This week I would call out some of the brands I tend to turn to when looking for a new addition to my wardrobe.
A lot of brands now are adding sustainable initiatives and it can be difficult at times to tell the difference between who is genuine and who isn't. Below are some specific things I look for in a brand who claims to be sustainable:
1. Factory Transparency - locations, addresses and names of factories the company uses.
2. Where fabrics and yarns come from, are they certified? Organic? Fair trade?
3. Water usage, types of dyes and chemicals they use to treat and finish their garments.
4. Do they give back? Work with charities? State any initiatives toward the environment?
5. Is there any effort towards recycling? Circular life cycle for their products? How is the company managing its waste?
6. Worker's rights/equal pay. Do they ensure a good quality of life for their workers?
7. How easily accessible is this information on their website?
Before diving any further I would like to say that the most sustainable way of living is to not buy new at all. To reuse your clothes and wear them as long as you can, reinvent new ways to wear them or use them. You can go to thrift shops or second-hand stores (Vintage IS IN!), or swap with friends. There are apps and websites made to buy and resell worn clothing. I know it can feel like a tough transition to no longer shop at your go-to places. But I can assure you that there are other great brands out there that sell amazing, beautiful clothes that will make you feel even better because you are not only wearing better quality but you're supporting a company that is trying to do good.
I encourage you to evaluate how often you shop and if it is always necessary to shop as often as you do. To be more thoughtful on the pieces you buy (quality over quantity), and when you do purchase, try to support a brand or company that is checking off some of the boxes on the list above.
** "6/10 Garments are thrown away, burned, or incinerated within their first year after production"(A new Textile Economy).
Check out the list below of some of the brands I follow and turn to when I'm looking to purchase something new.
Eileen Fisher: www.eileenfisher.com
Eileen Fisher falls into a more minimalist, season-less style. Eileen Fisher is a certified B- Corp, for those of you who haven't read my post on Just Water, who is also a B- Corp; a B- Corp is, "businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy." Eileen Fisher is one of the few brands I know that check all the boxes on the list I created above. As a consumer, you can send back old clothes that they will recycle into new ones. Their information is extremely accessible online. There are videos in their factories and their workers. There are sections on the website that break down the types of fiber they use and why they are better for the environment. They go as far to discuss topics that they are trying to improve on and environmental issues that they are trying to help, such as forest conservation. I have yet to come across a brand that is as transparent and sustainable in so many different aspects of the supply chain during garment manufacturing and then also takes back their clothing once the consumer no longer wants or can no longer wear and recycles it. I put Eileen Fisher first because in my eyes they set the standard for almost all fashion brands in sustainability. I would love to be apart of their team one day.
Reformation offers more of a trendy, colorful assortment of clothing and accessories. It's the more sustainable version of Zara or H&M. Reformation also has an easily accessible section on their webpage regarding sustainability and their practices towards it. They use a lot of certified and organic fibers like Tencel, Refibra, Tencel Modal, Recycled and organic cotton, and ECOnyl. Reformation lists where their factories are around the world and include links for further information. They even feature a good amount of videos introduction to their factory workers by name. Reformation is also a carbon-neutral company and has incentives to reduce their carbon footprint, such as switching to wind energy.
Patagonia is geared towards the outdoorsy folks. Those who like camping, hiking, fishing, snowboarding, etc. They do offer basics like tees, dresses, jeans, socks, etc. When I first started to educate myself on the topic of sustainability, Patagonia was one of the first brands that popped up. Their mission statement is, "We are in business to save the planet". Patagonia will also take back clothing that can no longer be worn and will recycle and give you a credit towards your next purchase as an incentive. They are fair trade certified, use advanced tech-fabrics, and ensure all of their factory workers make minimum wage. Since 2014 they can trace down all their feathers they have used to ensure the birds they get them from are up to a certain standard and were never live-plucked. A Hemp collection was just released, help uses less water, fertilizers, and is more durable than other natural fibers. There is a video showing the process of making their Hemp T-shirt from growing the crop up to the finished product. They also have a blog called The Cleanest Line where they discuss all topics.
Everlane is a semi minimal but still has some trend pieces in their collections but can still be considered timeless. Everlane uses the term "radical transparency" as they expose the true cost of their garments and how much it costs them to make the garment vs how much the retail price is compared to other brands average price. Everlane also created The Black Friday Fund Initiative where they donate all profits made on black Friday to improve the quality of lives of the people who work at their factories. They have information on each factory they use such as the number of workers, what that factory is responsible for and include photos. When they produce too much of an item they move it into the "choose what you pay" section - where the product is marked down and you can choose between 3 prices what you would like to pay for it.
Stay Wild Swim: www.staywildswim.com
Stay Wild Swim was founded in London and sells swimwear made from plastic found in the ocean. They get their fabric from ECONYL® - which is made from ocean waste such as plastic and fishing nets. They also use a small, local factory in London where all their development and production is made. Because their swimwear, like almost all clothing garments, releases microplastics when washed. To combat this, they also sell the GuppyFriend Bag which catches the microplastics and you can dispose of after washed.
Along with Patagonia, Levi's is another brand that first comes to my mind when I think of Sustainable brands. My sophomore or junior year in college I remembered being assigned Levi's brand to research. I'm sure I could still find the presentation if I wanted to. Paul Dillinger, the global head of Global Design Innovation at Levi was the closing speaker at a sustainability conference at the Fashion Institute of Technology that I attended. His speech was one of the most motivating I've heard in a long time. To hear his full speech click here. While Levi doesn't use the word sustainability on their website, everything they are doing that is considered sustainable is found under their "values" tab. They have developed new methods of treatment reducing their amount of water usage up to 96%. Currently, 67% of their jeans are made using this Water<Less program. By next year they plan for that number to jump to 80%. They also use a special Chemical Screening machine to detect better, less harmful alternatives before production.
Adidas was one of the top brands to get the highest score on the Fashion Revolution's Transparency Index. Their focus is on cleaning up plastic in the oceans. By the year 2024, Adidas plans to use only Recycled polyester. They are also planning to release a 100% recyclable shoe, I wrote a blog about it here. Under their "about us" section on the bottom of the page, they dive deeper into sustainability. From leather to nylon, to cotton, to polyester, Adidas holds a high and ethical quality to use on their products. Adidas ensures their employees make a fair wage. " Fair compensation goes deeper. It considers the fairness of the wage that a worker is paid by benchmarking whether wages: are paid regularly and on time, include the legal minimum, allow decent living standards, reflect a worker’s performance and skills, reward overtime, follow price increases paid for the products they are making, are linked to their employer’s profits and sales, reflect changes in work technology, are negotiated individually or collectively with workers, are clearly and formally communicated to workers." Each year Adidas releases a sustainability report which discusses progress and aspirations.
Veja is a sustainable sneaker brand, also one of the few brands that have a high demand based on a great product, not solely on the fact they are sustainable. Their goal is to "Create sneakers that will stand the test of time". Veja uses organic cotton made from the farmer association in Brazil and Peru. They have been buying organic cotton for 14 years!! Veja uses wild, natural rubber from certified farmers in the Amazon forest. Veja uses recycled plastic bottles and re-creates them into a waterproof mesh, they have also been using fish leather since 2013. One of the most interesting things I found about Veja is that they do not advertise. On their website, they state that 70% of the cost of big sneaker brands is related to advertising. Quality is more important to Veja; to spend money on their people, product, and quality rather than advertisements.
Outerknown uses the catchphrase "For People and Planet". They believe in circular design - meaning recycling the garment once it is no longer wanted or can no longer be worn. They follow the rules and regulations of Bluesign and The Fair Labor Association. You can view information about all of the suppliers they use. Outerknown focuses on plastic pollution in the ocean and spreading awareness on the ongoing issue. They use ECONYL, same as Stay Wild Swim uses.
Thank you for taking the time to read this! If you have some sustainable brands that you shop or know of - I'd love to hear about them. Please feel free to reach out to me for more information on sustainability.