It was my hunt for high-quality winter gloves and a scarf that made me think how hard it is to find sustainable and ethical winter accessories, especially if your criteria is high.
Affordable and eco – does it exist?
Affordable brands on the market offer either cheap leather or even cheaper synthetic leather look-alike products (both of which I don’t wear) with questionable sustainability practices.
Or in an attempt to find something of better quality (and higher price), you’ll discover accessories that contain some or full percentage of wool or/and cashmere. Those are natural biodegradable materials that are high in demand during winter, however, the shearling process can be unethical so unless you know who are you buying from, you need to be careful. Plus, it’s not an option for vegans.
What are your options if you really care about these things?
You don’t have to be vegan to care about the welfare of animals, however, you might think of sustainability and ethical production processes that have a lesser environmental impact.
When it comes to the winter accessories that are in some way ethical you can go:
- RECYCLED (wool or cashmere) which is natural and made from post-consumer waste so has a lesser environmental impact
- RECYCLED (synthetic) which include materials such as polyester and nylon, which again is made from waste such as plastic bottles
- VEGAN which is essentially synthetic but has no harm to the animals, sometimes the environment too if made in a sustainable way
- PRE-LOVED which is already made and you can give a new life to these products and again, minimise the environmental impact
So even if your wool gloves are not vegan, they might be produced in a sustainable way with animal wellbeing in mind.
Is that even possible? Let’s see what these eco brands have to say.
If you want to go recycled and natural…
Most high-quality winter accessories contain some element of natural materials such as wool and cashmere. Still, when garments made of these fibres end up in a landfill it’s possible to extend their life span and repurpose them in order to create new ones.
Recycled wool or cashmere reduce waste, water, minimise the usage of chemicals and generates lower CO2 emissions compared to virgin material.
Pangaia is a materials science company that uses innovative technologies, natural and recycled materials and eco-friendly dyes to produce modern everyday collections.
Recycled Cashmere Beanie, £75
Riley Studio is an eco brand that uses pre and post-consumer waste to create men and women’s garments out of recycled materials, including accessories such as hats and scarves.
Recycled Cashmere Scarf, £160
You might be familiar with Organic Basics’s underwear which has been a favourite around eco lovers, but this Denmark-based sustainable brand has some cool recycled winter accessories too.
Recycled Cashmere Gloves, £52
Although a fashion brand Ganni doesn’t identify itself as a sustainable brand, they are making responsible choices when it comes to their production such as introducing more organic and recycled fabrics into their collections.
Recycled Wool Knit Scarf, £125
Recycled cashmere is one of the guilt-free materials environmentally, ethically and socially conscious brand Baukjen is using for their womenswear and accessories.
Eco Cashmere Socks, £49
If you want to go recycled and synthetic…
Natural fibres are not only materials that can be recycled so they end up in the waste. Synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon can be made into a brand new garments from plastic bottles and discarded fishing nets.
Outdoor brand Patagonia is known for its use of recycled and eco-friendly materials as well as their activism which is reflected in the products price, but well worth it such as this beanie made of recycled polyester yarn.
Fisherman’s Rolled Beanie, £35
Thought is eco-friendly men’s and womenswear brand that focuses on considered design, responsible sourcing and natural and sustainable fabrics, which includes recycled polyester too.
Maurice Recycled Polyester Striped Scarf, £34.95
Vegan brand Ecoalf might be famous for its sustainable recycled outerwear, but the brand’s accessories deserve some spotlight too.
Thick Hat, £35
If you want to go vegan…
Natural materials derived from animals might not be an option, which opens a door for synthetic fibres as well as natural non-animal fabrics such as organic cotton or bamboo.
Those can all be ethically and sustainably sourced without losing warmth or quality element.
Rains is a vegan outerwear brand that uses featherless insulation that provides warmth and comfort. Their winter accessories are made of synthetic waterproof material.
Italian label Save the Duck designs animal-free outerwear and winter accessories using Plumtech, an ecological polyester wadding that’s soft and warm as a feather.
Iris scarf, £45
Komodo is an eco-friendly women’s and menswear brand that uses organic, natural and eco, as well as recycled and vegan materials for their collections. All of their products are cruelty-free.
Nami Rayon Scarf Coal & Warm Sand, £25
If you want to go pre-loved…
Whether natural or synthetic, buying pre-loved winter accessories massively helps to minimise environmental impact.
The garment is already produced, and even though we might not know its history, how ethically or sustainably it was made, you can make a positive choice by repurposing unwanted products and giving them a second life. That essentially keeps them out of the landfill.
One of the most popular pre-loved designer online retailers HEWI, sells men’s and women’s luxury clothing and accessories, as well as never worn second hand goods.
Max Mara Grey Cashmere Knit Scarf, £128
Rebelle is an online marketplace for second hand designer items, from clothing to accessories. You can buy and sell pre-loved luxury fashion and find items you probably won’t see on the high street.
Blumarine Beanie, £90
Asos Marketplace is an online platform that features small, independent businesses and vintage boutiques that mostly sell pre-loved goods, including winter accessories.
Glassworks London Light Grey Mohair Gloves, £30
UK based retailer, Open for Vintage, stocks authenticated vintage accessories from most famous fashion brands giving the pre-loved items new life.
Isabel Marant Puffer Scarf 2019 Runway Recycled Bottles, £145
What did I buy?
Okay, so you want to know how the story from the beginning of this post ends? Finally, I decided to go recycled and natural for a couple of reasons.
First, wool and cashmere are natural materials which do not include killing animals (like leather or fur) in order to get the hair. Still, these industries can be very cruel in a way that wool and cashmere are harvested from sheep and goats (unless you know brands that are dedicated to ethical harvest as a part of a natural shearing process, not industry demand) which is a reason I wouldn’t buy it in the first place.
However, since the post-consumer waste is already made and there is no going back, it makes sense to support the brands that use ethical and sustainable practises making something beautiful out of something that was thrown away, which is my second reason to go recycled.
Ultimately, the decision is yours. Do whatever feels right for you.
Editor’s note: Feature Image via Matt Hardy/Pexels.