Making sustainable, eco-friendly fashion that looks like it just came from the runway is no easy task. But it is the passion of Karen Stewart and Howard Brown, who since 2002 have been using their combined design and graphic art skills to produce clothing collections that are unique, cutting edge and, above all, environmentally ethical. It is their belief that high design can be done using the Earth's resources responsibly and that giving back is just part of doing business. The proof is in the clothing, which are sophisticated pieces made with responsible fabrics using sustainable practices. In short, it's an eco-conscious fashion lover's dream come true!
The first thing that strikes the viewer of Stewart + Brown's clothing is that their style is truly unique. From the simple website to the eye-catching and artistic photography, every opportunity to present style and sophistication is taken. Viewing each collection is a treat just to see the pieces mixed together with the bold and graphic backgrounds and artwork. The fall and late fall 2011 collections feature a mix of bold, vibrant pieces, current trends and simple classics that mix together to produce a look that is comfortable in the office or out on the town. Utilizing materials like hemp fabric and organic cotton made with low-impact reactive dyes, each piece is made with the lowest environmental impact possible. It all combines to showcase a company that is passionate about fashion and preserving the environment for future generations by producing carefully designed and manufactured clothing for like-minded people.
While some have raised eyebrows about the brand's use of fair trade factories in China to produce some of their products, Stewart + Brown have very good reason to support these workers. While China gets a bad rap from many due to poor labor practices and unsafe materials, Stewart + Brown provides opportunities to those in China who are part of the country's growing green movement, some at the risk of their own lives during protests and rallies in support of green and sustainable practices. Spending adequate time in China to oversee the factories that produce their products helped Stewart + Brown learn firsthand of the struggles of those at the forefront of the Chinese green movement and have helped provide a voice to them in the global market. In fact, one of Stewart + Brown's Chinese partners started China's first green factory and works with the Chinese government to create policies for clean air and water, modern and clean working conditions and use of environmentally safe materials. The result of partnering with these dedicated Chinese workers is a quality of product that the brand says is not produced anywhere else.
The company's forthright attitude about the delicate balance of producing a great product and doing so in a responsible manner is as refreshing as their clothing. Along with the decision to use Chinese factories, the company has also defended their use of Merino wool in the past, sourced from Australian or New Zealand sheep. When the owners of these sheep were under attack for the practices used to help prevent the sheep from fly infestation by performing a surgical procedure known as “mulesing,” Stewart + Brown assured customers that they were aware of the issue and working to resolve it in a way that was beneficial to the sheep, the sheep farmers that depended on them as their livelihood and the customers across the globe who loved Merino wool products. As with any environmental issue, Stewart + Brown found it necessary to carefully weigh many factors when making decisions that would affect their company, suppliers and customers.
It's a reality in today's world that sustainable companies face many of these issues in order to produce products that are good for the planet and loved by their customers. Stewart + Brown meets this reality head on by following their company's values and mission as closely as possible and believing that their customers will appreciate the benefits of owning beautiful, ethically produced clothing.