Because keeping warm shouldn’t cost the Earth
It’s officially not summer anymore! Which makes it well and truly coat weather, and as such I’ve had a lot of messages on Instagram asking me where to buy responsible winter warmers.
I’ll be honest, this is not an easy one to answer. I’ve spent the last few months since I gave up shopping educating myself on the non-fast fashion ethical and sustainable brands that will be my go-tos once I allow myself the odd new items of clothing here and there in the future. But many of them stop short of producing anything REALLY warm, and I imagine this is because it often means the use of down (and feathers are often not collected in a cruelty-free manner), and/or waterproof polyester. Plus they are an expensive thing to produce.
I doubt I will be buying a new winter coat for about a decade. I was lucky enough to accumulate a few really good quality ones when I was still accepting gifts as a fashion editor – in the picture above I was shot for a New York Fashion Week feature in InStyle magazine which I was made redundant from over three years ago! – and this is hands down my favourite coat of all time. It’s by Filippa K, which is making great strides in sustainability and innovative fabrics, and I wear it pretty much every day of the winter.
One thing I know for sure is that this is the most useful style of coat I’ve ever owned is this: the parka. Not only is it incredibly practical (waterproof and warm – including over the bum) but it’s a timeless style classic and looks great with everything. So just for you, I’ve done some research into the best sustainable parkas out there – all of these are waterproof, but not all of them are mega warm, so do read the small print. There is some polyester in this edit, but if you’re buying something that you’ll wear for decades this isn’t necessarily the end of the world in my opinion. And obviously it’s even better if it’s recycled polyester or second hand!
Filippa K ‘Oslo’ parka, £395 (filippa-k.com)
This is the same make as my beloved parka. And yes, I know, it is not cheap. But the whole sensibility of Filippa K is slow fashion, and the aim of making something you will want to keep in your wardrobe for years and years. Mine is four years old, and given that I wear it most days during winter (at least to walk the dog in the morning, often all day), I reckon the cost per wear probably works out at less than £1. So far.
This particular one is made from polyester (some of it is recycled), has a removable hood and comes in three colours. You can also see the exact address of the Vietnamese factory it was produced in. How’s that for transparency?
Patagonia ‘Down With It’ parka, £260 (patagonia.com)
Patagonia is often cited as one of the best performing sustainable brands out there. As well as offering a repair service in the US, you can return any old Patagonia items to them and they will reuse them to make new products. The brand also donates to grass roots organisations that help to protect the planet.
This coat, which comes in four colours, is made from 100% recycled polyester for the outer layer, and is insulated with recycled feathers which are reclaimed from down products.
Two Thirds ‘Skorpio’ jacket, €149.60 (twothirds.com)
Two Thirds is a brand I’m gutted I didn’t discover until AFTER I gave up shopping for a year. I really love the designs (particularly the T-shirts and sweatshirts), so I will happy to find this parka, which comes in five colours (obviously the yellow is my favourite). And it’s made from organic cotton – win!
Two Thirds uses natural fibres and recycled synthetic fibres, as well as exciting innovative products like TENCEL and an exciting yarn made from a mix of TENCEL and Seacell, which is made from algae. There’s an abundance of information on the sustainability page of the website if you fancy a good geek out!
Thought ‘Adelle’ parka, £140 (wearethought.com)
I really like Thought’s approach – as well as using only certified natural and recycled fibres and fabrics (this is a waterproof coated organic cotton), this label only makes clothes from start to finish in the same country to prevent them being shipped all over the place (which frighteningly does very often happen). There’s a wealth of information on the brand’s transparency for you to read online too – as a rule of thumb, if you can’t find information like this easily the brand is unlikely to be sustainable. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, always email the brand in question to ask. Peer pressure is a powerful thing…
Peabody parka, £200 (sanchoshop.com)
Sanchos is a lovely sustainable fashion label based in Exeter, which also has a store that stocks other ethical brands. This parka is made from 100% TENCEL, which is a wonderful fibre. It’s like a really REALLY high quality viscose, which is made from wood pulp. The problem with viscose, though, is that the trees aren’t usually sourced sustainably, and it uses harsh chemicals to make it into a fibre – these are harmful for both the people who work with them, and the surrounding environment, which includes the people who rely on the local water supply to be clean.
TENCEL not only sources its wood pulp sustainably, but uses a circular system, meaning any chemicals used in its production are recycled into being used to produce more TENCEL, rather than being flushed out into the environment.
Of course, the most sustainable thing to do is to not buy new at all. And the joy of a parka is that it’s been in style pretty much constantly since mod’s adopted them to wear over their suits in the 1960s to stop them getting scooter grease on their whistles. Which means there is a lot of existing stock around! I was SO IMPRESSED with how many really great winter coats were on offer from all of these second hand sites, so even if a parka isn’t your thing, they are definitely worth a look if you need an overcoat.