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Ahead of one of her biggest years yet, Lauren Engelke spoke with Rolling Grenades about all things fashion, sustainable trends and new technologies.

If you aren’t a fangirl yet, prepare to be one …

What sparked your interest in the area of sustainability / ethics in the fashion industry?

I started out as an on-set tailor and stylist outside Chicago. There’s a ton of e-commerce work there, mostly for classic brands. I was steaming a pair of jeans one day, and new conventional jeans always smell like a nasty mix of chemicals. On this particular occasion, I leaned in too close & got a face full of chemical steam. It felt disgusting, and it made me start wondering what chemicals were being used in the manufacturing process. I started doing my own research on the internet, and like most people I’ve met in sustainability – after I started uncovering the truth, there was no turning back. I realised I had to help make change.

There are many designers and brands both in Australia and internationally that are thinking outside the square in ways to improve both their product and the standards of the industry. What brands stand out to you that are really harnessing innovation and new technologies to improve their footprint?

There has definitely been a turning point in the past year, when I went from being able to rattle off a couple of great brands, to now, when I have to say that there are too many sustainable brands to count. I’m currently making a ‘Clean List’ of all of the brands I’ve found, and I’m estimating the total will come out over 900 (look out for this on my website, out in February). One of my favourite brands right now is Elvis & Kresse, a British luggage brand made entirely of decommissioned fire hoses – the bags are GORGEOUS. I’m also really into natural fibre athletic-wear – there are whispers in the industry that fabric from recycled plastic bottles releases a toxin when it’s warmed up next to your skin. So I’m excited about the adorable tencel leggings from FabSoul Active (Germany) and the organic cotton leggings and bra sets from Groceries Apparel in LA.

What new technologies in the area of sustainable production of textiles and fashion have you excited for the future of the fashion industry?

Recycled everything! Companies like Evrnu in the US have figured out how to break down old garments, even those made from blends, into their individual fibres that can be rebuilt into pure cotton, stretch, even carbon fibre. Evrnu is working with municipalities to divert textile waste to them, instead of going to landfills. It’s been said that there are enough gross old cotton tee shirts in the US to make all viscose we produce in a year – and recycling old clothes would save 150 million trees. The future is redefining waste as a raw material!

What do you encourage your clients to look for when shopping for environmentally sustainable and ethical clothing?

I think the easiest thing to do is start with a list of ethical and sustainable brands and shop online. I make specific recommendations for my clients based on the key items that they want to add to their wardrobes. 

If you are trying to determine if a piece of clothing is sustainable, look on a brand’s website for two things: 

Where is the garment made? Do they mention paying a fair or living wage? 

What is it made of? I look for natural fibres – linen, hemp, bamboo, cotton (you want organic, conventional cotton uses a lot of pesticides), tencel, cupro, rayon, and viscose. If you see polyester or acrylic. put it down and walk away!

Which designers and brands would we find in Lauren Engelke’s wardrobe?

I have been shopping second-hand and swapping with friends for years, so there are a lot of odds and ends. My favourite second-hand items are a Mackage blazer, Equipment cashmere sweater, and a Tome blouse.

My favourite new sustainable items are a blue satin mini from Dolores Haze, a burgundy crop from For Days, a crossbody bag from Findlay Co, and high waisted jeans from Life After Death Denim. I also have a Rent the Runway unlimited subscription, which is clutch. It’s like Netflix for clothes – 4 items on rotation, whatever I need, whenever I want it. I’ve rented statement coats, new denim styles I wanted to try, rainbow chandelier earrings, cocktail dresses, handbags – it’s a really easy way to figure out your personal style.

And finally, what next for Lauren Engelke – how is 2019 shaping up?

2019 is already looking spectacular. My Clean List of 900+ sustainable brands will be out February 14! My husband and I will be returning to New York in the spring, and I have some exciting projects that are still top secret. Not to mention new innovations in sustainability seem to be coming out every day! I’m excited to see what this year brings.

Visit Lauren’s website to view the Clean List, out Feb 14!

Image Credits : Lauren’s Instagram