tonlé: Clothing label making a zero waste fashion statement

tonlé is making every thread matter in their construction of zero waste womenswear essentials that are functional, elegant and responsibly sourced.

Each item from tonlé’s womenswear collection and accessories is handmade. The process starts with scrap waste textiles sourced from mass clothing manufacturers. These are then hand woven and stitched, without the use of sewing machines, by a collective of female artisans in Cambodia.

The ethical fashion label, which was started by Rachel Faller in 2013, has been completely zero waste since 2014.

Hand-sewn clothes means that tonlé are responsible for producing garments in the most sustainable way. The company say: “True handmade products that don’t use any machinery (or electricity) are perhaps the most sustainable form of production, albeit time consuming and expensive. Unique handmade touches add an element of beauty to many of tonlé’s products.

“All of our [tonlé] smallest waste scraps are tediously hand cut into tiny strips and sewn back together to make ‘yarn’. The ‘yarn’ is then either hand-knit or hand-woven into new fabrics to make our signature jewelry line. This process is both difficult and time consuming, but we believe the end result is as beautiful and unique as it is kind to the planet.”

Many of the garments in tonlé’s latest collection are timeless classics, which would suit all ages. The classic shift dress, available in navy and black, is made from remnant rayon. Casual blouses such as the cirque top feature a flattering Mandarin collar and buttons, which are typically sourced from re-claimed scraps of wood or locally dug clay.

tonlé designers work side-by-side with the production team to plan collections that incorporate even the tiniest scraps into original looks. Excess fabric strips are hand cut and individually sewn back into yarn. The yarn is then knit and woven into new pieces; articles of clothing made from twice-recycled fabric.

tonlé is currently the largest ethical fashion business in Cambodia, offering fair wages and a secure working environment.

While 90% of tonlé’s materials are recycled from factories, the remaining 10% is sourced from sustainable suppliers with the aim of having a minimal environmental footprint and maximum social benefit. According to tonlé, the company save 22,046 pounds of materials from ending up in landfills, in comparison to the average manufacturer.

As a zero waste fashion business, tonlé’s founder Rachel Faller says: “We’re a small company, a drop in the bucket, but we can make a statement to the industry that we need to value the materials and the labor that went into them.”

In their efforts to become completely zero waste, tonlé have pioneered a formula for making their own recycled paper, which combines tiny scraps of fabric, paper left from their office and pattern making, and natural glue. This has closed the loop in their production process and brought the company’s waste down to nil.


Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable lifestyle and living, wellbeing, and entertainments. Rosalind also works as a psychic, counsellor, intuitive reader and spiritual life coach helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives:

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