The Spring/Summer 2017 bridal shows took place in New York last 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 the wide array of options that exist, 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 the list below (Part I of II) 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 …
In case you missed it, everyone’s favorite ethically-minded fashion brand, Reformation, launched a bridal collection. In the two years since its inception, Reformation’s bridal collection has carved out a niche as a go-to for brides and bridesmaids, alike, who want gowns that are well-made and not prohibitively expensive. The Los Angeles-based brand’s collection features gowns constructed from vintage and/or surplus materials and are made entirely in the U.S. And per the brand’s reuse-recycle philosophy, all of the bridal collection frocks are designed to be worn long after your big day.
Known for its Fair Trade gowns, Celia Grace was launched when founder Marcie Muehlke couldn't find a wedding dress that matched her aesthetic and her values of sustainability and human rights. Founded in 2009, the Celia Grace brand is dedicated to uncompromising style and helping women in developing countries (read: No sweatshops or child labor here! Instead, each dress is handmade by a woman-owned business or small fair trade sewing group in India or Cambodia that offers safe, fair, and empowering work conditions) so that brides can be part of something beautiful. In case that’s night enough: Celia Grace’s vintage-inspired silk & lace gowns are made from as many eco fabrics as possible (think: hand-woven organic eco silks made with no electricity, no dangerous chemicals, and little water; cotton; and fabrics made as close to their production sites as much as possible).
STONE FOX BRIDE
This New York-based brand has become an industry favorite thanks to its indie-vibe and carefully controlled supply chain. With fabrics sourced from Italy and France and embellishments coming from artisans in India, Stone Fox Bride’s handmade gowns are as non-traditional in style and silhouette as they are ethically made and ecologically conscious. More good news: SFB has a beautiful plus-size collection, as well.
Samantha Sleeper is New York-based designer and a Parsons School of Design graduate-student-turned-faculty member. Her handmade gowns marry a free-spirited bohemian aesthetic with local and sustainable production, and feature her noteworthy lace collaging technique, in which she layers repurposed lace to create depth and truly one of a kind creations.
DAUGHTERS OF SIMONE
San Francisco transplants Ash and Brit Castaños launched their label, Daughters of Simone, to provide non-traditional brides-to-be with ‘70s-inspired gowns (picture off-the-shoulder and backless styles in dreamy silks and crochet laces). Inspired by fashion muses of years gone by – including their mother, who wore her very own 1970’s shoulder-baring wedding gown – Ash and Brit aim to make each gown their own. What started with just a handful of re-constructed vintage gowns has since grown into a brand that offers a curated vintage selection and three originally designed collections.
Each of Truvelle's made-to-order gowns is handcrafted in their intimate studio in Gastown in Vancouver, Canada. Designer Gaby Bayona’s line, which is known for its “effortlessly modern” creations, incorporates unique details like dip-dyed lace and rose gold sequins to create fresh, modern, whimsical gowns. In order to ensure that each dress is made in an ethical and sustainable manner, Truvelle has resisted the urge to expand and has stuck with its model of offering one collection per year. And it is working: Bayona has also gained global traction, with stockists all over the world, including in Australia, South Africa, and London.
Based out of Toronto, sisters Magdalena and Karolina have design ingenuity in their DNA that has been refined by four generations of dress-makers and seamstresses. Anais Anette gowns are rife with hand-stitched detailing, architectural precision and old world antiquity. Each dress is created with an uncompromising pursuit of flawlessness, say the designers – each a wearable heirloom draped with the finest quality fabrics, appreciated for impeccable fit and symmetry. And the result is striking!