Reality check: A 2017 study showed 68% of Malaysians have thrown clothes away, contributing to more than 100,000 tonnes of textile waste in landfills. Fast fashion brands like SHEIN, Zara, Taobao shops and more are the culprits for this consumer behaviour, with huge environmental costs: synthetics take 100s of years to decompose; microfibres get leaked into oceans and ingested by marine life; employees often work under dangerous conditions for low wages.
Brands like H&M have also come under fire for “greenwashing”, positioning their brand under the guise of sustainability to get good PR, rather than taking actionable steps to reduce their impact...and that’s why I have trust issues.
Good news: in the words of Tim Gunn, you can “make it work”. Here are 7 Malaysian fashion brands that are kind to the earth, to people and look so good doing it.
LTTL focuses on zero waste from the get-go: each garment is designed using innovative pattern-cutting techniques that reduces the amount of fabric waste, while leftover spaces can be a functional item for the finished piece, like belts and straps. This line shows how each piece drapes on different bodies differently, as it is all cut from the same size of cloth, and with the same dimensions.
What We’re Loving: Bloom Dress complete with cute iron-on patches. We admire LTTL’s transparency, detailing the brand of sustainable fabrics and patterns used.
Shop LTTL: Online Store | Instagram
Founded by social media influencer Josephine Yap, Fondest shows that sustainable practices and timeless fashion can co-exist. Here’s how: only limited pieces per design (typically 150-250) are made to encourage consumers to treat the garment with care and reduce its lifespan. Everything is proudly manufactured locally, avoiding plastics, and uses 100% recycled packaging, which vastly lowers their carbon footprint. Fondest’s honesty wins our hearts too: Josephine admits they’re not the most environmentally conscious brand, but are constantly striving to improve. We love to see it!
What We’re Loving: Waldorf Cropped Sweater Set is the perfect fit for staying at home.
Shop Fondest: Online Store | Instagram
2021 is the year of activewear, and Terrae stands out from the rest — the activewear brand ensures that sustainability and circular practices are its guiding philosophy in everything they do. Sustainable and ethically sourced materials are used: ECONYL regenerated nylon is a 100% recycled fibre made from discarded fishing nets from the ocean, organic cotton and upcycled materials. It’s a ripple effect: by using these materials, they’re helping to remove harmful debris in oceans, reduce CO2 emissions and landfill waste. Terrae also makes an effort to be as transparent as possible: where its organic cotton is sourced (certification included), and its certified recyclable materials for packaging.
What We’re Loving: Movement Leggings Ocean Blue has pockets — ‘nuff said. Leggings are also wear-tested and individually signed off, so rest assured it’s squat-proof!
Shop Terrae: Online Store | Instagram
Founded, designed and painstakingly sewed by Cyii Cheng and David Han, the duo breathes new life into old clothes or deadstock fabric. Ghostboy’s style is driven by individuality and going against the grain, with their modern qipaos, spunky tops with exposed seams and splashes of whatever upcycled fabric they’ve found. Staying true to their upcycling, renegade roots, Ghostboy released a free, downloadable sewing pattern, so that you can create your own.
What We’re Loving: Double Loop QiPao not your average cheongsam, made from unconventional upcycled fabrics.
Shop Ghostboy: Online Store | Instagram
Honourable mentions for other awesome upcycling brands: Huntilanak’s reversible corsets made from old songket fabric; Upsygals uses only second-hand materials and packaged in 100% compostable mailers; Reviveyourclothes’s repurposes old clothes into trendy tracksuits, qipaos and jeans.
Kualesa may be the new kid on the block, but is already setting the bar high in challenging fast fashion: their aim is to create stylish, sustainable and comfortable bamboo clothing. With the use of Bamboo Lyocell instead of polyester (which can take 200 years to decompose - if at all!), their apparel is much kinder to the planet and the wearer! Bamboo is not only biodegradable, but also the fastest growing plant on the planet, which makes it an extremely sustainable resource. Your first impression of bamboo might be panda snacks, but it makes for incredibly soft, breathable and durable fabric, which will ultimately lead to less waste. Thanks to a natural component in bamboo called “kun”, the garments also actively resists bacterial growth and nasty smells - mother nature provides!
What We’re Loving: Batik Tribute Polos are great for casual day wear with an understated Batik flair.
Shop Kualesa: Online Store | Instagram
Recycling with a cause! SURI Lifestyle is a social enterprise that empowers underprivileged mothers by upcycling denim into bags, masks, home decor and more. While sustainability can be about saving the environment, it also relates to the wellbeing of the people who make the products. Currently, 40 mothers are working at SURI Lifestyle, so they are equipped with a long-term, reliable source of income, as well as skills, self-confidence and experience to live their best life. These ladies are our eco-heroes!
What We’re Loving: Minimal Tote Bag is made from upcycled denim, so each piece will be completely unique.
Shop SURI Lifestyle: Online Store | Instagram