Sustainable Wedding Fashion | Modern Loft Wedding | Portland, Maine Wedding Photographer
Updated: Jan 18, 2019
A few months ago I was contacted by my hair stylist, Heather Powers, who's friend is the mastermind behind Meta Morph Jewelry. They were looking for a photographer to work with to showcase Meta Morph's new Bridal hair piece line and some of Heather's hair work.
Of course I jumped at the opportunity and we turned it into full wedding styled shoot showcasing their work as a part of full looks for sustainably minded individuals. I am a photographer living in the wedding industry, but I am a rebel and I boldly break rules that I don't think are necessary or helpful or meaningful to any number of people. The wedding industry, I've found, is full of these rules. While I work with real people who are just as imperfect as I am, I spend the rest of my time trying to educate parents and couples and consumers of all kinds of how to be a little more sustainable and a little less harmful to the environment.
Read below for vendor and product showcases as well as great ideas for how to make your wedding or wardrobe a little greener.
The Hair Pieces:
Sarah of Meta Morph is all about real and natural materials shaped and crafted by hand. Her style is bohemian meets minimalist but always with a connection to organic shapes and textures. The bridal line is inspired by Boston Ferns, Eucalyptus leaves, and the Monserrat leaf. She has substantial statement pieces that can go soft and elegant, but also edgy. She also has incredible hair pins with bold colors that can be worn in a wedding do, or in an every-day bun.
Click through the gallery to get an up-close view of Sarah's work. These are all hand-crafted out of solid brass, bent and intricately designed with hand tools.
How can you integrate more sustainability into your choice of hair pieces?
Buy local (get re-familiarized with Etsy!)
Chose a durable build that will last and that can be re-used
Buy natural materials because they are renewable and can be re-used
Make sure those materials are ethically sourced and fair trade
Stay away from plastics unless they are recycled AND recyclable
Meta Morph also hand-crafted jewelry and designed special pieces to complete these wedding looks. Her vision was that these pieces are simple and beautiful, looking fabulous in any wedding, but they're also excellent gifts to give to your friends for being a part of your big day! If you're looking for wedding party gifts, look no further.
From hammered pearl earrings, to a delicate pearl bracelet, to garnet and amethyst necklaces and a dramatic, deep-V accentuating lariat, her jewelry is quality and real and perfect for elegant yet edgy looks.
Click through the gallery to see some of the statement pieces like the amethyst monserrat earrings, and some of the delicate pieces, like its matching amethyst necklace.
How can you integrate more sustainability into your accessory collection?
Same as above, buy local with natural materials
Make sure those materials are ethically sourced and fair trade
Consider buying estate or vintage
For gemstones and diamonds, consider man-made alternatives
Stay away from plastics unless they are recycled AND recyclable
DON'T buy something just because it's cheap, chances are, real humans were exploited to create that cheap accessory for you.
The Hair and Makeup:
Heather Powers of Salon Synergy in Portland, Maine did the hair for these looks. She has a decade of experience as a stylist and an educator and is passionate about being on top of trends, but keeping hair functional and intricate for weddings. From down-do's for curly haired beauties, to beautiful up-do's that withstand windy beaches, she's got you covered. She does make-up to!
Neyda, AKA Ney, did the make up for these looks. She's a hair coloring wiz and also a brilliant makeup artist. We didn't talk about what the looks would be like, I just shared the mood boards, the dresses and the hair pieces and she created perfect makeup. I particularly love the natural, dewy and almost peachy tones that she used.
Check out the gallery below to see the hair styles and makeup looks up close and personal.
How can you integrate more sustainability into your hair and makeup for your wedding?
Look for a salon that is committed to green practices
Ask them about their eco-friendly products that are chemical free
Even though it seems so 1970, make sure your makeup isn't coming from a company that tests on animals or uses cruel practices.
How can you integrate more sustainability into your hair and makeup at home?
Look for natural alternatives to chemically laden products
If you don't have access to those types of brands, buy in bulk and reduce the number of packages you have to buy
Harmon's Floral Company in Portland, ME is one of my favorite florists around, not only because they're always willing to work with me, but because they make beautifully dynamic bouquets and they always have unique special touches. The last time we worked together they included an olive branch that had olives still attached, and this time I got some berries in the bouquet that were still attached to their branches! Little touches like that make the floral arrangements so special to me. This time, I send a mood board of colors and let them know that eucalyptus was one of the inspirations, and they created this amazing bouquet and a greenery piece for our copper arbor. Those purple roses are jaw-droppers, while the combination of round eucalyptus and other jagged pieces created a dynamic and organic bouquet. Of course, the greenery piece on the arbor is to die for and it took this minimalist industrial loft wedding up a few notches. They sourced most of their flowers and greenery locally, reducing their CO2 footprint and supporting local small businesses. The ribbons - which add dimension and shape to photographs, so they're a particular favorite of mine - are natural silk, which is a sustainable textile instead of that shiny synthetic ribbon we're all so used to.
Cut the synthetics, go with silk.
Check out the gallery below to see the floral pieces up close!
How can you integrate more sustainability into your flowers?
Buy local (no one needs specialty flowers flown in from another country)
Buy seasonal (still no one needs specialty flowers flown in from another country)
Ohh, and use natural fiber ribbons - you can't beat silk
When you're done with your flowers, donate them to a re-use organization or take them to a local nursing home to increase the amount of joy that comes from them.
The Wedding + Engagement Rings:
Market Square Jewelers is a local estate jeweler who can also create new jewelry with repurposed stones and antique molds as part of their Elizabeth Henry Collection. Green jewelry can sometimes be a tough thing for consumers because it may mean higher prices or internet savvy to even find a green alternative. Some of my favorites are Vrai and Oro who use above ground diamonds and focus on conflict free materials. Check out more options here and learn a little bit about what makes a good choice a good choice.
Now, having an ethical ring doesn't necessarily mean you have a sustainable ring. How's that? Well, ethical means conflict free and that workers are paid fair wages, it means that a child didn't mine your diamond for a couple of cents per day. A sustainable ring means that the company is invested in green and closed-loop manufacturing processes, that their manufacturing is low-impact, and that their materials are often recycled. For most consumers, some of the best recycling is right in our backyard, and that's buying vintage or estate pieces! This is even more sustainable than buying a new ring made from melted, processed and re-formed metals because you're cutting out all of that energy sucking transformation in the middle.
We were lucky enough to use two sets from Market Square, a vintage diamond set with two tone gold in the engagement ring and a yellow gold band, and a stunning pink sapphire and white gold ring with a dainty white gold band from their Elizabeth Henry Collection. Buying vintage means you've reduced the demand in the market to mine more diamonds and it means you've stopped all of that CO2 that would've been released from shipping your diamond across the globe to you.
Check out this gallery and really zoom in on those details, these rings are incredible!
How can you integrate more sustainability into your Jewelry?
Look at estate jewelry first
If that isn't working, find a company that uses ethical AND sustainable practices
Tell everyone about it
Alright, fashion is the third most polluting industry on earth and one of the biggest users of water. For those of us who live in lush places like Maine, we take our water supply for granted. Check out these stories of dried up wells in California and South Africa for some perspective on why wasting water is such a problem.
The wedding industry itself is a big source of both pollution and waste, and wedding fashion is a nasty contributor. Mens fashion isn't all that bad since most men rent their tux's and suits. The rental and second-hand market is great for making fashion more sustainable because it reduces demand drastically by simply sharing clothing until the end of it's life.
The ladies clothing, on the other hand, is pretty gross. Think about it, everyone's looking for "cheap" bridesmaids dresses, but someone pays the price for your "cheap" price tag, so where does that price fall? Those cheap bridesmaids dresses from fast fashion retailers and bridal designers are cheap because they're made with synthetic materials and, most likely, they're made in a factory that uses it's government's lax oversight to exploit its worker, not pay them anything close to a living wage, and put them to work in unsafe conditions. Ethical fashion can mean a lot of different things, but most often it means fair trade, a piece of clothing that didn't exploit workers. Many companies say that they're ethical because they chose suppliers who follow the worker and environmental laws of that nation - but when a nation has no laws because it wants to attract more American corporations to pay its factories, that statement means nothing (I'm looking at you J Crew!). Some companies like David's Bridal are actually taking things up a notch, making sure that all of their suppliers follow not only the laws of its nation, but the laws of California and the standards that the company itself has set. This is a much higher and more respectable standard, but they could still do better.
While ethical wedding fashion is great, ethical doesn't mean the same thing as sustainable. Many of the fabrics in wedding gowns are synthetic, they use plastic sequins and beads, and overall they're not easily recyclable. In addition, brides are often looking for perfection, so a gown with a slight imperfection is thrown "away" because it isn't good enough. (It is a thought for another day where "away" is.) The materials and the manufacturing are two elements that make a piece of clothing sustainable. Natural fabrics are great because they're renewable and they're generally biodegradable because, well, they're organic materials. But simply buying cotton and calling it good because that's a plant isn't good enough. Many natural fibers are covered in chemicals and pesticides, sometimes the farms exploit workers, and cotton in particular sucks up a ton of water from the earth, polluting the waste water as it goes back out into the ocean. Check out the links and podcast above if you need to be reminded of why water conservation is critical.
Reformation is the holy grail of clothing because they're edgy, honest, aren't bra-friendly, and are all about making fashion closed-loop and sustainable. My favorite thing is that they're always asking for help, thoughts, and collaborations to make the industry better. Maybe someday I'll be like them *starry eyes*. Lucky for me, they have some incredible gowns that are wedding-ready, minimal, beautiful, and sustainable. Reformation not only pays its workers above minimum wage, but they highlight their workers so that we, the consumers, know who it was that made our clothes. I really love that. They also not only use sustainable materials and manufacturing, but they educate the consumers about it. All of these dresses (except the purple one) are Reformation that I had in my closet (I am a bit obsessed). I wasn't able to get them on board to lend some dresses in time for the shoot, so I used what I had.
The blue wrap dress, the short white wrap dress, and the beige high-neck gown are all Viscose, which is a man-made natural fiber. They source this internationally because currently there are only two companies from which they can source who meet their extremely high standards. Both of those manufacturers meet the Canopy Style Audit which ensures that even the trees used for the fabric threads were sourced ethically. I really love Viscose, many of my shirts are made with it and about all of my dresses are (or linen or silk). It is bouncy and a little sheer and it is literally so satisfying when you steam it and watch the wrinkles melt away.
The lace wedding dress is also from Reformation and is made using dead-stock fabric. Dead-stock fabric is what someone over-ordered or something that a manufacturer couldn't sell. Without a company like Reformation or Christy Dawn to use it, it ends up in the landfill. I don't need to harp on why avoiding that is good for everyone. Thanks for reducing demand and preventing waste by using dead-stock, Ref! Also, for providing us with clothing that is sexy as hell.
The last dress - the purple one - isn't Reformation and it isn't sustainable or ethically made in its original form. It's a Free People dress. Free People is popular, but are they good for anyone other than the consumer? Read this and hopefully feel the unforgivable feelings like I do. Not only are they not good for workers or the environment, but they hide behind their bohemian style which usually infers a "crunchiness" making people think they're more green than they are.
If Free People is so bad, why am I showing you this dress when I clearly could've gotten away without using it? Well, I purposefully chose this dress because I wanted to talk about something a little taboo: secondhand clothing. Yes, this dress was bought used. Someone else wore it before me. I wore it. My model wore it. The secondhand market is a great way to get good quality clothing and it does three important things: 1) It reduces demand because when you buy secondhand, you aren't buying from Free People, so their marketshare diminishes (even if slightly) 2) It re-uses existing materials so that the life of that product and all of its manufacturing impact are extended over time. The clothing is also saved from the landfill and I can recycle it properly when I'm done. 3) It saves you money! No explanation needed.
Listen, I know that Reformation and other sustainable clothing is expensive. I am all about minimalism so I am willing to spend a lot of money on expensive but sustainable clothing and have a small wardrobe. That isn't possible for everyone, but the secondhand market is accessible to us all. I wanted to highlight this option because not everyone is like me and we all approach sustainability in different ways. Small steps are how to begin, and this is an excellent choice. Check out Poshmark and download it on your phone. Sell some of your unwanted clothing while you're at it!
Be aware, though, that many people use the secondhand market to greenwash their love for fast fashion, buying clothes that are disposable to them that end up in the landfill and that still advertise less-than-ideal companies. I mean, let's be honest, most of the secondhand clothing you'll find on some of the sites are Forever 21 or Charlotte Russe. We all know that those were bought for pennies and blood and that they're made to be thrown away. Don't be one of those who knowingly buys horrible clothing and then sells it secondhand under the guise of love for the planet.
How can you integrate more sustainability into your wardrobe?
First, before you buy a piece of clothing, do some research on the company and check their 1) materials, 2) ethics, and 3) manufacturing practices
If you decide to buy new, consider one of these ways to make that new purchase sustainably
Make sure that the clothing is something that will last 10 years, not ten wears. Trends are cool, but they're a big contributor to textile waste and the fast fashion industry is harming working people internationally
Chose materials that are:
with low water use
if buying cotton, chose organic
if buying something dyed, chose a natural dye
If you don't need something new, buy secondhand
When you're done with your clothing or any textiles, donate them or save them in a box until you're ready to recycle
Research the organization before donating to make sure that you aren't just giving them your trash
Search here to find locations near you
For over-worked and time constrained people, find your nearest yellow bin, Planet Aid accepts pretty much everything!
If you're visiting us for a session anyway BRING US YOUR OLD CLOTHING so we can recycle it for you. Seriously. S r s l y . We even participate in TerraCycle programs for your flip-flops and are about to roll out a great new program to collect your snack packaging to be recycled!
Check out our wedding portfolio to see some more of our work and contact us to learn about collaborations and to book us for your wedding. The great thing about hiring us as your photographer is that we have all of these great ideas for other aspects of your wedding! We're like your rebellious older sister. We all love rebellious older sisters, they're fun.