Have you started to think of yourself as two separate people yet? I have. There's the B.C me – that's the Before Coronavirus version of myself – and the current me, which looks similar, only with far less tolerance and even less patience. One thing lockdown has done, I've found, is to transform my mild interests into fervent passions, which are now bordering on obsession. Case in point: a TV show I thought was vaguely interesting before the pandemic has now become something I watch every day, devouring each episode as though I've never seen a serialised drama before. Another example is my incurable habit of spending hours staring at dresses on Instagram.
Oh sure, I ran the gamut of social media in B.C times, particularly when it came to discovering new dresses, new brands making dresses or just photographs of people looking nice in dresses. This, however, has metamorphosed into an obsession that is, quite frankly, teetering on the unhealthy side of things. Well, at least I thought it was until I realised that most of the frocks currently following me on Instagram (whether this be via targeted advertising or just the ubiquity with which they seem to appear on various people) are actually sustainable.
Yes, this is absolutely a weak justification for a preoccupation which, quite frankly, feels a little shallow – especially in these dark times. But I also realised that this is good news – it means that not only are there far more brands putting ethical practices and the future of our planet at the centre of their business models, they're also more visible than ever before.
It can be fairly difficult to penetrate a brand's approach to sustainability and what this actually means, especially if the brand in question is a major corporation designed to prioritise profit over fair practice. The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh seven years ago only emphasised this fact, as labels from several major high street stores were found among the rubble. While not all big business is necessarily bad, it's heartening to see young, independent and sustainable brands getting the attention – and support – that they deserve.
From floor-sweeping dresses that have genuinely made my heart beat faster (sorry, I did warn you that this was obsession on a large scale) to check print, oversized midis that are more comfortable than sweatpants, these are the (sustainable) dresses following me at the moment. Some of them have even followed me right back to my wardrobe, where they have made life just a tiny bit more bearable.
SHOP: The Best Sustainable Dresses
Damson Madder, Check Print Dress, WAS £130 NOW £65
In the interests of full disclosure, I do own this dress so am hardly objective. But when I spotted @heartzeenain it, I remembered just why I liked it. It's oversized in every sense of the word, so definitely go for a size smaller than you would normally, but is one of the comfiest things I own and is even currently in the sale. The brand is also committed to transparency and sustainability, using organic cotton, natural dyes and recycled yarn.
Pozruh, Embroidered Floral Dress, £220 at Omi Na Na
This is the dress that induced heart palpitations. It kept cropping up on my Instagram feed and each time I was drawn in by its ethereal nature. Sold by one of my favourite discoveries of the last year – Omi Na Na – it's made in India by a brand called Pozruh, which works to build sustainable artisan communities in India as well as producing sustainable clothes. This dress, surprisingly, is made of 100% hemp, which I didn't ever expect to be so beautiful.
Benjamin Fox, Pink Elizabeth Dress, £172
Launched early this year, all of Benjamin Fox's pieces are produced by the brand's founder, Ciara, who only works with biodegradable and single fibre fabrics and threads, and who uses either natural or deadstock materials to be as sustainable as possible. Plus, everything is made to order, limiting the amount of waste. So far, multiple styles from the current collection have sold out completely. On Monday (August 24), the website will be closing before the new Autumn collection arrives in early September. Definitely one to bookmark.
Radish, Maxi Dress, £150
Natalie of @stylemesunday and @livpurvis have both been wearing dresses from Radish, a truly wonderful brand created by Lisa Piercy in 2017. Each piece is infused with a vintage feel and is designed to really last forever. If you're looking for a really special dress to wear to any number of occasions, Radish is a great place to start (and finish) your search.
Sleeper, Atlanta Off-Shoulder Dress, £262 at Net-a-Porter
This may not be new but that hasn't stopped Sleeper's Atlanta dresses storming social media (again). When I saw sustainable activist Emma Slade Edmondson in the polka dot version recently, I fell in love with it all over again. Sleeper supports artisan manufacturing techniques and each piece is handmade using natural, eco-friendly fabrics. While this specific style has sold out, there are a whole lot more from which to choose, including feather-trimmed pyjamas.
A.Au, Printed Wax Cotton Dress, £245.58
@dominiquedrakeford is another advocate for sustainability who gives good dress – a prime example being this button-down style from A.Au. The brand was founded by Asiyami Gold, who ensures each piece is sourced and made in Nigeria, with 10% of every sale going to building an education bursary that 'will fund the next generation of young and bright Abua youths through university.' These dresses are nothing short of breathtaking.
O Pioneers, Bessie Dress, £360
Chances are you've seen this dress on Instagram already – the likes of Ophelia Lovibond and Suranne Jones have both photographed themselves wearing it with O Pioneers' matching face mask. It's an exclusive design for Isabel Spearman (pictured) and her Daily Dress Edit and has been a huge success. Most of the sizes are sold out now but you can find the same style in other Liberty prints. Founded by Clara Francis and Tania Hindmarch, O Pioneers is committed to the idea of 'buy well, buy once' and the pair ensure that they use end of season fabric, as well as deadstock where possible, they source local seamstresses and craftswomen to make their clothes to reduce mileage and enable collaborative and supportive working relationships and they use minimal packaging, too.
Yolke, Valentina Dress, £220
Katherine Ormerod is one of many to fall for the charms of this Yolke dress. It boasts a flattering empire line, is available in three different pretty prints and even has pockets. Yolke launched in 2013, established by Ella Ringner and Anna Williamson, who decided to add a sustainable ready-to-wear offering to their line of sleepwear in 2019. The result is a dreamy mix of eco-friendly plant-based fabrics that are locally sourced and produced in Europe working with family run factories. Katherine's exact dress is sold out, sadly, but there are other patterns still available on the brand's website.
Cinta The Label, Sara Dress, £125
This has been cropping up all over social media of late and I have concluded that it might be one of the best summer dresses I've seen. It's one of those pieces that looks good on most body shapes, which is no mean feat. Founded by Amy Sturgis, she refers to Cinta as 'mindful ready-to-wear'.