For some fashion brands, “down to earth” has more than one meaning. And while sharing sustainability initiatives with consumers is apropos for satiating today’s market, there are a handful of brands that have quietly embraced sustainability over the years, but have humbly kept it close to the vest.
One of those brands is women’s wear lifestyle company Nicole Miller, named for its eponymous designer who launched the label in 1982. “I’ve always been passionate about sustainability,” said Nicole Miller, chief executive officer and head designer at Nicole Miller. “About 10 years ago, we introduced a line of men’s carbon neutral ties. Flash forward to my recent fall 2019 runway collection — which was centered around being sustainable — [and we reused] existing garments to create something completely fresh. I upcycled some vintage men’s cashmere sweaters that I found, and the design team and I slashed them, tie-dyed them, and embellished them. We plan to sell some of these on our site as one-of-a-kind pieces. I’ve been working with vintage denim as well. I cut it up for pockets and used the old waistbands as trim. I started using these techniques for spring, and I added a bit more of them for fall.”
As an early adopter of sustainability, Miller began experimenting with sustainable materials back in the Nineties, when she created a polar fleece that was made from recycled soda bottles. “Whenever I could find fabrics that used recycled fibers, I did. Unfortunately, [at that time], they were few and far between. Now, there are many more options available both domestically and in Europe.” And while Miller is fond of repurposing materials, she is adamant about reducing the use of plastic. “I think it is great to repurpose plastic, but it would be even better if we didn’t use it as much in the first place.”
That’s why Miller’s current collection offers an “Anti-Plastic T-Shirt,” which she designed to help “spread the message of the importance of living plastic-free.” Or consider the brand’s eco-friendly high-rise jeans made of EcoMade Lycra fiber (which includes recycled water bottles and is SCS-certified) and plant-based materials. Miller added that 10 percent of the proceeds for both items is donated to The Rocky Mountain Institute, a global think tank based in Colorado that promotes the scaling of clean energy solutions. “We’re a very eco-minded company and have supported Riverkeeper and The Rocky Mountain Institute for years,” Miller noted.
Miller is impassioned to spread the message of sustainability and hopes to see consumers take steps to reduce their own carbon footprint. “I’ve been very concerned about the environment for a long time and have tried to implement good practices around the office. Years ago we switched to filtered water instead of bottled. We reused all things reusable and we eliminated plastic cups. Everyone in the office brings their own reusable drink cups. I have repurposed clothing from cashmere to denim in my collections. I think everyone has to take responsibilities.” The Nicole Miller showroom is “really focused on living and breathing this antiplastic/sustainability message,” Miller told WWD.
Regarding sustainable materials, like many designers, Miller tries to shy away from using cotton — even organic — because of how much water it takes to produce. “I am not a huge fan of using organic cotton because it uses far too much water,” adding that she is relieved to now see a wider selection of sustainable materials made domestically. “[In the past], in Europe, I found a lot of recycled fabrics. Europeans are much more aggressive with their recycling. I had long conversations with a lot of companies that are really at the forefront of this mission.” Miller told WWD, “I think a lot of [being sustainable] is just creating awareness, which is why I am doing everything I can to help spread the message.”
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