer of the brand. Inspired by her travels, the brand has longstanding collaborations with a range of artisans and craftspeople in NGOs and creative collectives around the world, through which a sustainable source of family and community income is continuously developed. LaLaQueen, a Lebanese fashion label, invites you to explore environmentally conscious fashion through its range of genuine leather handbags and accessories, handcrafted by local artisans. "Since launching the brand in 2012, we have always strived to ensure our handmade leather handbags are sourced and created with sustainability at the heart of the process. Made with local leather, all pieces are dyed naturally in Lebanon with 100% biodegradable packaging," says Sally Sarieddine, founder, LaLaQueen. Green Chic recently added COOLA sun care to their range, "They employ a 'farm-to-face' approach and source ingredients locally and promote organic farming," adds Vila.

Green consultancy

"I have worked on many green building projects in the region as the LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional) or Estidama PQP (Pearl Qualified Professional). I am passionate about raising awareness in the society by sharing my knowledge and experience," says Amruta Kshemkalyani, a sustainability consultant.
Whilst working in the UAE, Amruta came across professionals in the construction industry, who were unaware of the basics of sustainability. This led to the creation of in 2009, a sustainable lifestyle portal. Amruta is a big supporter of sustainable and ethical fashion as well as natural beauty. "In 2017, I dedicated an entire year to 'no fashion shopping' to raise awareness about fast fashion and its adverse effects on the planet and people. I didn't buy a single fashion item, including clothes, shoes, bags and accessories. I believe it is better to buy pre-loved clothes and accessories, and swap instead of buying new items every time," she says.
"For beauty, I depend on the kitchen as much as possible and take inspiration from Ayurveda. I use natural ingredients for daily beauty needs - for instance, coconut oil works great as a make-up remover. Also, as part of my zerowaste lifestyle, I use food scraps like coffee grounds as a scrub or peels of fruits for hair, etc." she adds. Amruta is on a mission to raise awareness in fields other than fashion
- i.e. travel and parenting.

When waste suits made a statement

In April this year, local designer, Mariska Nell, and her friend, Marita Peters, took up a '30-day Waste Me Not' challenge to raise awareness about the concepts of reuse, reduce, and recycle. Mariska spent the month living as an average person, who creates approximately two to three kilos of trash each day. In the meanwhile, Marita lived the life of a sustainably awakened person. The two of them sported suit dresses (made out of huge bags), carrying the waste they'd both created respectively - every waking hour.
By the end of the challenge, Mariska was walking around with 65kg of waste vs. Marita's 4.5kg. The figures and the suits caught everyone's attention. An off-beat ethical fashion statement, the challenge got everyone talking.

"In the last two-three years, I have observed increased awareness and interest towards sustainable fashion in the UAE. People are now more concerned about understanding the ethical process and usage of toxins, et al. in the making of the products. Interestingly, enquiries about sustainable fashion (from my readers) have increased and many wish to know where I sourced a particular sustainable fashion piece from or have questions regarding what makes fashion more sustainable."
Amruta Kshemkalyani, a sustainability consultant
"The great thing about natural beauty brands is that they tend to have the same beauty ethos and find ways to be sustainable where possible. Hopefully, this is just the beginning and we will start to see more brands taking this approach, particularly as more people start
looking for eco-friendly products."
Vila Vasoodaven, founder, Green Chic
"The embroideries on our pieces are handmade and beaded by our wonderful girls in India, Jordan and Lebanon. Our focus is on helping
to make the lives of the small communities around the world - who handcrafted them - more beautiful too."
Mimi Shakhashir, founder & head designer, Kaleidoscope by Mimi
"Latest research suggests that disposable diapers take somewhere between 200 and 500 years to break down in a landfill. Also, there is no legal requirement for diaper brands to reveal the chemical components contained in their products. We aspire to continue working as
an ambassador for cloth diapering in the UAE via regular workshops on the subject."
Sofi Chabowski, founder, Eggs & Soldiers
"The majority of our raw material is ethically sourced and handmade by skilled artisans to support families of the local community in Lebanon. We also believe it is equally important to build good relationships with the skilled artisans and make sure that they are working
under healthy working conditions."
Sally Sarieddine, founder, LaLaQueen

UAE fashion brand Kaleidoscope by Mimi recently launched a collection based on the authenticity of human connections and the ‘common threads’ that tie different communities together
UAE fashion brand Kaleidoscope by Mimi recently launched a collection based on the authenticity of human connections and the ‘common threads’ that tie different communities together
Alasia Lifestyle is your place for handmade and sustainable leather sandals
Alasia Lifestyle is your place for handmade and sustainable leather sandals
LaLaQueen offers a range of products handcrafted bylocal artisans
LaLaQueen offers a range of products handcrafted bylocal artisans
Eggs & Soldiers stocks eco-friendly, organic, sustainable and locally-produced baby products
Eggs & Soldiers stocks eco-friendly, organic, sustainable and locally-produced baby products
Kaleidoscope by Mimi has collaborations with a range of artisans in NGOs and creative collectives around the world
Kaleidoscope by Mimi has collaborations with a range of artisans in NGOs and creative collectives around the world
Mariska Nell & Marita Peters took up a 30-day Waste Me NotChallenge. Are you up for it?
Mariska Nell & Marita Peters took up a 30-day Waste Me NotChallenge. Are you up for it?

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