Wake up, it’s 2013. The time has come to kick off those sweatshop sneakers and throw on those retro runners. In the midst of a systemic sustainability crisis, the fashion industry is being shaken down from head to toe in search of a new definition of style.

Now, the next generation of brands are getting set to step onto the runway and strut their stuff sans the heavy emphasis on eco and ethical. That’s why we went on the hunt for stylish, fashion-forward brands who are stepping up and moving away from the ‘sustainability’ sidelines. Here’s our look at some of the best examples of brands who are in tune with the La Mode of Branding for 2013 and beyond:

#Raison.d’etre : LINA.Lhu

As Paris is (according to our sources) the fashion capital of the world and ‘La Mode Ethique’ is hot in the French market, we started doing a little research to see how upstart French fashion enterprises were defining themselves.

One (seemingly) brand new company, in particular, caught our attention:

However, Lina Lhu is not an ‘eco’ or ‘bio’ brand. Lina Lhu is first and foremost a line of clothes that pleases and provides a certain pleasure, but without negligence towards the environment.

(roughly) translated from LINA Lhu site.

+ www.LinaLhu.com

What we love is how the focus is, above all, on giving the people that experience that they want when they buy clothes ; that tactile pleasure and sense of connection to the garment. That is the most important thing.

BUT the clothes are made of local materials and assembled in a country nearby (Poland), and they are created consciously with respect for the surrounding world.

Therefore, Lina Lhu is a company that produces beautiful clothes, not a bio / eco brand that happens to make garments. The clothes are built to be sexy, yet because they are ‘sustainable,’ they can be made again and again (and again) for years to come.

HAUTE.gamme : EILEEN.Fisher

Eileen Fisher is one of the most progressive ‘sustainable’ brands on the market.

The company’s high-end line of women’s clothes go way beyond aesthetics.

Unlike most other high-end brands, Eileen Fisher is not cut in the image of today’s mega-fashion houses who trade status for integrity.

In February, we saw an Eileen Fisher ad in the New York Time’s Style magazine.

The first 50 pages of the magazine have glossy ads with (mostly anorexic) models from top fashion brands who don’t even mention one word about how or where their clothes / handbags were made (hmmm why would that be …). But there, on the last page of the magazine away from all the other ads, is a subtle Ampersand ad that ever so casually mentions the following:

& We’d like you to know what we’re made of. A harem pant that’s manufactured in NYC, a reversible sweater that gets its strips from organic linen.

+ Eileen Fisher: Ampersand campaign

That just-for-your-information, no-need-to-shout approach is spot on and demonstrates the best way to embed sustainability into branding initiatives without yelling.

#FOTO.collage : NAU Clothing

In its brief history, PINTEREST, the new social network that blew up out of nowhere in 2012, has already reshaped the way brands engage with their audience online.

+ The Advent of Collaborative Commerce+

Visual, artistic, and clean, the Pinterest experience is much different from (cluttered) Facebook or (hyper) Twitter. For fashion brands, in particular, it gives a much better opportunity to convey the essence of the brand using a collage of photos.

Using NAU Clothing as an example, you can see that the company’s Pinterest page gives the feeling that the company cares about more than just clothes:

+ NAU Pinterest

After all, businesses are part of an ecosystem, both within their respective industries and in the world around them. Through a selection of photos that communicate certain themes, colours and designs, companies can create a certain feel using visual media.

In the NAU Pinterest collage, you can how they use photos of people in their clothes getting out there into the world around them, such as ‘NAU in motion.’ Other PIN Boards, such as ‘urban lifestyle’ and ‘wanderlust’ show how the company’s interests extend beyond their four office walls. And their ‘fabric deconstructed’ PIN Board is there to help educate you about the materials that go into their products.

After going through the NAU Pinterest boards, you certainly don’t get the feeling they would be the type of company making their garments in an undercover sweatshop in China.


To make their mark on the mainstream, leading-edge ‘sustainable’ fashion brands need to move beyond the sustainable part.

An article last month in the Guardian Sustainable Business section hit the nail on the head:

So perhaps its time to drop the word ‘sustainable’ altogether.

Not only is the global fashion industry huge in its own right but it has the ability to do what organic and fair-trade vegetables never could, and that is to make sustainability cool.

+ Sustainable Fashion Needs to be Design-Led#

Making sustainability sexy and cool – that’s where the movement needs to go. Not in a trendy, lets-pose-for-Facebook-photos way, but in a bold and sincere manner that shows what fashion should really be about ; the beauty of the people wearing the clothes.

+ Time For BMi

PLAN – the Business Model

+ BMi Services

It’s 2013 – the wheels are in motion, the train is gaining steam – and reality is starting to set in for those in the world of business. Welcome to The New 20%.

What is The New 20%?

They are the brands that will be meaningful enough to exist tomorrow. Despite the fact that most execs and entrepreneurs believe their companies are at the top of the charts, the reality is that the public wouldn’t care if 70% of today’s brands ceased to exist tomorrow.

According to a recent study by Havas Media, consumers only care about the existence of < 20% of the brands, as the majority fail to bring anything real and meaningful to them.

For some, this may come as a bit of a shock. You certainly wouldn’t garner this type of sentiment by scouring the Linked-IN profiles of the hordes of self-proclaimed entrepreneurs and businessmen out there. Nor would you be able to tell by flicking on the business channels and watching CEOs gloat about quarterly profits in times of such turmoil. From an outsider’s view, it seems that many businesses are back on track following the 2008 crisis.

And yet, the people – the ones who buy the product, support the companies and sustain the economy – could care less if 70% of companies cease to exist.

And why not. 70% + of what’s out there is missing the mark – badly.

How come?

Because businesses are not listening ; they are out of touch.

The majority of companies continue to remain myopically focused on profitability – at the expense of basically all other factors.

But times are changing and the pushback has begun.

In their mission to find something more meaningful and build a deeper connection with brands, consumers are beginning to search out new alternatives and build communities around those companies they care about most.

A new agile crop of customer-centric companies are blossoming up through the cracks and weaving their customers’ expectations and conversations into the very fabric that the brand is made of, rather than dictating how they ‘should be’ perceived.

“Brands must foster interconnectedness and collaboration, it must show that their activity is interconnected with those who invest their time in the brand” (paraphrased from video).

Ultimately, the only way to achieve this is by building trust. To build trust in today’s world, you need to be a legit company whose interests are aligned with those of society and be willing to engage with consumers at all levels to develop a dialogue that goes beyond simple pleasantries.

The New 20% are driving the dialogue, the other 80% are on the edge of a cliff.

What is your business doing to stay on right side of the divide?

+ The Advent of Collaborative Commerce+
+ Business Model Breakdown : ETSY

Crowdfunding Strategy – Summary

Building Blocks – PLAN – the Business Model