Clothing is the third most polluting industry on earth, behind only oil and agriculture. Largely, that’s thanks to how disposable clothing has become – on average, we each throw away around 24kg a year. Which is why it’s vital we all think a bit more about what we put in our wardrobes.
You might think that this sounds suspiciously like ‘ethical’ style, an arena long-dominated by sandals, tie dye and lots and lots of hemp. Well, it is. But it’s time to update your references, because there’s a new wave of brands for whom sustainability isn’t a gimmick, but just the only way they can imagine making clothes.
One of our favourites is Wax London, originally founded by two friends in 2015 to create t-shirts, but which now offers everything from made-in-Britain wax coats to shirts cut from vintage Portuguese fabrics. It’s style that’s timeless, not hippyish.
“From the start, we knew we wanted to create quality products for our friends,” says Steffy Neceva, the brand’s creative director and wife of co-founder Tom Holmes. They use British, Portuguese and Italian factories and materials, but keep prices low to ensure the people they know can still buy – and fall in love with – their clothes. “Our jackets are half the price they could be, but we don’t want to be greedy. We just want to create a quality product.”
“Wax London’s clothes are always interesting and eye-catching,” says Thread stylist Freddie Kemp, “but never garish. They’re brilliant with patterns, colours and fabrics, which can give any guy’s wardrobe a little flair but won’t completely change your style. It’s because the cuts and shapes they use are so classic, which means that slightly unexpected details actually sit really easily.”
That ease is a direct result of the care that goes into each piece of Wax London clothing. Neceva’s mother is an artist and instilled in her the importance of the physical act of creating. “I like to work with my hands first,” she says. “We always wanted to avoid just working with computers, so everything starts with a pen and a piece of paper. Even things that are quite simple and minimal, it begins with a sketch.”
The brand’s beginnings, however, were rather more violent than its laid-back clothing would suggest. “I fell out of a window,” says co-founder Richard Singh. “I didn’t have my keys and I fell and broke my leg. Badly.” Laid low for three months, he began to take conversations he’d had about starting a brand a touch more seriously. “I had him pinned down,” says Holmes. A concept crystallised and within a month of Singh’s accident, Holmes was in Turkey researching factories.
The decision to shift their manufacturing was based partly on Turkey’s political situation, but also because they discovered that they could manufacture closer to home without compromising on price or quality. “We stumbled on a place in Leyton,” says Singh. “We never thought it would be possible to make things in London, but as soon as we realised we could, we ran with it.”
The trio also sourced waxed cotton from a supplier near Manchester, which their new factory began to turn into the brand’s now-bestselling Navarino mac. “The factory’s background was tailoring,” says Holmes, “which worked really well for us, because we wanted to modernise traditional British outerwear.” The Navarino is a particular favourite in the Thread office, too; hardy enough for rain but light enough for summer, it’s the kind of coat that we never want to take off.
Though perhaps best-known for its outerwear, Wax London’s summer clothes are no second-thought. The current collection, full of camp collar shirts and saturated colours, was inspired by a musician friend who was decamping to Los Angeles. “We were talking about his style would change,” says Neceva, “and what he’d need if he wore just Wax. Out came corduroy, things inspired by the romance and music of the 1970s, like our poppy and gingko flower prints. It’s all about the music and the beach.”