Sustainability in the Intimates Industry

Sustainability and Slow-Fashion are currently two of the hottest and most relevant topics in the fashion world. Whether due to the environmental impact of the production process, the unsafe and often deadly worker conditions in sweatshops, or the thousands of tons of new clothing incinerated by brands like Burberry and Nike, the world is changing its views on how fashion is produced and who produces it.

What does sustainability and slow fashion mean in the world of lingerie and loungewear?

For intimates, the slow fashion movement entails several levels of production methods and processes. At the top of the pyramid, we have what is called bespoke or made to measure (custom made). This is usually made in small studios by a limited staff (or a singular designer/seamstress) and more often than not, constructed of the highest quality materials. These garments are tailored for a specific person and their very specific needs and desires. The creators of these pieces are also among the highest trained professionals in their field. Due to the custom nature, which may require several in person fittings, and the textile quality, bespoke will cost the highest. Karolina Laskowska and bespoke Harlow and Fox are two examples of this.

Violente Cathedral Bra and Petticoat Cincher by Karolina Laskowska. By InaGlo Photography

The second tier are small indie brands who produce non-custom garments. This can range from a small group of employees to workshops and micro factories. These companies have tight control on their production process and are closely involved with garment quality and worker conditions. The production number is usually small with limited runs. Cost is usually not as high as bespoke and depends on what fabrics are used as well as the complexity of the garment. London based designer Angela Friedman is a perfect representation of this category.

Angela Friedman Antoinette Bralette & Knickers

On the third step, there are luxury brands like French company Empreinte. Called the “Rolls Royce of bras”, Empreinte‘s quality and fit is undeniable. Their lingerie and swimwear is produced in factories that are directly owned and controlled by Empreinte. The process of production is completely in the hands of the company as opposed to out sourcing. This allows for high quality standards of production and treatment of employees despite much larger production than bespoke or small independent brands. Else is a similar company with highly trained workers who have excellent working conditions and income.

Else Petunia Full Cup Underwire Bra and Bikini Brief

The fourth tier would be brands that are not as expensive as the previous three but still have control over their steps of production and treatment of workers. Cosabella, a family run business since 1983, continues to produce in Italy and makes sure that its employees are treated well and that their factories adhere to fair labor standards. They have even started to produce an eco-friendly collection.

Cosabella Never Say Never Curvy Sweetie Bralette

When it comes to ecological sustainability, there are several ways that intimates can be made in an environmentally positive manner. 1. Recycled materials. Everything from recycled cotton to plastic bottles are turned into bras, panties, and loungewear 2. Low-waste production (pattern cutting and conscious decisions on zero post production materials) 3. Upcycling. This can include creating a new bra or panty from a used garment, as well as vintage & deadstock fabric and notions/hardware. 4. Fair trade factories & fair wages (this is similar to Slow Fashion) 5. Environmentally safe dye process 6. Minimization of textile processing toxicity. Companies that are known for ecological sustainability include: HARA, Boody, Lara Intimates, Only Hearts, and Anekdot.

HARA Leo High Cut Bra & Brief
Anekdot Blossom Longline Set

Ultimately, the best sustainable method would be buying vintage and second hand. Not only are you not contributing to production waste & pollution, you save a beautiful garment from taking up more space in a landfill. If you are looking to add slips, tap pants, camis, robes, and kimonos to your wardrobe, vintage pieces can be found at the same price, or less, as a new garment of the same quality. Best of all, you will have a stunning piece that, like you, is unique and one of a kind. Say no to mass produced fashion and hello to a little glamour of the past decades.

A final (and perhaps, the easiest) way to make a difference in consumer waste is to properly care for your intimates. Use quality detergents and be gentle when washing. It may not be AS convenient as a washer/dryer, but your lovelies will last for years. The earth will thank you (as will your pocketbook!). Ask us how to wash and take care of your Derriere de Soie purchases. We are highly knowledgeable and carry a range of the best soaps – and have our own handwash routines that are a lot less labor intensive than you might think. The most basic way to reduce waste is simply to take the best care of what you already have and love – so that you can enjoy your favorites for as long as possible.

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