In recent years, sustainability has become a big focus for almost every industry, particularly in fashion, as many of us are trying to make more conscious decisions as shoppers.
While it’s a global issue, one way individuals can make a positive change is through what we wear ourselves, and what we demand from brands. As we become more active in our shopping habits, we’re calling for transparent supply chains and look to brands that show a commitment to protecting the planet for future generations.
The fashion industry has a huge part to play in the climate emergency. According to the UN Fashion Alliance, the clothing and textile industry is responsible for 8-10 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, 20 per cent of wastewater pollution originates from the industry and $500 billion of value is lost every year due to clothing underutilisation and lack of recycling.
Fashion labels have been responding to this need for change, and it has become far easier to shop sustainably for basics like jeans, dresses and other casual wear, but it’s also possible to apply an eco-friendly approach to your wedding outfit too.
It’s not a particularly new idea either, for decades many brides have chosen to wear repurposed gowns previously worn by their mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers.
Most recently, Princess Beatrice wore a vintage gown borrowed from the Queen for her nuptials to long-term boyfriend Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.
Designed by British couturier Norman Hartnell, the ivory gown had a square neckline with organza puff sleeves and a diamanté and checkered bodice. The Queen first wore the dress to the 1962 premiere of Lawrence of Arabia at the Odeon in Leicester Square, London.
Although it was refreshing to see a royal repurpose a wedding dress, we don’t all have a catalogue of beautiful gowns from our grandmothers to re-wear, but this doesn’t mean you can’t shop sustainably for your wedding outfit and accessories.
You don’t need to compromise on luxury either. Kate Halfpenny, founder of bridal wear brand Halfpenny London, has made small changes in the day-to-day running of her business to reduce waste and control its stock to limit any materials ending up in a landfill.
“As a company, we try to create as little waste as possible and repurpose off cuts of fabric to make new styles and embellishments, making sure all of our packaging are eco-friendly, even down the inks we use,” she told The Independent.
“Right now, we are creating a limited collection of bridalwear using discontinued stock fabrics that we have accumulated over the last 15 years. I love the idea of creating something unique and beautiful from what could be considered waste.”
Concepts like these are making it easier than you think to look your best on your big day while simultaneously helping protect the environment.
All it takes is a few simple switches to create the perfect outfit, and we’ve done all the hard work for you by finding the labels that are championing sustainability.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
The foundation for any well-fitting outfit is underwear, whether you’re wearing a ballgown or sartorial suit down the aisle.
Instead of going to landfill, the brand remakes them into beautiful and comfortable designs, available in 26A-36GG.
The set comprises a low cut, triangle bra and high-waisted briefs for full coverage and total support, but will still cut a stylish figure underneath your clothes.
In our guide to the best sustainable lingerie, we also loved this Ayten Gasson opal peace silk soft bra (Ayten Gasson, £68).
Made from organic peace silk, the bra presents a mix of sustainability and heritage. The nylon lace is produced in Nottingham by The Cluny Lace Company, which has been manufacturing lace since 1845 and still uses traditional looms. The ribbon trims are by Berisford which has been making ribbons in the UK since 1858.
“Founder Ayten Gasson designs and handmakes everything herself, from her small boutique in Brighton; as such all designs can be customised to fit your shape at no extra charge,” our reviewer says.
If you’re opting for a traditional wedding dress, before you buy a brand new one, take a look at Brides Do Good, a sustainable wedding dress boutique based in Fulham, London.
It has a handpicked selection of dresses that have been donated by brides and brands to encourage customers to wear second-hand pieces.
As a result, they’re much cheaper – up to 70 per cent off the full price – and for every £3 the business makes, it invests £1 into charity projects that work to end child marriage, including Plan International UK, the Safeguard Futures Ban Child Marriage Campaign and Huru International.
If you’ve already had your big day but still want to get involved, you can also donate your dress using this form, to share details of the design, size and style for the brand to then sell on.
There’s a £30 booking fee if you want to make an appointment, but 100 per cent of it goes towards the charities it works with.
For other sustainable dress options, look to Halfpenny London, which is launching a new collection called Daydreamer using recycled material, British-made lace and fabrics that have a low carbon footprint.
“We’re also giving back to the communities we use for our materials and beading and donating a portion of our appointment fees to charity and we will continue to push forward to open our own sustainable British factory over the next two years,” the founder says.
Known for its interchangeable separates that can be mixed and matched depending on your style, it’s proof that you can still have a luxury bridal experience without compromising on sustainability.
Our favourite piece from the upcoming line is this sycamore skirt and harbour dress (Halfpenny London, skirt, £2,250, dress, £2,300) that has an off the shoulder, bardot-style top and a slinky silhouette, layered beneath a detachable sequin skirt.
Elegant and modern, the skirt can be worn for the ceremony then removed for the reception, or vice versa, and creates an ethereal feel to a column-shaped piece that still keeps the classic wedding dress shape.
Suits and jumpsuits
If for your upcoming nuptials, you’re shying away from a typical floor-sweeping gown and instead are drawn to sharp suiting and contemporary styles, then look to these sustainable brands for some non-traditional inspiration.
It’s loose-fitting but has a slimmed waistline which adds a feminine edge, and it’s perfect for the modern bride looking for a piece that’s truly unique.
All the yarns and woven fabrics used by the brand are organic or sourced from surplus stock, and its pieces are manufactured in its factory in Sofia, Bulgaria, by tailors who are paid a living wage.
This jewel-toned Kumari jumpsuit (Clemmie Rose, £225) is a showstopping piece if you’re ditching tradition but still want something memorable.
It’s made from ethically sourced 100 percent silk, and like all of its garments, is made in a Fairtrade registered factory in South India that focuses on providing training schemes and employment opportunities for women.
Its aim is to better the lives of women who have previously been in vulnerable situations or had a low chance of employment, and each piece is named after a woman working on the production line.
If you still wanted a traditional cream colour, its Ammu jumpsuit (Clemmie Rose, was £225, now £175) is currently on sale.
While weddings aren’t the same without flowers, huge bouquets and decorations can often go to waste once you and your guests have left the venue.
But thanks to charities like Floral Angels, this doesn’t have to be the case.
Run entirely on a volunteer basis, the organisation recycles and reuses flowers from weddings and other events, delivering bouquets and arrangements to local communities, including care homes, shelters and hospices.
Indiebride London is another brand that uses offcuts to reduce waste when making its dresses, skirts and accessory pieces for brides.
Each design is made-to-order, so you’re getting a truly bespoke garment, and any leftover fabric is used to make veils, sashes and headpieces.
Any materials that can’t be repurposed are donated to fashion students, who are working on design projects and often limited on budget.
We love this Cassie veil (Indiebride London, £190). A single layer of silk tulle, it attaches via a hair comb and has dainty lace flowers on the trimming.
It’s the perfect complement to a dress, suit or jumpsuit.
If you want to wear a pair of statement earrings with a minimal outfit, or are never without your gold layered necklaces, adding new pieces to your collection, while still helping the planet, is simple.
Its products are affordable too, with most prices ranging between £10-£20. Our favourite pick is this bead earring all gold (Quazi Design, £12), we love the elegant, drop-design that will compliment all hairstyles.
Doron Shaltiel founded the company in 2009 in Swaziland, where the products are still manufactured today under ethical working conditions in an attempt to create sustainably designed products while creating employment and bringing skills to local communities.
Daphine is another brand worth spending your money with. Based in the UK, it works with local artisans in its atelier in Jaipur to sustainably produce all its jewels.
Known for its minimalist designs, you may recognise this oli ring (Daphine, £65) from the brand’s first collection. It became a bestseller and was seen all over Instagram.
If you want to keep your hands exclusively for your engagement ring and new wedding band, this pampille choker necklace (Daphine, £65) will suit an outfit with a low neckline, without drawing attention from your clothing.
Sitting on your collarbone, the gold-plated style is intricately designed with small, diamond-shaped charms running the whole length of it.
Walk down the aisle in environmentally-conscious footwear, such as these glove mules in ReKnit (Everlane, £80).
With a cushioned insole and low, block heel, they’re comfortable enough for you to be on your feet all day throughout the ceremony, pictures and dancing into the early hours.
They’re also made from recycled plastic bottles, fiver per pair to be exact, which reduces materials that would usually end up in a landfill. While you can buy them in a classic cream wedding shade, they’re also available five other colours; black, toffee, coral, lilac and seafoam.
We also can’t get enough of these ivy mules (Mother of Pearl, £395). The British brand’s London studio is solar-powered, uses compostable packaging from plant-based materials for all its products and even has 100 per cent recycled toilet paper.
The brand is working on becoming fully sustainable, so has created an online filter that shows sustainable attributes for each garment, rather than a sweeping statement for the whole brand. Examples of these tags include “low carbon footprint”, “responsible user of water” and “natural fibres”.
This is the ultimate statement shoe, with an oversized floppy bow on the toe and a pearl detailed strap to keep them securely on your feet.
It’s unlikely you’ll be carrying your own handbag on your wedding day, as that’s a job for your bridesmaid, but having one to hand with a top-up of lipstick and powder is always useful, especially just before taking photographs.
In our guide to the best vegan bags, we loved Mashu, a bag brand that’s designed in London and crafted by artisans in Greece.
All of its products use vegan materials that can even be recycled at the end of its life, though look after it carefully and you’ll be able to hand it down later on.
Our favourite style is this iris leopard (Mashu, £285), that has a playful brass-plated column handle, with a vegan suede design on the front.
Keep an eye on Roop too, a small brand created by founder Natasha, who only uses left-over or vintage fabrics to create her furoshiki bags, inspired by the Japanese wrapping technique.
They regularly sell out, so make sure you bookmark the page for when they’re next available.
Each piece is handmade by Natasha, so with every purchase, you’re getting a one-of-a-kind you won’t find elsewhere.