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Your Complete Guide to Sustainable Fashion in Dubai


Sustainable fashion brands in Dubai - Style Destino Vegan Blogger Dubai
Last updated: 25th June 2020

Sustainable fashion’ aren’t just buzzwords but its the need of the hour and the future of fashion. We are consciously damaging our planet and it turns out a lot of it has to do with the way we produce and consume things. How? In case you didn’t know already, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world. 

The good thing is, we are living in interesting times where technology and innovation has given us access to materials that we never thought possible. However, at the same time consumerism and mass production is damaging our planet and exploiting the people involved in making the beautiful clothing and accessories we wear. It is time to give some thought about how our fashion choices affect the lives of so many people and our planet, and start making a change.

Exploitation of labor has been going on for decades, but after the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, on 24th April 2013, the dark side of the fashion industry finally came to the limelight. Over 1,129 people died and more than 2,500 were injured in one of the deadliest garment-factory accidents in history.

While the appetite for fast fashion hasn’t abated and the inhumane working conditions of laborers in the garment industry is still not uncommon, there has been a growing awareness about the need for making fashion ethical. Fortunately, the Rana Plaza collapse has led to conception of many small independent brands that are embracing sustainability and offering responsible fashion. Not just new, but many large established fashion brands are beginning to make efforts to adopt ethical practices. Brands like Zara, H&M and Mango have launched their very own sustainable collections (well they're not doing enough and lot of it is greenwashing, but I'd say it's a good start).

I strongly believe that as consumers, we have the power to bring the positive change. If we demand brands to offer products that are ethically made – change will happen. 

Look at it this way, with every dirham (or dollar) we spend, we cast a vote for the type of world we want. When we spend our money on a stylish outfit that comes from exploitation of people and planet, we endorse fashion terrorism. However, if we support brands that are making beautiful fashion without harming the planet or its people, we can contribute towards creating a better world. 

We are living in a world where we have the choice of spending on brands that adhere to our social and environmental values without compromising on style, or quality. Brands like Stella McCartney are a proof that style, ethics and luxury are not oxymoron and they are reshaping the foundation of the fashion world, which means you can look good and dress ethically at the same time. 

HOW IS THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION SCENE IN UAE?

Fashion-Forward-dubai - Sustainable fashion scene in DubaiImage credit: Grazia covering Fashion Forward Dubai

For a city with more than 65 malls (10 more on its way) for its 3 million population, sustainable fashion has a long way to go. Yes, I am talking about Dubai, the city where I live!

Shopping in Dubai is like no other city in the world. New stores are constantly popping up and there’s never a shortage of places to indulge in some retail therapy. So, if you ask me, how is the sustainable fashion scene in UAE, particularly Dubai, I have to say that while the conversation has started, it is a far cry from what is happening in the West. A lot of awareness is needed because in a country where the favorite pastime is shopping, explaining the concept of "Buy Less. Choose Well. Make it Last" is a real challenge. Plus, the obsession with designer brands and logos makes it harder to sell the concept of ethical fashion brands.

The good thing is UAE has an ever-vibrant multicultural society. You have people from all over the world, and many of them bring with them their ethics of conscious living and mindfulness and their awareness. Many dialogues on ethical fashion in UAE have started, even on the region's biggest fashion platform - Fashion Forward Dubai, however for now it is more talk and less action.

The question comes to, how can I create a sustainable wardrobe living in UAE? There are many ways to doing it. Making every purchase with an intention to focusing on quality over quantity (buy less, choose well), purchasing from brands that are utilizing small-scale and local production and participating in circular fashion, supporting small artisans in the developing world, buying pre-owned items or investing in products from brands that utilize eco-friendly materials and pay fair wages to its people are just few ways. 

Sustainable fashion brands in Dubai

While the wave of sustainable fashion is still at a nascent stage in the middle east, interestingly, UAE shopping scene offers many sustainable fashion options.

Sustainable fashion is not about buying the most ethical clothing and accessories or spending a fortune on the ethical brands. It's really about making sure the clothes we already own are well taken care of and treasured for a lifetime. The most ethical way to be a sustainable fashionista is to avoid shopping. If you are serious about making conscious choices when it comes to wardrobe, the next best option is to shop pre-owned. Circular economy! However, if you must buy new clothes then shop well-made clothes from ethical brands.

By buying well-made clothing that would last for years (rather than just a season), fewer resources are used and less pollution is created. Find below a list of brands and stores where you can get your ethical fashion fix to suit your budget and style. 

Best secondhand shopping stores in Dubai

Fortunately, there are a few great second-hand shopping stores in Dubai to get your fashion fix. Retold is one of my favorites. They curate beautiful pre-owned clothing and accessories for all budgets. Their expansive store, with two-floors, on Umm Suqeim is a must-visit, if you haven’t already. Garderobe, on Jumeirah Beach Road, and TheLuxuryCloset.com is your place for second-hand designer goods. They have a team of experts who ensure every item is original, so you don't have to worry about authenticity. While the later is an online store, the former has an online and as well as a brick and mortar store in Dubai.
Sustainable fashion brands in Dubai - Goshopia with Style Destino Vegan Blogger Dubai Araceli Gallego, founder of Goshopia (left) and me 

Online sustainable stores in Dubai

My favorite place to shop in Dubai is the online sustainable fashion store Goshopia. UAE's best ethical store has a curation of amazing conscious brands from around the world. Goshopia is perhaps the first truly sustainable fashion store in the UAE that I have known. Dunesi is another UAE based sustainable fashion brand to look out for.

Looking for flowy dresses, button down shirtdresses, printed maxis, chic pants, recycled denim pants and jackets, kaftans and tops that go from day-to-night with ease? Then check out Only Ethikal's online store - where they curate sustainable brands from all over the world, predominantly Indian designers. Everything is made sustainably using eco-friendly fabrics and looks fabulous.

There is also Georges of Dubai store where you can find ethically made clothing, beachwear, and also a collection for babies and home.

Jewelry lovers don't be disappointed. You have a few great options too like ethical jewelry from Article 22. This brand from Laos transforms weapons into beautiful piece of jewelry handcrafted by artisans. Every piece of their jewelry tells both the untold story of a nation and a new tale of transformation. You can find Article 22 on One Good Thing. In addition to jewelry, they also retail cool bags and belts upcycled from billboards, canvas, fire hose and other materials.

Local brands

Sarah’s Bags is another example of a sustainable handbag brand, that believes in women empowerment. They employ women prisoners to make their bags and integrate them in society once they are out by offering them jobs. Her bags are available at some of the best stores around the world including concept store Sauce in UAE and online stores like MatchesFashion and Shopbop. Sauce is another place where you can find some great sustainable fashion picks - like handbags made by artisans in Africa and Columbia, and beautiful ethical jewelry.

International sustainable brands available in Dubai

You can also shop from international conscious brands available in the region. Here are a few of my favorites. Eileen Fisher makes stylish yet practical clothing using sustainable materials and is available at various multi-brand stores in Dubai including Bloomingdales. Of course, Dubai has its very own Stella McCartney store if you are looking for luxury sustainable fashion fix. They are located in Dubai Mall (under renovation), Mall of the Emirates and various other departmental stores like Harvery Nicholas and Bloomingdales.

When it comes to denim, we know it is one of the worst offenders of environmental damage. This means we must ensure that we make our denim choices consciously. Buy less, shop second-hand and if we must buy new then shop denim from sustainable brands. My favorite sustainable denim brand Nudie Jeans is your best pick in Dubai. They are available at Harvey Nicholas and Bloomingdales. However, there are many other brands that you can get online, you can learn more about them here.

Find ethical and vegan shoes can a be a real challenge. Fortunately, brands like Veja are available in Dubai. While Veja isn't entirely vegan, they do have a small vegan collection and they're available at Level Shoes in Dubai Mall. Designer brand lovers will be happy to know that even mainstream brands like Gucci has their own sustainable collection, known as Off The Grid, in-store now and some of it is vegan-friendly. For example, Gucci has a range of vegan tennis shoes at their stores across Dubai and also online. Call It Spring went completely vegan last year, and is a good place to find vegan shoes - especially vegan men's formal shoes because they are the hardest to find.

ONLINE SUSTAINABLE FASHION STORES THAT DELIVER TO UAE

Best sustainable fashion stores online  - Sustainable fashion Dubai
If you still can’t find what you are looking for, there are many ethical fashion online stores that ship worldwide. Thought Clothing, EverlaneAddress ChicArmedangels, Pangia and Reformation are some I highly recommend. 

In fact, some of the mainstream online fashion stores are also promoting sustainable brands and products, and have launched Sustainable Fashion sections within their websites. For example, Net-A-Porter has a collection tagged Net Sustain (offers free returns), Farfetch has Positively Conscious (offers free returns) and Asos has Responsible Edit (offers free delivery and returns) where you can find sustainable clothing, bags, shoes and accessories. Not everything on these websites are vegan, but you can find detailed material description of each product and pick the ones free from animal-materials. All these stores ship to UAE and some even offer free delivery and returns. However, when shopping from international stores, you need to watch out your carbon footprint. 

Following ethical fashion bloggers in the region is also a great way to identify ethical brands and stay up-to-date with sustainable scene in the region. You must follow UAE-based sustainable fashion bloggers Style Destino (that's my Instagram), and Chantal Brocca for some inspiration. 

There’s no excuse now to indulge in irresponsible fashion!
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