Top friendly summer dresses

| 20th May 2011
summer dresses
From pretty prints to elegant nudes, Valentina Jovanovski has the lowdown on this season’s essential summer dresses

The dress is a style staple, whatever time of year it is, but in summer, it really comes into its own. With well-chosen accessories, a good summer frock can take you from work to cocktails, weddings and more. Better still, with everyone from Alberta Feretti to H&M making an effort to go green, there’s a plethora of Fairtrade, recycled, upcycled and organic options on offer. Here are 10 of the prettiest:

People Tree ‘Lora’ printed dress, £75
Why we love it: Nailing two of summer’s hottest trends – print and midi – the ladylike Lora dress will look the business with this season’s wedges. Made from 100 per cent organic, Fairtrade cotton and dyed using natural dyes, it’s ethically and environmentally sound too. A fabulous alternative to chintzy florals; team with flat sandals or ballet pumps for day, and up the ante with block heels and a clutch for night.
How to wear: Thanks to the demure length and navy print, the Lora dress is perfect for work - just add heels and a blazer.
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ASOS Africa panelled full maxi dress, £50
Why we love it: ASOS Africa’s pieces have a one-of-a-kind feel to them; incorporating hand-woven fabric produced in Kenya and vibrant Kitenge prints from Tanzania. This patchwork maxi is no exception and combines cheerful print with a relaxed cut. Produced in a small Fairtrade workshop in Mombasa, £5 from the sale of each dress (matched by another £5 from ASOS) goes to support SOKO, a Kenyan grassroots project that aims to establish an environmentally sustainable and ethical fashion industry in the east African country.
How to wear: Ultra practical as well as pretty, team ASOS Africa’s offering with an armful of bangles and a 70s floppy felt hat for a luxe festival look.
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Minna ‘Victoria’ dress, £310
Why we love it: Founded by Finnish designer Minna Hepburn in 2008, all of the pieces by her eponymous label are made from organic, recycled and locally produced textiles. The brand also incorporates environmentally friendly practice such as zero waste pattern cutting techniques into the making of every item, including the fabulous Victoria dress. The midi length is totally on trend, while the high neckline balances out the slightly risqué lace panels. The pretty nude colour is ultra versatile to boot.
How to wear:
The lace panels rule it out for daytime but it’ll look the business at parties, especially when teamed with pair of coral killer heels.
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Bibico ‘Lolita’ dress, £57
Why we love it: Nothing says summer like lemon yellow or delicate embroidery; and Bibico’s Lolita dress has both. Made from 100 per cent cotton, the piece also features a smocked panel at the back – a post-prandial boon. Bibico is the brainchild of Spanish designer, Nieves Ruiz, whose vision was of a label that combined style and sustainability in equal amounts. The result is a Fairtrade brand whose chic pieces are stitched, sewn and knitted by women working in certified co-operatives.
How to wear: Great over a bikini and equally cute with a relaxed denim jacket, the Lolita works perfectly for summer weekends.
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Nancy Dee ‘Emmylou’ dress, £62
Why we love it: Perfect for easing in to the colour blocking trend, the Emmy Lou is made from 100 percent organic cotton and is available in a choice of colours. Nancy Dee pieces are both Fairtrade and organic, and use only renewable textiles such as bamboo, silk and linen. The Emmy Lou dress, as with the rest of the range, is designed to be long lasting – thus helping to reduce the amount of clothing that ends up in the bin.
How to wear: It’s perfect over a bikini on the beach – just add flip flops and a big straw hat.
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FIN Oslo ‘Toni’ dress, £180
Why we love it: Made from 100 per cent organic bamboo jersey, FIN Oslo’s ‘Toni’ dress has pared-down Nordic cool in spades. The busy print is toned down by the muted grey and cream palette, while the soft cocoon shape is easy to wear and ultra flattering. The perfect day dress, all it needs is a pair of simple black courts for professional perfection.
How to wear: The colours are ultra plain, so it makes the perfect backdrop for brights. Try crimson shoes or a fluoro bag.
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Jackpot ‘Cherian’ dress, £64.95
Why we love it: Jackpot has teamed up with Dutch sustainability NGO, MADE-BY, to guarantee good conditions and fair pay at all its factories. The dress is made from organic cotton grown using natural crop protection and organic fertilisers, while the supersized floral print and bright summer colours will help you stand out from the crowd. The cinched waist, gently draped neckline and A-line shape are also supremely flattering.
How to wear: Team with killer jewels and sky-high heels for cocktails or dress down with flats for summer BBQs.
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Edun printed tank dress, £270
Why we love it: Founded by U2’s Bono and wife Ali Hewson, Edun is a fashion brand and social movement rolled into one. The company actively seeks to increase trade with Africa and hopes that at least 40 per cent of its collection will be African produced by 2013. While the Tank dress might not have been produced in Africa, its safari-inspired print has more than a hint of the Sahara about it. The body-con shape means it’s not for the faint-hearted, but if you’re brave (and toned) enough, it’s a knock out for parties.
How to wear: Its versatile print and shape means it works for lazy Saturdays under a denim shirt or can be dressed up with big bangles and gold sandals for evening.
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Liv ‘Gannow’ dress, £95
Why we love it: One of the UK’s most eco-conscious fashion brands, Liv produces 100 per cent Fairtrade, organic garments and the Gannow dress is no exception. Super sophisticated with a classic shape and cowl neckline, it comes in three colours - purple, black and cream. Buying it online won’t be a problem either, as Liv also takes steps to compensate for its carbon footprint such as using minimal, recycled packaging, reducing clothing miles and converting the farm where its offices and warehouse are based to biodynamic agriculture.
How to wear: Up the ante with cool jewels and heels for a night out or team with ballet pumps for day   
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Chinti and Parker striped organic cotton t-shirt dress, £135

Why we love it: The greenest way to give a nod to the nautical trend, Chinti and Parker’s sweet organic cotton, navy and cream striped dress is the perfect holiday piece. Launched in 2009 by cousins Anna Singh and Rachael Wood, the London based brand has built a reputation for top quality basics with impeccable environmental and ethical credentials. Chinti and Parker are also one of the small but growing number of eco-brands who list everything from the field to the factory on labels, so you’ll never have to worry about your party dress having potentially dubious origins.
How to wear: Throw it on with a pair of metallic sandals and a red satchel for day
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