It’s no secret that the fashion industry continues to have a severe negative impact on the environment. From harsh processing chemicals to overflowing landfills to atrocious labor ethics, being fashionable is often synonymous with destroying the environment.
Luckily, many clothing companies are committing to change and paving the way for sustainable fashion. But finding brands that are making this shift while also designing for your average fashionista is actually pretty hard. That’s why we decided to do the hard work for you and curate a list of cute and wearable environmentally-friendly clothing brands.
The Problem with Fashion & the Environment
First, let’s go over why clothing production has such terrible consequences for the environment. One of the biggest drivers has been the rise of cheap, fast fashion. According to the World Resources Institute, the average consumer purchased 60% more clothing since 2000, but garments are lasting half as long. Fast-fashion retailers, such as H&M and Forever 21, get shipments of new merchandise as frequently as twice a week. The garments are most often manufactured in developing countries, where labor is cheap, renewable energy sources are scarce, and coal-powered energy is predominant. Once the merchandise is created, it is then shipped (again, using non-renewable energy) across the globe. Due to how fast fashion is produced and distributed, it’s easy to identify the environmental and ethical consequences that come with this booming industry.
Adding to that, textile mills generate about 20% of the world’s pollution and use around 20,000 chemicals. Animal-based materials, such as leather and wool, are almost always obtained from factory farms (we’ll leave it to PETA to give insight into this topic), where tons of water goes into raising livestock and methane is released in the air. The list goes on — apparel production emits greenhouse gases, leads to a depressing amount of waste, and is a major contributor to pesticide use. Combined, these factors make fashion one of the worst industries in the world for the environment.
Trends Are Changing
Luckily, consumers are starting to care, and many companies have emerged or changed directions to accommodate this change. One thing that we want to quickly address is that, at first glance, prices of sustainable clothing can’t compete with fast fashion. Quality textiles, improved working conditions, and ethical labor wages equates to higher product cost and, as a result, higher prices for consumers. BUT these clothes often are designed to last and are a much better investment than buying a bunch of cheap pieces. Plus, don’t underestimate the power of second-hand clothes for those on a tighter budget!
Anyways, without further ado, here are 7 eco-friendly brands (in no particular order) that you’ll want to wear right now:
1. Amour Vert
Literally translating to Green Love, Amour Vert’s mantra is: A woman should never have to sacrifice style for sustainability. The designer’s perfectly tailored pieces, earthy tones, and casual silhouettes make you want to drink coffee in a cabin while staring out at a snowy landscape.
Amour Vert focuses on using long-lasting, eco-friendly materials free of toxic chemicals, and all their products are made in the U.S. These fabrics include Tencel and Modal (both made from fast-growing Eucalyptus and Beech trees) and Cupro (derived from cotton waste). Please note that they do use animal products such as merino wool and silk, but claim “the highest levels of animal welfare for wool production are applied,” along with renewable energy. Unfortunately, specific sourcers are not listed, so it’s difficult to verify these farms adhere to strict welfare practices.
The company also partners with American Forest to help plant trees and reforest parts of the Sierra National Forest. For every t-shirt sold, they plant a tree. It’s clearly been successful incentive, as they’ve planted over 150,000 trees to date.
2. Angela Roi
Angela Roi produces chic, practical, vegan handbags. Her line ranges from giant totes, to classic cross-body bags and comes in an array of neutral and vibrant colors.
Each bag is detailed for months in sweatshop-free factories to achieve a true leather-like finish and strong durability. Not all vegan leather is an environmental substitute for animal hide. Angela Roi uses polyurethane leather, which does have environmental implications; but given it’s less toxic production and ability to eventually biodegrade, it is considered to be a much greener alternative compared to genuine leather or Polyvinylchloride leather (vinyl).
With Angela’s dedication to a cruelty-free world, as exemplified by her ethical labor practices and her commitment to local animal shelters, it’s impossible for her to not make our list.
Tradesy is eBay’s little sister, only with guaranteed authenticity and an algorithm to detect scammers. They’ll even have experts inspect an item for free (all shipping cost covered) if you have doubts as to whether it’s fraud.
The site carries a range of brands–from Bailey 44 to Louis Vuitton–and prices. And all used pieces are in “Like New” or “Gently Used” conditions. For those who are on a budget, or are looking for items that are extra eclectic, shopping second hand is a wonderful way to shop sustainably. Ideally, you’d avoid purchasing items online and spare the fuel required to ship items. However, we understand that this is not always accessible or feasible, and for that, thank goodness for Tradesy.
Teeki is an athletic clothing company known for its Woodstock-inspired prints and next-level sustainability. All of their clothing is made in the U.S. from recycled water bottles. Yes, you read that correctly. Recycled water bottles. The material is then blended with recycled polyester and/or organic cotton to give the nice, stretchy feel that we love about yoga pants. Plus, instead of dyeing their textiles, they leverage a printing process that uses 90% less water than standard processes and doesn’t contaminate our precious resources.
But Teeki’s commitment doesn’t end with its clothing. Company staff are also active supporters of Standing Rock, whose efforts include attending protests, donating proceeds, and educating the public. Teeki is a powerful example of how combining modern fashion with personal cause can build a strong brand for a lasting impact.
You might be surprised to see Theory — a company known for its elegant knits rather than its sustainability — on this list. Like many expensive contemporary brands, Theory’s clothing is still manufactured in China, often with resource-intensive materials such as wool or cashmere. While we don’t support these practices, the company is making steps in the right direction with its new collection: Good Wool.
The first collection features beautiful jewel-toned professional wear, which Theory asserts is “mindfully manufactured from start to finish.” For starters, the wool is only sourced from “the Von Bibra” family in Tasmania, who are dedicated both to animal welfare and sustainability when it comes to running their farm. All of the sheep are free roaming, and the current owner even teaches classes on how to shear sheep without harming them.
The wool is only the beginning of this collection’s impressive footprint. The fabric is created in the Italian Alps by a mill that relies on solar panels and hydro turbine. Each piece is lined with cupro, a biodegradable lining, and the buttons are created from renewed corozo nuts. Adding to the good news, the prices of Good Wool pieces are also on par with the rest of company’s line (albeit, an expensive one).
An eco-clothing list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Reformation, arguably the pioneers of sexy, green clothing. Reformation’s sustainability practices are almost overwhelming to write about due to the sheer number of them. So, we’ll try to highlight the top ones.
Reformation designs and produces most of its clothing in its Los Angeles factory, where they purchase wind powered carbon offsets and aim for zero waste (currently, they claim to recycle 75% of all waste). They track their environmental footprint with their own system called Refscale, which measures carbon emissions, water usage, and waste. Each product page displays the Refscale, or the amount of resources used, and compares it to analogous industry averages.
They also focus on using environmentally-friendly and ethically-sourced materials (locally, whenever possible). Scrolling through their site, you’ll also find plenty of pieces made from recycled or scrap materials.
One thing to note is that you will find a number of alpaca and leather items. We sent an email expressing our concern and received a response stating that all suppliers are required to follow humane practices throughout all stages of the process (from capture to slaughter). All of their leather must be either chrome free or vegetable tanned, as well.
All of this is just a glimpse of Reformation’s commitment!
Vaute is the world’s first all-vegan fashion brand and is setting the bar high with on-the-cusp attire that is cut and sewn in New York City. Inspired from the cold winters of Chicago, their sweaters and outerwear are sure to keep you warm through all weather conditions. Their edgy pieces, made from organic recycled fibers, have earned them the title as “one of the most innovative business in NYC” by Business Insider, and we couldn’t agree more.
How else can you help?
For fashionistas dedicated to saving our earth and all of its wonderful species, it’s critical that you do your research (we’re here to help!), ask questions, and demand transparency from companies. It’s also important to remember that buying an item is only the first stage of a garment’s life cycle, and the environmental footprint does not stop at production. The average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing each year, which then sit in a pile of landfill producing methane and destroying land. So selling, donating, and swapping clothes that you’re ready to part with is just as important as being a conscious shopper.
The fashion industry has done a lot of damage to our precious Earth, and the reality is that most companies are still continuing these damaging practices. But there are some brands out there — new and old — focused on making a difference to redefine the industry. As consumers, we have a voice, and can vote with our dollars to convey to the fashion industry how important environmentally conscious decisions are to us.
We couldn’t write an encyclopedic-length post that highlighted all of our favorite designers! So, here are a few other of our favorite brands that we couldn’t bare to not include:
We’d love to hear your favorite eco-brands! Leave us a comment below! <3