The Spring/Summer 2017 bridal shows took place in New York earlier this month and in their wake, we’ve been confronted with inquiries about where brides to be can find ethically made dresses. Before we delve into your options, it is worth noting that just like regular fashion, wedding-centric designs are in no way exempt from the reach of counterfeits and knockoffs.
In fact, as of 2012, the New York Times reported that as many as 600,000 wedding dresses were purchased online from unauthorized posing-as-retailers overseas, which certainly left many brides disappointed in what they received in the mail. This is paired with the rise in affordable (yay!) wedding dress options – some of which come by way of fast fashion retailers, the latter of which unfortunately are a far cry from ethically made.
So, in order to help every bride-to-be not only look great in her dress but also feel good about where it came from, we compiled a list of ethically made choices. The brands listed below engage in original design, local production (many of the brands manufacture locally), responsible selection of materials (think: the use of Viscose, which comes from man-made fibers made from renewable plant material, and requires approximately half of the energy than a cotton garment to produce), careful oversight (think: working with factories that abide by national labor standards, visiting the factories on a regular basis and speaking to factory owners even more frequently), and/or focus on creating sustainable garments and accessories with a lower environmental impact. (think: minimizing waste by repurposing it to make additional garments, reducing carbon emissions and/or shipping using recycled paper products).
Check out Part II of our list (see Part I right here) and remember, shopping responsibly does not mean only wearing Oscar de la Renta or Vera Wang on your big day; there are reasonably priced alternatives …
Brooklyn-based designer Rebecca Schoneveld creates original, locally handcrafted gowns for brides who are seeking a modernly romantic aesthetic. Inspired by bohemian yet streamlined silhouettes, gorgeous textiles, such as French lace and pure silks, and the natural beauty and personality of the brides themselves, Schoneveld has garnered fans all over the U.S. and beyond. Because much of the collection is designed into components that can easily be mix-and-matched, each handcrafted gown is just about as custom as it gets without the extravagant pricing of couture.
CLAIRE LA FAYE
Inspired by a need for the rare and unexpected, Portland, Oregon-based designer Claire La Faye offers wedding gowns for women that are both wearable and whimsical. Old Hollywood glamour meets ethereal beauty in her bridal designs, which are all locally produced and made-to-order. In short: they are just about the perfect choice for a dreamy bohemian bride who cares who made her clothes.
Launched in 2009, the New York-based Carol Hannah bridal collection is known for its whimsical gowns, which embody fluid silhouettes, innovative textile combinations, and unique handwork and detailing. A self-taught designer, Hannah has managed to master the art of inventive fabric combinations and ultra-unique details, which make for one standout gown after the next for just about every bride, no matter her style preference. The brand’s full service design studio in NYC's garment district functions as both a showroom/store and a production space, as every single gown is made onsite by hand, one at a time by the CH team of skilled artisans.
A locally-made favorite for minimalist brides on a budget (all of the dresses come in at less than $600) is Locke Bride, launched last year by Lyndsey Butler, who you may know as the creative director behind perfect leather jacket brand, VEDA. For modern dresses that boast clean lines and architectural cuts (no flowers, no lace), inspired by a host of modern and minimalist works of art – like Dan Flavin's architecture, Brice Marden's paintings, Raymond Carver's short stories, the new Whitney Museum, as well as the philosophies of John Locke – which are made in New York’s garment district, Locke Bride is for you.
In the 20 years since they first began designing wedding gowns, Seattle, Washington-based designers Jennifer Gay and Elizabeth Klob have gone from impressing friends and family with their handmade wedding gowns to launching their very own label, Cicada. With materials that consist of raw silk and lace, Gay and Klob have a design philosophy that aims to combine figure enhancing structure with fluidity and movement to create gowns that look and feel great, and local manufacturing to ensure quality and sustainability.
Not only a wedding dress label, HONOR is probably best known for its ready-to-wear collection, which is a New York Fashion Week mainstay and a favorite of Hollywood “it” girls. Under the creative direction of Giovanna Randall, HONOR, which manufactures all of its garments in New York’s garment district, is infused with a heritage of fearless women, past and present. Core to HONOR's mission is a dedication to bringing industry back to Manhattan's historic garment district, respect for the art of garment making, and fair treatment of the skilled artisans who create them. Oh, and did I mention that the dresses are insanely beautiful?
Finnish designer Minna Hepburn launched her eponymous label in 2008 and sister brand, INDIE BRIDE, shortly thereafter. Hepburn’s handmade gowns, which are constructed from certified organic, recycled and locally produced textiles and made using environmentally friendly production techniques, such as local manufacturing and zero waste pattern cutting, have found fans at Vogue, Elle, Women’s Wear Daily and the British Fashion Council.