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Every day we’re becoming more aware of our carbon footprint and the environmental impact of fast fashion. The fashion industry is one of the leading procedures of greenhouse gas emissions and causes a myriad of problems for our planet. Our shopping habits are accelerating the rate of climate change. Beyond the environmental issue, there’s also an ethical question around fast fashion. We’ve all heard stores about the production processes used by these fashion labels, many of whom rely on child labour. Ethical clothing is one of the major conversations happening in the industry, therefore more and more sustainable clothing brands appear to capture the hearts of eco-conscious customers.
Whatever your price range is, there will be a sustainable fashion brand out there for you. It’s a misconception that sustainable clothing is only available at a higher price range. Brands are aware of the public demand for more eco-friendly practices to lower carbon emissions and protect the environment.
What Makes a Brand Sustainable?
A fashion brand is sustainable when they take deliberate steps to reduce their carbon footprint by making changes to the production process and developing an ethical and sustainable set-up. Companies are starting to become fair trade, the same change that food companies started to make several decades ago.
Sustainable fashion brands will often choose to use recycled materials or certified organic cotton to limit the environmental consequences of the material’s production. You’ll see everything from banana fabric to hemp and merino wool being used by these companies, as well as deadstock fabrics.
For a brand to be ethical and sustainable, they’ll provide their workers with fair wages and safe working conditions.
The Impact of The Fashion Industry
The fashion industry is one of the leading causes of pollution in the environment, doing more harm than both international flights and maritime shipping combined. Our ability to purchase clothing at a cheaper price range has resulted in an enormous cost for the environment. A recent report from the ‘Nature Reviews Earth and Environment‘ journal called the issue a “global problem” that called for an immediate solution to make the industry undergo sustainable changes.
10% of the world’s carbon emission comes from the fashion industry, creating 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Within 30 years, we expect this to jump to 26% at its current growth rate. Most of these emissions come from the manufacturing process.
We were buying 60% more clothing in 2014 than we were buying in 2000 with garments remaining in our closets for half the length of time that would have previously.
For the industry to become more ethical and sustainable, it will take brands working in partnership with consumers. If you want to support sustainable fashion brands, the best way of doing it is to put your money where your mouth is.
Water usage and low impact dyes are other issues. The industry uses 1.5 trillion litres of water every year, while 750 million people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water.
Cotton farming is another issue as the fertilizers involved cause a high level of pollution and the production processes around cotton require a large volume of water. In India, 100 million people do not have access to clean drinking water, whereas 85% of the water needed for the entire population is used to cultivate cotton.
Along with calls for zero waste and reusable materials, sustainable practices also include fair labor practices. Of the 40 million people in the world considered to be in ‘modern slavery’, 50% of them work in slave labour with a large number of them producing cheap fashion garments. The majority of garment workers are women, making up an estimated 80% of the workforce. Fair labour practices include fair wages, proper health and safety conditions, and a safe working environment.
What Is The Best Sustainable Clothing Brand?
Thanks to the rising demand for sustainable fashion brands, it’s easier than ever to make ethical fashion choices. Your size won’t limit your choices either, with more brands appearing every day to offer something for every price range and dress size. We’re taking a look at ten clothing brands that you want to have on your radar. We’ll look at the sustainable materials that they use and how they integrate sustainability and ethics into their products. We’ll also make a note of which clothing labels are fair trade and size inclusive.
Brand One – Reformation
If you have a higher price range open to you, Reformation is a great place to look for eco-friendly clothes. The label is famous for its feminine dresses and exciting silhouettes. They commonly use deadstock materials and repurpose vintage items to give them a second life. Reformation has said that they “put sustainability at the core of everything we do”. The company uses a system called RefScale to track their environmental footprint, including carbon dioxide emissions and water consumption. On every product page, you can see how much more sustainable their item is compared to standard production methods. Reformation has also partnered with Native Energy and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to help off-set emissions and water usage. Since 2019, they’ve been supporting projects in India to help install clean water in communities. Their products have been carbon neutral since 2015 and they’re working towards receiving certification from the Climate Neutral NGO. They also have a zero-waste goal with 50% of their cutting and sewing work carried out in Los Angeles. You can read more about Reformation’s sustainability work here.
Brand Two – Girlfriend Collective
If you’re a fan of activewear, we’ve found a brand with sustainability at its heart. Girlfriend Collective is a fashion label that focuses on eco-friendly materials, including innovative trademarked fabrics. Their packaging is 100% recycled and recyclable to reduce waste. Their most popular products, their compression leggings and bras, are made using 79% recycled polyester. Each pair of leggings is made from 25 recycled post-consumer bottles, with each bra using 11 bottles. The Girlfriend Collective t-shirts are made using 100% cupro, a fiber made from the waste left behind by the cotton industry.
Girlfriend Collective is loud and proud about the fact that they are an ethical brand. Their clothes are made in Taiwan in a SA8000 certified factory where employees are guaranteed fair wages and safe working conditions. SA8000 overlaps with fair trade. You can find out more about Girlfriend Collective and its sustainable fabrics here.
Brand Three – Everlane
Everlane is perhaps one of the most popular sustainable fashion brands with extensive clothing sizes at a mid-tier price range. They list their mission as “working to build a transparent and environmentally responsible supply chain”. Their environmental policies include eliminating all virgin plastic from their production line in 2021 and moving to use only certified organic cotton by 2023.
The brand is known for investing in research and development to discover new eco-friendly materials. While they focus mainly on natural fibers, Everlane materials also use recycled synthetics.
Everlane has upcycled one million pounds of textiles and nine million plastic bottles through their ReNew appeal and ReKnit footwear ranges. The label uses GOTS certified organic cotton. Everlane’s ethics also extends to employee working conditions, with a third-party auditor evaluating their factors to ensure workers are being paid a fair wage and have a safe working environment. You can find out more about Everlane’s sustainability work here.
Brand Four – Amour Vert
Amour Vert is a brand based in the USA that makes their clothing in smaller quantities to prevent waste. Where possible, they use sustainable fabrics like organic cotton and Tencel to make their clothes. For every shirt you purchase from the company, they plant one tree. You can also opt to make a $1 donation to plant an additional tree, helping our planet while you shop. Amour Vert has sustainability practices in every aspect of its business. Their tree donation program has planted over 300,000 trees which have off-set 140,000 tons of CO2, replenished 12 billion gallons of water, reforested 1,684 acres of land. 97% of their products are made in California, within a few miles of their main office. You can find out more about the brand’s sustainability programme here.
Brand Five – ABLE
This ethical fashion brand focuses on ending the exploitation of factory works and ending poverty by offering fair pay and creating jobs for women in developing countries. ABLE publishes their wages directly onto their website, with an international evaluation system that keeps a check on the supply chain. While ABLE is an ethical fashion label, it hasn’t won the title of sustainable yet. Good On You have listed it as an ‘it’s a start’ but the brand continues to use materials like cotton and leather.
Brand Six – People Tree
People tree is a brand with ethics at its heart and they are passionate about using eco-friendly fabrics. They’re one of the few brands to have been fair trade certified and their supply chain is extensively inspected. People Tree uses low impact dyes and sustainable materials like organic cotton and Tencel lyocell to make their products. You can find everything from underwear to sleepwear and dresses from People Tree. Their clothing size range from a US 4 (UK 8) to US 12 (UK 16).
Brand Seven – Patagonia
Patagonia is an outdoor activewear brand that has fair trade certified collections and focuses on using sustainable fabrics for their clothes. The brand is also Bluesign approved, meaning that their supply chain is closely monitored to ensure employee wellness. They also run their own buy-back programme where they allow you to bring in your old Patagonia pieces for an in-store credit. They resell these older pieces at a discount.
Brand Eight – Levi’s
While jeans are one garment that requires an excessive amount of water and chemicals, Levi’s is more sustainable than you might think. While it takes over 2,000 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans, Levi’s has released their Water<Less collection. It uses up to 96% less water than its traditional jean collections. The brand is committed to making sustainable changes.
Brand Nine – PACT
PACT is a fair trade certified label that focuses on organic manufacturing methods to lower their carbon output. The brand combines sustainable and ethical fashion to create pieces that you’ll want to live in all day long. Each cotton garment by PACT is made using GOTS certified organic cotton. They even call themselves the “earth’s favourite clothing”.
Brand Ten – Eileen Fisher
Eileen Fisher makes luxury clothing and is leading the way with sustainable fashion. They look at the whole lifecycle of the product, from the ethics during production to the dyes used in the clothing that can enter the waterways. To reduce waste, the brand buys and resells their clothing at a lower price through their Renew programme.
Our Top Pick for Sustainable Fashion Brand
If you’re looking for the best sustainable fashion brand – our vote goes to Everlane. The brand is driven to become one of the most sustainable companies in the industry and they’re extremely transparent about their materials and processes. They’re also size inclusive and ship internationally from the USA.
Sustainable Clothing Q&A
Is Zara Sustainable?
Zara is a classic example of a fashion label that isn’t really sustainable. While most clothing brands release seasonal collections, Zara releases anywhere up to 20 collections a year, creating a bulk of deadstock waste.
Is H&M Really Sustainable?
Not everything at H&M is sustainable. The brand offers their ‘H&M Conscious’ range, which uses materials that are friendly to our planet and has a versatile clothing size range. You’ll find organic cotton and recycled polyester amongst the listed fabrics. H&M also offers a recycling program with a discount initiative.
Is Fast Fashion Sustainable?
It is far from sustainable. It’s a leading industry for gas emissions and impacts everything from our oceans to our drinking water and pollution levels.
How Can I Support Sustainable Fashion?
The best way to support sustainable fashion is to buy clothes from brands like the ones we’ve mentioned above. You want to be mindful of your shopping habits and only buy the clothes that you need.
Who Buys Sustainable Fashion Items?
Millenials and Gen Z are leading the way with the demand for more sustainable fashion options – but brands from every sector of the industry are offering sustainable choices.
Are Microfiber Cloths Eco-Friendly?
Microfiber cloths are not eco-friendly as every time you wash the cloth, it releases thousands of microfibers into the water system. These end up in the ocean and cause damage to our shores.
Is Bamboo Clothing Eco-Friendly?
Bamboo is an eco-friendly alternative to manmade fibres, and it’s fast-growing, breathable and deodorising.
What is the Most Eco-Friendly Clothing Material?
It will depend on how you judge ‘eco-friendly’. Probably the best contenders are natural fibres where the production does not require a lot of chemicals, like e.g. organic cotton, hemp or linen.