Once known as ‘Cottonopolis’ and the centre of the world’s cotton manufacturing industries, Manchester has experienced a recent resurgence in the world of fashion, becoming home to some of the world leaders in what’s now known as ‘fast’ fashion.
But attitudes and buying habits have slowly been changing, and although the UK’s cotton and textile manufacturing trade has essentially disappeared, a small group of dedicated independent makers and creatives have set up in the city as a direct response to the big fashion brands.
As sustainability, fair wages and working conditions become more and more important, these independents have thrived, and continue to thrive, using sustainable and recycled materials, limiting their carbon footprint and being ethical throughout the supply chain.
Here are the city’s very best fashion brands at the moment; innovative designers and makers who are leading the way when it comes to sustainability…
Probably the city’s most well-known sustainable brands, offering up a selection of contemporary pieces from their flagship store in the NQ, that revolve around organic cotton and eco-friendly materials. 97% of production comes from Portugal and they’re keen to stress the importance of low-impact transport logistics on display.
Founded by Hailea Crichton, Deidei is a sustainable, female-led, vegan fashion brand that aims to create circular collections and clothes that last. The brand’s products use only sustainable fabric types, including; bamboo, corozo, tencel and cupro to create elegant statement pieces that can be dressed up or down. Deidei is an online only store, but regularly hosts pop-ups across the city where you can purchase its garments in person.
Joanie Clothing is always determined to take steps to become a more eco friendly brand. You won’t find its products on the high street, as the brand produces small runs of collections making improvements within its supply chain along the way to reduce waste where possible. It has a huge focus on 60s and 70s silhouettes and regularly features bold prints from local designers and artists.
Emiko Studios designs and creates made to order, planet conscious clothing for both adults and children. The Manchester-based brand gets its inspiration predominantly from workwear collections, hand-making all of its products using fair-trade factories and organic and natural fibres. It also uses the waste left over from product offcuts in its collections, ensuring that the brand is 100% sustainable.
White Mary Vintage
White Mary Vintage only began its journey a couple of months ago, but the label has already made an impact, embodying everything exciting about sustainable, vintage fashion. Owned by retro hoarder, Bee Whittaker, the brand upcycles neglected vintage gems to create unique pieces for fashion lovers and rule-breakers, especially those that are planet conscious.
NSIAH is an ethical, environmentally friendly brand inspired by nature and printed in a UK-based, renewable energy powered factory using organic cotton. Founder, Monique Nsiah has always had an appreciation for the beauty of nature. As part of her photography hobby, Monique often finds her attention drawn to the way the sun’s rays peek through tree branches or the intricate patterns within a flower, which she has incorporated into her designs.
Eclectica Vintage is another brand that repurposes old vintage gems, this time in the form of bold, psychedelic printed 70s shirts. Owner Sara makes bags and accessories from the garments, as well as her range of clothing and homewares ‘from the heart’ that she regularly sells out of Stockport’s indoor market.
Pirkani offers up a range of minimalist t-shirts and jumpers, all made with 100% cotton and sustainable materials like Lyocell, hemp and bamboo. A highly transparent brand, they maintain extremely high ethical standards, ensuring all workers in the supply chain are paid a living wage, receive health insurance, holidays and have access to free daily meals.
The very wonderful Gwen Harris began Grey Milk during the first lockdown after being furloughed from her full-time job. The brand’s ethos is to be as sustainable and inclusive as possible, offering bold, bright printed clothing inspired by the 90s grunge era and kids cartoons. Gwen designs and manufactures everything from a shed in her back garden, creating innovative dresses, mini skirts, tops and t-shirts, alongside her homeware brand, Shop Strawberry.
Sustainability is at the forefront of everything Sken Studios stands for. Owner Sabira only uses recycled silver in her collections and champions a zero waste approach to design, meaning that none of her product offcuts ever go to waste. The brand is for those with a more minimal taste, but definitely not without a sense of humour. Inspired by a breadth of emotions experienced during the early stages of parenthood – bewilderment, exhaustion and general sleepless angst – Sabira’s collections are honest and relatable.
The Norah Store
Stockport’s The Norah Store isn’t a brand in itself, but it focuses on a community of small, slow, female-led and sustainable businesses to provide shoppers with a refined and planet conscious experience. You’ll find brands including House of Sunny, Arthur Apparel, Intentionally Blank and Lisa Says Gah amongst gorgeous, planet friendly homewares and skincare ranges hand picked by its team.
Making sustainable, ethical and organic garments “for a healthier fashion industry, planet and society.” Phloem’s products are made in Fair Wear-certified factories powered completely by renewable energy, and with all stages of production complying with strict fair labour standards.
Tops, shorts and underwear, all handmade to order in owner Faye Evie Joynes’ Manchester studio – so they’re all free from transport-related emissions that you’d expect when manufactured abroad.