For the environmentally conscious, it can be difficult to find a balance between sustainable practices and quality apparel. It’s no secret that today’s focus on fast fashion creates an array of environmental concerns – whether it is ecological cost of the material itself, the transport of textiles, the outsourced labor and resulting transport of materials, the chemical processes of the clothing, or the final disposal of the clothing… fashion can be a dirty business.
But fashion lovers need not despair, as there are plenty of options for consumers that exist under the radar. Several brands have made it their mission to provide trendy, high quality options that are ethically responsible and sustainable sourced. Here are 7 brands available online that can you can feel good about looking good in.
- Everlane: Everlane is unique in the sense that they offer a bit of transparency about their business. They break apart the true cost of their products, including the cost of materials, hardware, labor, and transportation; they even inform consumers of the profit they make for each item. Everlane also provides detailed information about each factory they use – who the owner is, how they discovered i, etc. Take a look at their site at https://www.everlane.com.
Self-proclaimed “compassionate capitalists”, MadeFAIR is an online retailer that offers a variety of Certified Fair Trade and ethical options. Some of their items are constructed from recycled materials that were bound for the landfill. Additionally, MadeFAIR focuses on natural materials in their clothing. They don’t offer garments or accessories made from polyester, pleather, acrylic, or nylon.
: YSTR apparel is cut to order, which saves them from overproducing and sending excess materials to landfills. They also offer wholesale prices, as they do not need to mark up their prices to cover any loss in their inventory. YSTR also has a section of their site dedicated to “repurposed” items that are made from upcycled fabrics. All items are made in their Los Angeles headquarters and sold online.
: FrockLA offers organic, vegan collections using plant-based materials made in the United States. Using vegetable dyes and sustainably sourced bamboo, FrockLA is committed to having a low impact on the environment. They have a diligent recycling policy and donate unused items and samples to various charities. Check out http://www.frockla.com.
- Faircloth & Supply:
Founded by Phoebe Dahl (granddaughter of Roald Dahl), Faircloth & Supply offers high-quality apparel and the chance to contribute to a good cause. For every item they sell, Faircloth donates a one year scholarship, school uniforms, and school supplies to young girls in Nepal through General Welfare Pratisthan, a local nonprofit. Faircloth & Supply is also affiliated with Women Weave, an organization in India providing women in rural locations with education and training to handcraft textiles, which are sold through the site. All profits from these textiles are donated directly back to the organization.
- Groceries Apparel: Groceries Apparel focuses on sustainable practices through their supply chain. They manufacture in California, using natural fibers like organic cotton, he,p, linen, and eucalyptus. They emphasize the importance of recycling by re purposing plastic and cotton in their garments, and even provide consumers with the option to shop on their site by ingredient.
- Style Saint: Also sold without retail markups. StyleSaint sells their collection directly online. They report that they use 99% less water than the industry average, as well as offer 2000% higher factory wages for their employees. They offer consumers the option of “tracking their impact”, after buying from StyleSaint, you can track how many gallons of water you saved through your purchase. Instead of current disposable, “fast-fashion” trends, StyleSaint focuses on high quality, timeless pieces that will have a home in your closet for years to come.
If you’re looking for ways to be a more conscious consumer regarding the clothing you purchase, here are three suggestions:
1. Pay attention to what’s in your clothes
While all clothing is difficult to discard at the end of its lifespan, synthetic fibers in particular create a much heavier carbon footprint. Materials like polyester, acrylic, and nylon are composed of plastics created from petroleum. Also consider if the materials in your clothes pose any sort of health risk. For example, chemically treated materials undergo processes involving detergents, petrochemical dyes, and formaldehyde. Opt for natural fibers like cotton, silk, linen, or cashmere, and organic clothing when possible to avoid toxic ingredients.
2. Pay attention to where your clothes are made
Few of us glance at the label in our clothes that tells us where our clothes were made. If you want to avoid clothing made in sweatshops and unregulated factories, do your research. Turkey, Indonesia, Mexico, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Bangledesh all have reported incidences with horrific working conditions, including child labor.
3. Discard unwanted items responsibly
According to the EPA, about 84% of unwanted clothes end up in the landfill or incinerator when they are no longer worn. Consider donating your items that you no longer wear, or recycling them responsibly. Many textiles can be repurposed as furniture padding, car insulation, and even roofing felts. Some companies like ThredUp allow you ship your old clothing free of charge, and will purchase gently used items and responsibly recycle the rest.
Although making the switch to ethical brands can seem initially overwhelming (and expensive, if you’re a former fan of fast fashion), it helps to know that there are plenty of options out there that can appeal to your budget and your taste. Shopping second hand is another excellent way to utilize the resources that are already available in your community and keep materials out of the landfill, not to mention save you money along the way. Luckily we live in an age with extensive options on what to wear, and increasing the demand for sustainable, ethical clothing will lead to more options in the future. After all, when we consider the effects that our choices can have in the long run, what you wear actually matters quite a bit.