Fashion News

Shop the Sustainable Fashion Highlights of the Spring 2021 Collections

One of the few silver linings of the pandemic has been our heightened awareness around climate change and fashion’s ramped-up efforts to address it. By now, it’s generally understood that our industry is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, the leading cause of climate change; it’s also responsible for pollution, waste, and even fracking. We were talking about the need for change before the pandemic, but 2020 pushed those words into action.

The spring 2021 collections, designed in quarantine and arriving in stores now, marked a particular turning point. In our conversations with designers, it was the first time sustainable practices simply felt like a given, not an exception to the rule (or, worse, a marketing stunt). At Patou, Guillaume Henry spoke of his certified organic cotton and recycled fabrics as almost an afterthought, rather than an aberration from the norm. (Why should chemical-treated cotton and plastic fibers still be considered “normal”?) Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia was similarly frank: 93.5% of his collection was made with certified sustainable or upcycled fabrics, a number his team met “quite easily.” As he told Vogue’s Sarah Mower: “There are solutions if you look for them. There’s a need to revise things. To start a new chapter.”

Here’s hoping the fall 2021 collections continue the story. As we cover them this month on Vogue Runway, Vogue’s sustainability editor Tonne Goodman selected her spring highlights you can shop now. “It thrills me to see some of my favorite established and new designers tackling sustainability in their products, as well as in their business practices,” she says. “These items are style with substance.” From sweaters made of reclaimed carpets to recycled satin ballet flats, scroll through all of her picks below, plus a few tips on how to wear them.

Stella McCartney’s Future-Proof Basics

Goodman calls Stella McCartney the “godmother of sustainability,” and for good reason. McCartney has refrained from using fur and leather for 20 years, and in the past decade she’s scaled up her commitments to organic, recycled, and bio-based materials. Her organic cotton jumpsuit and traceable viscose knits are the picture of modern-day investment pieces. “These are staples that will last a lifetime in every circumstance you can conjure,” says Goodman.

Stella McCartney rib-knit pants

Stella McCartney jumpsuit

Prada spring 2021Photo: Courtesy of Prada

Re-Nylon Gets the Raf Treatment

Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons’s first collection included full, swishy skirts—including this one in slick, 100% recycled nylon, the same material found on Prada’s signature backpacks and purses. “This revisits the nylon that has always made me love the label,” Goodman says. “The length is elegant and feminine with a sporty quirk—quintessentially Prada.”

Prada Re-Nylon gabardine full skirt

Patou spring 2021Photo: Courtesy of Patou

Pretty in Pink Patou

Guillaume Henry’s floral dresses at Patou “embrace the optimism that comes with spring,” Goodman says. They’re also statement pieces you can wear every day, combining soft organic cotton with a happy print and major volume.

Patou maxi tiered dress in eco-friendly printed cotton poplin

Patou printed mini dress ir organic cotton

Marine Serre spring 2021Photo: Courtesy of Marine Serre

Marine Serre’s Magic Carpets

A handful of Marine Serre’s burgundy jackets, skirts, and dresses were made from reclaimed carpets; each is one-of-a-kind. Despite their unusual origins, Goodman points out that the sweater in particular is quite wearable: “This has a classic heritage sensibility built in,” she says. “This print reminds me of a DIY woodcut. It’s easy to dress up or down, and it’s completely genderless.”

Marine Serre Salutations carpet sweater

Collina Strada spring 2021Photo: Courtesy of Collina Strada

Collina Strada’s Must-Have Masks

A year into the pandemic, masks are still mandatory—but Hillary Taymour’s hand-dyed creations at Collina Strada are actually a joy to wear. “Undoubtedly the accessory of the season, this is a delightful example of how utility becomes fashion,” Goodman says. “Feel free to use the ribbons in whatever way they fit your personal style—from pussybows to headbands to classic streamers.”

Collina Strada fashion face mask with bows

Coach spring 2021Photo: Courtesy of Coach

Coach Explores the Natural Side of Leather

For his spring 2021 collection, Coach’s Stuart Vevers introduced upcycled handbags, including some made of recycled plastic bottles. He’s also experimenting with vegetable tanning and natural dyes like turmeric, carrot, and cochineal; a new capsule of pastel totes displays the full spectrum of earth tints. “A tote is a tote is a tote, as in total bag needs solved,” Goodman says. “Add a seasonal wisp of color, and it becomes an even more important accessory for spring.”

Rag & Bone’s Modern Ballet Slippers

With a cute, cinched design and shiny finish, Rag & Bone’s comfy new flats were made with 100% recycled satin. Goodman considers them the 2021 version of a ballet slipper. “I’m a girl who loves flats,” she says. “I grew up wearing ballet slippers as shoes, and these are a close-to-perfect interpretation.”

Alexander McQueen spring 2021Photo: Courtesy of Alexander McQueen

Sarah Burton Finds Beauty in the Stockroom

Sarah Burton’s spring 2021 collection for Alexander McQueen was created partly using materials from past collections or excess fabric found in the label’s stock room. Why order new textiles when so much already exists? This balletic tulle dress hardly looks like “leftovers,” and is as rarefied as any couture piece.

Alexander McQueen bustier tulle dress

Reworked Leather the Richard Malone Way

London designer Richard Malone almost exclusively uses deadstock, recycled, and upcycled materials. This trench might look like any other glossy statement piece, but it’s made entirely of recycled leather. “How great is a trench? It’s black for dramatic elegance in the evening, but ideally suited for daily adventures,” Goodman says. “The perfect investment for any season.”

Richard Malone double-breasted recycled trench coat

Lil Nas X starred in the first Gucci Off the Grid campaignPhoto: Harmony Korine / Courtesy of Gucci

Gucci Experiments With Circularity

Last summer, Alessandro Michele revealed an ambitious new project: Gucci Off the Grid, a collection of streetwear and accessories made from organic, recycled, and bio-based materials, like this sporty mini-bag in recycled nylon. “I love a crossbody because you can go hands-free,” Goodman says. “This Gucci miniature messenger bag is the perfect size for your phone, mask, hand sanitizer, keys, and a little loose change. The wonderful, vibrant blue adds just the right snap to any look.”

Gucci Off the Grid messenger bag

Hailey Bieber in the Levi’s Secondhand campaignPhoto: Courtesy of Levi’s 

Vintage Levi’s Are Still the Ultimate Trophy

Anyone who knows Goodman knows she’s never without her signature white jeans. “I’m a Levi’s girl through and through,” she says. “Why would I ever give them up? They are eternally classic, comfortable, and companions for life.” Now Levi’s has an entire site dedicated to pre-loved vintage and secondhand jeans; finding the perfectly-worn-in pair—white, blue, black, or ripped!—has never been easier.