The fashion tide is turning and sustainability is the new wave. A buzzword that fashion companies slapped on their websites, marketing campaigns and Instagram bios, the environmental and socially conscious movement is now a real concept that’s motivating every aspect of the industry — from clothes, to accessories, and beyond.
Sustainable jewellery, however, is not easy to come by; despite it being fraught with many issues including fair labour, synthetic fabrics, large-scale production and huge carbon footprints. Furthermore, many companies resort to mark-ups, and skirt quality standards and proper production practices, such as unethical sourcing of conflict stones, vermeil or using plated gold that eventually wears off.
Spring in motion. @roosabels ? @smallgirlbiglens #pgnyfw #spring2017 #cfdanyfw #nyfw #modernglamour A video posted by Prabal Gurung (@prabalgurung) on
But one designer who consistently prioritises sustainability in his collections is Singapore-born Nepalese Prabal Gurung. Last September, Gurung sent models down his Spring 2017 catwalk wearing elegant propositions in cupro, a cellulose fibre made from reclaimed cotton waste. He also paired the clothes with oversized, sculptural silver earrings crafted from recycled metals, which were made in his native Nepal — as were the knits. “I [want] to highlight Nepal’s special crafts,” he says. “These artisans have been making jewellery for generations, but they’re dying arts. Technology is taking over, but there’s something very Old World and charming about the flaws and imperfections in handcrafted goods.”
Another brand who is making strides and advocating the socially responsible movement is Los Angeles-based jewellery brand Vrai & Oro, who only uses “14k solid [recycled] gold and high quality diamonds,” ethically sourced from local suppliers by way of Israel. Every piece is also made in LA to maintain control over manufacturing processes and quality standards. Likewise, Philadelphia-based brand Bario Neal uses recycled or Fairmined metals and “ethically sourced gemstones that are traced from mine to market.” They also offer diamond creations that are antique, or from non-conflict driven countries like Canada, Australia and Namibia.
The process of finding out where your jewellery comes from makes it all the more special. Jewellers make everything by hand keeping the impact on the environment minimal. But the aesthetic isn’t compromised as more effort is put into designing to ensure that pieces don’t look too organic.
Though shopping for such sustainable materials can limit your accessory options, it’s a small price to pay in the long run. And whether it’s socially by creating jobs in underdeveloped countries, or environmentally by using recycled and reclaimed materials, it feels good to support such companies who strive to do right by their consumers, native communities and the environment.
Image opener: Model wearing BARIO NEAL’s 2016 collection