Summer fashion with a purpose

The crop of fashion labels coming to the fore this summer do more than delight – although there is a lot of that.They spearhead the movement of clothing with purpose: whether it’s offering a much-needed larger range of sizes, whetting the consumer appetite for sustainability, or the savvy skirting of Brexit charges, so why not throw a piece or two in your staycation suitcase?
Knitwear, for summer? It’s officially a thing. Hope Macaulay has been creating joy-inducing knitwear from her home in Portstewart, Co Derry since 2018. The exuberant hand-knitted pieces are perfect for summer in Ireland; slip one on over your favourite sundress on a cloudy day.
Made from responsibly-sourced jumbo merino wool – a biodegradable and sustainable material – Macaulay’s following includes pop star Halsey and supermodel Gigi Hadid. The multi-coloured Wonderland chunky knit cardigan, £320, made from 100 per cent merino wool, has rainbow appeal. In terms of Brexit charges, the brand is buyer-friendly. As a result of the Northern Ireland Protocol, customers in the Republic of Ireland can shop Hope Macaulay without incurring any charges for duty or tariffs.
Another label for lovers of colour is Olivia Rubin. While the name may sound familiar, its new Be Mine collection which launched at the end of May carries an extended size range, offering up to a size 24 in clothing and an XXXL in loungewear. A frothy Olivia Rubin maxi-dress will bring an injection of fun to any summer look. Pair yours with Birkenstocks or chunky sandals by Teva to avoid verging into the saccharine.

2. A collared dress by Capetown designer Sindiso Khumalo, available as part of the Vanguard collection at

3. Wonderland chunky knit cardigan, £320, Hope Macaulay

4. Lime green camisole, €44.50, and bias-cut midi-skirt, €52.50, both Omnes

Manchester-based Neon Rose is a female design collective gaining popularity for offering an extended range of sizes: just ask its 60,000 followers on Instagram. The brand’s curve collection, where summer staples like ditsy florals, bright ginghams and statement collars all guest-star, runs up to a size 28.

While Danish favourite Ganni may only offer up to a size 18, it has kudos on the sustainability front: introducing a rental platform in 2019 and upcycling dead stock into future collections. Additionally, the brand has committed to a responsible fibres policy. It pledges to only use cotton, viscose and polyester that are independently-certified, so your next Ganni purchase can be a (relatively) guilt-free one.
The fashion industry is far from perfect when it comes to sustainability but recent strides seek to reduce its imprint on the planet. When Rixo created its first capsule swimwear collection, it looked to Q-Nova; a sustainable nylon fibre that’s obtained from regenerated raw materials. Swimsuits and bikinis (prices from €74) feature a hand-painted mermaid print; sure to be the envy of others on your next sea swim. Bonus points go to Rixo as the label has absorbed VAT and duties charges, too: the price Irish customers see on site is the total they will pay.

5. ’Hag’ hat-bag hybrid, from €69.50, Imara

8. Floral midi-dress, £32, from the Curve Collection at Neon Rose

9. Deux Fleur organic cotton T-shirt, €20, To Dye for by Johanna

Omnes is a summer-perfect brand striving to bring sustainability to the masses. It’s young, too. Only launched in July 2020, the label struck a chord with shoppers previously curbed by the often-prohibitive price of eco-fashion. Transparent when it comes to the production process, what’s appealing about Omnes is the price point – statement pieces start around the €50 mark. See the lime green camisole, €44.50, and bias-cut midi-skirt, €52.50, both hardworking staples for any Irish holiday.
Closer to home, To Dye for by Johanna is one to watch. Founded by Johanna Dooley – formerly of Borrower’s Boutique – it’s a collection of T-shirts and tie-dye separates inspired by the nation’s obsession with loungewear. The brand has already been snapped up by Brown Thomas as part of its Create initiative, which launched on July 6th. Pair the love-child inspired Deux Fleur organic cotton T-shirt, €20, with relaxed cropped jeans and sandals when the sun shines.

Looking for the perfect sun hat? Unisex, ethical and multi-functional: Ulster-based label Imara celebrates the classic fisherman’s hat, with a twist. Designer Amy Condell refers to it as the “hag” – a reversible hat/bag hybrid, from €69.50. Each one is made from 100 per cent linen that is locally sourced, plus for every purchase, Condell plants a tree on her family farm in Donegal.

10. Barcelona-based label BPCR

13. Kiev-based brand Sleeper is loved by the likes of Lena Dunham and Elle Fanning

Fellow linen lovers should do as the fashion pack does and fall for a piece by Sleeper, a Kiev-based label founded by former style editors Kate Zubarieva and Asya Varetsa. Its ethically-made dresses are loved by celebrities such as Lena Dunham and Elle Fanning.
Meanwhile, craft is at the heart of designer Sindiso Khumalo’s uplifting pieces. Capetown native Khumalo studied design for Future Textiles at Central St Martins: the result is a brand that fuses conscious living with African storytelling. Excited by collage and watercolours, Khumalo’s prints are original and luxurious. The designer is available at Net-a-Porter, as part of its Vanguard programme.
Thanks to Brexit, European fashion brands are seeing a spike in popularity. Two Spanish labels, in particular, hint at a kind of cool that’s very ‘now’. La Veste, the lovechild of Spanish stylist Blanca Miró and designer Maria de la Orden, has resuscitated fashion’s obsession with Peter Pan collars; however, its new drop of lightweight jackets and tailored Bermuda shorts are equally as appealing. Meanwhile, Barcelona-based label BPCR serves up playful resin jewellery that is just the right side of nostalgia.
Lastly, if you’re still craving inspiration, indulge in a scroll on Toast ( – a site often considered a fashion insider’s best kept secret thanks to its crafty edit of clothing and homewares. There are linen twill sundresses, easy espadrilles and ruffled tops in Italian cotton-poplin that speak to relaxed summer days – and a considered kind of luxury.

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