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The cotton edit: a stylist talks us through her favourite looks and shows us how to pull them off

Photography By Michael Comninus for RIISE
Published 22.06.22

Our all time favourite material to wear? Cotton is definitely up there.

There’s something infinitely wearable about those fluffy little white fibres. Once plucked from the plant, spun into yarn and woven, they create soft, durable and breathable fabric. Which also happens to bode well with some of the most popular clothing styles and fashion trends.

We recently went deep on organic cotton – one of the best low-impact alternatives to conventional cotton available. It was an ode to a crop that is kinder to the environment and better for our bodies. We’re not quite done writing home about organic cotton just yet as we want to keep the attention on the other options out there. We now have access to garments made from The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), deadstock and recycled cotton, all with the look, feel and properties we know and love, minus the hefty environmental impact. Perfect.  

To keep the alternative cotton celebration kicking, we asked stylist Nicchia Wippell to talk us through some of the biggest trends she’s seeing right now that feature cotton – and how best to wear and style them. 

Beau Shirt Dress shot by Michael Comninus for RIISE

BOXY COTTON DRESS

Boxy cotton dresses are one of the most popular wardrobe staples right now. These garments tend to be high necked and loose-fitting with simple, clean lines. They are suitable for a range of body types and easily dressed up or down. “When styling a cotton dress for a relaxed daytime look, I love to pair it with a pair of chunky sandals, like The Row Ginza flip-flop,” Nicchia says. “At night, [I] add a blazer for a semi-tailored vibe with some gold jewellery.”

Our pick: 

Sydney-based designer Jillian Boustred has nailed this trend with the Beau Shirt Dress. Ideal for work or play, it features feminine puff sleeves, concealed buttons for a classic shirt silhouette and hidden pockets (the biggest tick of them all). It’s made locally from Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton, produced without genetically modified (GMO) seeds or synthetic chemicals such as fertilisers and pesticides

Jillian loves working with organic cotton, especially poplin (a type that has a silky, lustrous surface), because it gives her an opportunity to explore different shapes and styles in comparison to linen. “It holds its shape really well and has a crisp finish which I love for summer dresses.” 

Relaxed Trouser & Joan Jacket shot by Michael Comninus for RIISE

ELEVATED SUITING

With so much time spent at home these past couple of years, many of us opted for more pared down looks. A reality which makes the recent resurgence of the suit all the more joyful to witness.

One of the best parts of elevated suit styling is that it has broken free from the office. It is now warmly embraced as a wardrobe all rounder, suitable for any occasion: from brunch on the weekend to dining with friends, or hell, even a trip to the local farmer’s market. “I think people like the suit because it’s a no-brainer – one suit can be worn in so many ways and you don’t have to overthink it,” Nichhia says.

“Day or night, I think the chicest way to wear a suit is to keep it simple with a tank or T-shirt underneath. I generally opt for a flat shoe, but a good pointed boot and some jewellery is an easy way to dress it up a little.”

Our pick: 

Just like Nichhia, we’re drawn to androgenous, slightly over-sized suits right now. Australian label Arnsdorf has designed one of the most coveted ensembles in this fit with the Relaxed Trouser and matching Joan Jacket in buttery-soft yellow. Forget a suit that feels heavy or chunky; this set is smooth, lightweight and cut in a way that is flattering for a range of body shapes. Despite the set’s lightness, the fabric (which is made from 100 per cent organic cotton) maintains enough weight for a subtle drop. Seriously, we’re not sure a more comfortable suit exists. 

Classic T-Shirt shot by Michael Comninus for RIISE

EVERYDAY T-SHIRT

The most versatile piece in every wardrobe is the basic tee – in fact, it’s the easiest item you can buy to start building out a capsule wardrobe. “I have to say my favourite cotton pieces in my wardrobe are all my T-shirts and tank tops. I have them in almost every colour because they go with everything,” Nichhia says. Boxy and over-sized tees are her favourite style to wear right now; perfect to tuck or pair with anything high waisted. “A white T-shirt tucked into wide-legged jeans with a gold chain necklace and loafers is a really easy and chic daytime look. For night time, I would swap out the jeans for an oversized suit with slicked back hair,” she says.

Our pick: 

NICO has “boxy tees” down to a tee (no pun intended) with its Organic Crew Neck variety available in six colours. From sage to lemon, they’re great for adding a simple pop of colour to your wardrobe, especially if you’re pairing it back with some neutral slacks or jeans. If you love that fit but you’re looking for a black or white variety, A.BCH is your best bet. “The A.15 [Classic T-Shirt] is a really great simple and classic boxy style with a vintage neckline. “It’s made from organic GOTS certified cotton that comes from India,” founder Courtney Holm says.

If you’re looking for a tee that’s a little more elegant, Lois Hazel’s Skivvy Rib Tee is a great choice. It’s one of founder Lois McGruer-Fraser’s favorite pieces, loved for its ability to stand alone or wear under a multitude of layers. It’s made from GOTS-certified cotton, a material that features frequently across Lois Hazel’s range. “[Using GOTS] allows me to know that I’m not just making a product that my customer will wear for years to come, but also allows them to know that it was created in a truly positive way,” Lois says. 

Gather Sleeve Shirt shot by Michael Comninus for RIISE

CLASSIC SHIRT

The classic cotton shirt is just as liked now as when it came to popularity in the 20s. “I think everyone has gone back to the cotton shirt because it’s a true classic and can be worn with any outfit, for almost any occasion,” Nichhia says. Some of her favourite shirts are almost 10 years old and still look and feel as good as new. “They’re comfortable, breathable and look great partly unbuttoned over a tank top (or turtle neck in winter) and tucked into tailored pants with a belt and boots or loafers.” For someone nailing this trend, Nichhia suggests following stylist Pernille Teisbaek’s Instagram page. “[She] always looks so effortlessly chic in her oversized cotton shirting.”   

Our pick: 

Autark’s Gather Sleeve Shirt is a timeless staple with a modern, feminine twist. Its voluminous dropped balloon sleeves add a regal and romantic element that fall in line with other trends of the moment (like the Bridgerton inspired Regencycore). It’s crafted from GOTS organic cotton, which Autark’s designer and director Sophia McMahon says allows for the creation of shirts that have a beautiful structure, but remain light to wear.

Another shirt that feels regal yet contemporary is LE Studio’s All Terrain Shirt. The colour is on par with our current obsession with dopamine dressing, and we highly rate the boxy, over-sized fit. This shirt is made-to-order and constructed from 100 per cent deadstock cotton (which is often referred to as “leftovers” of fabric from fashion houses which would have otherwise ended up in landfill).

If you’re after a proper classic, ESSE Studio’s Classico Pocket Shirt is a perfect option. The hardworking staple is made from 100 per cent BCI cotton sourced from a mill in Prato, Italy. BCI Cotton is one of the largest sustainability initiatives for cotton, helping farming communities thrive socially, environmentally and economically. “We love working with BCI cotton because … the fabrication has a beautiful feel and is designed to last, making it perfect for everyday shirting as it’s designed to perform,” ESSE Studio’s founder Charlotte Hicks says. 

Fleecy Sweater and Trackpants shot by Michael Comninus for RIISE

LOUNGEWEAR

Now that we’re in the midst of winter in the Southern Hemisphere, loungewear has become our number one option. But we’re not just loving the comfort these ensembles provide: they’ve become a whole out-of-home vibe that we’re ready to embrace (especially when endorsed by celebs like Hailey Bieber, Zoë Kravitz and Gigi Hadid). “If I want to take [my tracksuit] outside the house, I keep the socks and sandals and throw a trench coat over the top to appear polished and put together,” Nichhia says.

Our pick: 

We love A.BCH’s Fleecy Sweater and Fleecy Trackpants for their sporty-chic look that can be worn lounging around home or out running erands. This set is made from 100 per cent GOTS organic cotton that’s been brushed on the inside for a fleece-feel, making them super soft and cosy. They’re also undyed; ideal for anyone who is sensitive to synthetics. “We really love working with undyded cotton which doesn’t touch any chemicals or dyes at all … we love the natural colours cotton can produce and they’re actually people’s favourites,” Courtney Holm says.

For a relaxed style, we nominate Cloth & Co’s Waffle Sweat (which is also founder Caroline Poiner’s favourite piece). It’s made from GOTS organic cotton sourced from India and features a tight knit waffle fabric which gives the piece a beautiful yet subtle texture. “[Cotton] in its natural form is just such a beautiful fibre to wear and to feel, so much about it is really so beautiful,” says Caroline.

Frances Button Up Shirt shot by Michael Comninus for RIISE

MATCHING SETS

According to Nichhia, one of the recent trends that looks set to stay are matching sets (also known as two-pieces or co-ords). This refers to a top and bottom half designed to go together, like a fashion puzzle piece. With #matchingset getting over 100 Million TikTok views, we’ve seen all the different ways to make this style unique; from shorts and button-down combos to adorable knit sets. Although some sets do resemble fancy pyjamas, the style has become so glorified that it’s been socially accepted as respectable day wear (no complaints here).

Our pick: 

We cannot go past NICO’s Frances Button Up Shirt and Frances Flares made of organic cotton. They’re the perfect winter addition to your wardrobe as they’re both super relaxed and cozy, but help you look put together (even before you morning coffee).

For a stand-out set that will take you anywhere from the bar to a festival to a beach, the Van Der Kooij Lily Wrap Top and Lily Palazzo Pant is our top pick. This set (which also looks great worn as separates) is our go-to for summer days and nights. As an added bonus, the style comes in three different colourways: white, black and yellow. 

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