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Sustainable indie brands to shop from in 2023

_shift speaks with three independent business founders

After what some might deem the end of the covid era, 2022 gave us all a lot to think about. As a fashion lover, my interest for sustainable fashion grew tenfold, at least, that’s what it feels like. All my clothing purchases in the last year were bought either secondhand or from small independent businesses.

In 2021 Vistaprint and British futurist Andrew Grill conducted a study made up of 2,000 adults across the UK about shopping from small businesses. The study shows that the shopping habits of UK consumers has shifted after the pandemic. Showing that over two-thirds of Brits believe it is important to buy from small businesses. Furthermore, it shows that 51% of Brits would rather spend their money on a small business rather than a large national firm, and that consumers are more likely to support small businesses even if they have to pay more.

ThredUP’s resale report of 2022 shows that the secondhand market is globally expected to grow from £98 billion to £116 billion in 2023. “The growth of circular systems shows many recognize this can be a winning business formula,” says Susan Harris, technical director of the Anthesis Group. With sustainable fashion comes the act of using apparel or fabrics that have already been created and producing smaller amounts of items. This is where small independent businesses Hedabags, Banzo, and Atelier L’Hirondelle come in.

Hedabag

Three pictures showing the same bag being worn different ways

Founded only two years ago by Hedvid Ågren, Hedabags has grown from being sold to family and friends to having weekly drops with customers all over the world. “It has just escalated to where it is today. Honestly, I just thought it was so much fun that people wanted to wear my design, and that is what kept me going and is still keeping me motivated.”

Ågren never intended Hedabag to become a business. Founded during her studies at Berghs School of Communication, she first designed the bag for her own needs. “I couldn’t find a clean big crossbody-bag where I could fully live out my life as a bag-lady, Marry Poppins style. So, I decided to make my own.”

She is still doing it all by herself while working full time as a visual designer at the creative agency APE_CC. While her goal is to keep the brand small and exclusive, it is starting to become a bit much to handle on her own. “I make them all by myself in my living room, and even if I now only do weekly drops, it is starting to become a bit too much to sew them all myself, so maybe I will have to look into hiring someone soon.”

“Sustainability is very important for me working with Hedabag. I’m very aware of the fact that a textile business, in any form, is a contribution to my eco-footprint,” says Ågren when I ask her about her thoughts on sustainability. “As a small independent business, it’s very important to me that the bags are made to be worn for a long time. Both in terms of the quality, the fabric and the minimalistic timeless design.” She is in the works of creating new designs and wants to use secondhand fabric in the future.

“It’s honestly so much fun, I never imagined that my bags would become so popular, and that I would ship bags all over the world every week. I think the personal touch and connection that I have with everyone is something that has contributed to what the brand is today, it feels like a little Hedabag community. There is so much love.”

Banzo

Three polaroids of a women posing with different outfits

Founded in 2021 by Camila Banzo, her namesake brand offers deconstructed one-of-a-kind pieces hand-made in Mexico City. “After graduating from New School of Arts in Milan I opened my vintage shop La VintaJe in 2017. And after a couple years I created Banzo, I thought it was more practical for me to work with the ‘materia prima’ I had in my shop. So I just started transforming vintage clothes inside my shop with my sewing machine and that is how Banzo started.”

She explains: “Banzo is about perceiving beauty where one doesn’t normally do. It’s not a brand, it’s someone who appreciates details within everyday life.” Hand-made by Banzo herself out of vintage pieces, a lot of love goes into each piece of clothing. Hand-picking the pieces, choices of colours, the cutting and sewing, it all shows in the impact of her garments.

Taking inspiration from her heritage and the women around her, the garments are for people who enjoy the small things in life and appreciate the extraordinary ones. Having always loved creating, Banzo feels joy by seeing other people love her creations. “When people tag me using my clothes in their everyday life it brings me a lot of satisfaction and joy because that was why I created Banzo. I just wanted to make something special for everyone to enjoy and make beautiful memories in.”

Her most popular piece is the apron blazer, inspired by Mexican aprons. “My inspiration for this garment comes from typical Mexican aprons. Aprons worn by all working-class women. The colourful ribbon creates an element of romance, which I love.” The aprons are boxy with lots of pockets, and outlined in vibrant colours.

“We have to take care of our planet and I know all fashion lovers love to buy clothes so why not feel a little less guilty about it?”

Atelier L’Hirondelle

Woman posing against cement wall

The Dutch brand L’Hirondelle was founded in 2019 by Lana van den Heuvel and Linda van Houtum. The idea came to Lana in 2018 when she got in contact with a merchant who was selling batches of deadstock suits. “I just knew that they deserved a new life,” she says. With van Houtum’s experience in graphic design and van den Heuvel’s education in fashion the idea of the brand grew into L’Hirondelle.

The brand is built on giving clothes a second life, with deadstock men’s suits being reworked into fashionable pieces. The items are worked on by local artisans, either in limited batches or made-to-order where the customer gives their measurements. “For each item or design there is a different unique solution. We have a permanent collection that can be applied on a bigger batch of deadstock, but aside from this collection we also sell one-of-a-kind items that are truly single made from the best perspective of the item.”

Van den Heuvel and van Houtum explain their designs as having a futuristic feeling in combination with classic design. “We want to create garments that are classic and timeless. The idea of giving a garment a second life means that we want our items to be enjoyed for a long time, so we do engage in the simplification of our designs.” They go on to explain that their method of designing and producing for their brand is the complete opposite of the fast fashion industry. “We are incredibly proud of what we stand for as a brand, not only aesthetically but also with a look into the future regarding the topics of sustainability.”

One of their dreams for the future is to have a physical store where they can display reworked items but also the deadstock suits they use to give customers the opportunity to select a suit and a design themselves. “We think it’s incredibly important to be aware of what you buy and wear. We want to create items that have the best quality so they can be enjoyed for as long as possible.”

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