Dismiss it as a buzzword, but sustainability in the fashion industry is here to stay. It is largely documented that the fashion industry is the world’s second most polluting to our environment. “[The] constant overproduction, waste creation and unjust work conditions have become a sad staple of the textile industry,” writes Sardin (a springboard for new responsible products created by leading international brands). According to research by Boston Consulting Group “73 percent of the world’s clothing eventually ends up in landfills… and more than $200 billion of unsold stock is sitting on shop floors and in warehouses around the world. Meanwhile, the number of garments produced annually surpassed 100 billion for the first time in 2014, doubling since 2000.”
So, although the sustainability push is a recent development, it is only as a result of accepting the current climate crisis as fact and slow, drip-feed realization that fashion is one of its worst offenders. Below, we’ve highlighted 10 brands doing sustainability right – plus fashion picks from each brand we stand behind. Shop our picks, below, and read about what these brands are doing to keep their sourcing and production ethical and sustainable. But first, let us answer a few pressing questions:
What Does Sustainability Mean?
The most commonly cited definition defined sustainable development as development that, “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Meaning, economic growth isn’t the result of plundering natural resources for later generations to be left without. This naturally invokes practices of recycling, biodegradability, focus on sustainable localized production, carbon off-set for shipping emissions, efficient water use, a focus on adding skills to workers and green energy use. It invokes a symbiosis of nature and mankind.
This does present the opportunity for brand’s to posture as green, reaping in the marketing benefits this brings in without truly committing to action. There is an excellent guide here which is useful for navigating this brave new green world of white lies.
Do Consumers Care About Sustainable Clothing?
Despite notions that consumers are unaware of the issues, or too lazy to find alternatives (or simply don’t care), there is evidence to suggest consumer hunger for change is beginning to mount. From the same BCG report cited earlier, analysts found that, “75 percent of consumers surveyed by the group view sustainability as extremely or very important. And consumers have the power to make businesses accountable. According to the report, 50 percent of consumers say they plan to switch brands in the future if another brand does more to protect the environment and help society than their preferred one.” So, demand for sustainable clothing is there and it’s proliferating each day.
Is Sustainable Clothing Well-Designed?
Christopher Raeburn, famed for his pioneering, sustainable runway designs argues not “to sell a brand as being sustainable or responsible”, but rather, “it needs to be about good design first.” Some well-known and sustainable brands like Patagonia, All Birds and Veja were left out of this list because of the plethora of exciting brands forcing their way into the market. We wanted to emphasize brands which are striving for ethical, sustainable production, but who are, in equal measure, creating truly desirable clothes.
1. Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney is an industry leader when it comes to ethical and sustainable fashion, while remaining wholeheartedly luxurious. The “World of Sustainability” section on the website is a rigorous account of a company’s pursuit of sustainability. They cite their use of re-engineered cashmere, ‘fur-free-fur’, recycled nylon and polyester, organic cotton that enriches rather than depletes the soil and high-quality animal welfare wool. As for social sustainability, they aim for “a positive impact for everyone that we depend on and for those who depend on us in return” and are achieving this by giving a fair living wage and using high-skilled, local professionals. Finally, they use a tool called Environmental Profit & Loss developed by Kering to measure environmental impact and see specifically what materials are causing most environmental degradation, helping inform future supply chain decisions and alter current choices.
As for our pick from Stella McCartney, we loved these elasticated two-tone trousers. The pinstripe detailing, mixed with the off-kilter color blocking make these a truly unique pair of pants that will add just a dash of style to an otherwise mundane outfit.
Editor’s Pick: Stella McCartney Elasticated-Waistband Two-Tone Trousers
Phipps International was started in 2017 by Spencer Phipps who previously worked as a menswear designer at Marc Jacobs in NYC and Dries Van Noten in Antwerp. The company was founded on the principles “of respect and curiosity for the natural world.” They developed these principles into “the concept of sustainability and environmental responsibility in the realm of style.” The brand has garnered praise in their short two-year existence, culminating in recently becoming a finalist of the 2019 LVMH prize. This shortlisting was largely thanks to his careful approach to responsible and sustainable manufacturing.
These sustainable practises include using factories and producers certified by GOTS (or other environmental certification organizations). Many of these factories are in Portugal which are required by law to recycle their waste appropriately, re-use treatable water, use alternative energy as much as possible and follow fair trade labor practices.
We love this wacky and abstract-print short sleeve. A statement piece for sure, it’s easily paired with dark denim and a pair of equally passable sneakers for an exciting (but not too over-the-top) look.
Editor’s Pick: PHIPPS Abstract-Print Tencel Shirt
3. Christopher Raeburn
Christopher Raeburn is a well-known fashion designer that, in 2010, paved the way for converging high-fashion and sustainability while remaining desirable. His first collection was a reworking of old vintage military stock, which has underpinned his mantra: RÆMADE, RÆDUCED, RÆCYCLED and RÆBURN.
That means reworking surplus materials, minimizing carbon footprint with local manufacturing, or simply producing smaller batches; the aim is waste reduction. In October 2018, Raeburn was appointed global creative director at Timberland, where under his tenure the brand now strictly collaborates with brands that act with purpose first. This jacket from their latest collaboration with Timberland is made from recycled nylon ripstop and reclaimed mesh lining.
Editor’s Pick: Christopher Raeburn X Timberland Ravine Jacket Multi
4. Thrills Brunswick
It begun as a custom motorcycle shop in Byron Bay (a surf utopia on the Gold (East) coast of Australia) and after committing to reducing environmental impact, they developed a cult following. Thrills uses green energy, supports renewable energy production, enacts sustainable water use and recycles where possible. They also use organic cotton and hemp, which is free of pesticides, herbicides and requires no fertilizer. They are stocked by the sustainable answer to Mr. Porter or Nordstrom, buho.com, and this particular shirt slots into their defined categories of: locally made, ethically made, sustainable and gender equality.
Editor’s Pick: Thrills Brunswick Oversized Long Sleeve Shirt
5. Yatay Neven
The brand launched in 2018 after two years of research & development and came to market with a mission “to go beyond the simple usage of some sustainable materials [and] to realize a high-end sneaker as eco-friendly as current technology allows.” That means their production development is continually being tinkered with as green technology improves. Yatay sneakers are PETA-approved and for each pair sold a tree is planted thanks to the partnership with One Tree Planted.
Their website features a clear, concise visual breakdown of each material and gives a ‘sustainability percentage’. For example the outer material uses 50% bio polyols and 25% recycled polyester, making it 75% sustainable. The hemp laces, naturally are 100% sustainable. The packaging is made from five recycled plastic bottles and so is 100% sustainable too. And even aside from all the information above, these Low Birch sneakers in white just look good.
Editor’s Pick: Yatay Neven Low Birch White
6. Atelier & Repairs
By far and away one of the coolest, most stylish and most sustainable clothing brands you are likely to lay eyes upon is Atelier & Repair. Their company has a policy of no new production. All clothes are obtained through transforming existing pieces, specializing in jeans and denim. “Our flexible, non-traditional product life cycle process allows us to source quality and reclaimed apparel, textiles and trims to re-create the forgotten and the ordinary into well-made, long-lasting goods.”
The most exciting feature that they offer is a full-customization service. You can send your own clothes (or take it into a store) and ask the specialist designers to give it a re-imagining or reworking of your choice. Alternatively, you can choose from their reclaimed stock and start the process from scratch. The brand new and totally individual piece will be ready for your renewed enjoyment in no more than three weeks.
Editor’s Pick: Yatay Neven Low Birch White Atelier & Repairs The Detroit
Minimalist style, radical transparency and ethical factories define Everlane. The #KnowYourFactory campaign launched in October 2013 by Everlane has brought a transparency to the supply chain, ensuring that labor is fairly paid for and the practices used are ethical. In addition, the breakdown of price of a product is laid bare to the consumer on the website, so they are opting for a more open, honest approach to business. To come up with an answer to the problem of sustainability, you first need to know the specifics of the question. That’s why transparency is a good step forward. However, The Fashion Law has pointed out, no factories are actually named by Everlane. This is either a business specialty protectionism, of custom developed materials etc., or a failure of transparency.
As for materials, the piece we’ve chosen is a beanie made from Re-Cashmere, as they’ve termed it. It is 60% recycled cashmere and 40% wool. Moving away from virgin materials is certainly a step in the right direction, it’s a move that has halved the carbon footprint of this particular piece, while retaining the softness of cashmere. However, there is still more to be done before it is carbon neutral.
Editor’s Pick: Everlane Men’s ReCashmere Beanie
8. Filippa K
Founded in 1993 in Stockholm, Sweden, Filippa K have taken the elegant Scandinavian design they’ve become so well-known for and have begun shining it through a sustainable lens in recent years. They have committed to ambitious sustainability targets by 2030. Here are some of the standouts: (i) use only sustainable and recyclable materials, (ii) have full supply transparency and (iii) good and fair working conditions for everyone tied to the supply chain. But if it is tractability you are interested in, Filippa K are front runners. They use blockchain technology to bring transparency to the production of their garments. 10 pieces now have 100% full tractability — a key step in the progression of a modern, climate-conscious company. You can see their sustainability reports for the previous event years online too.
These sunnies from Monokel x Filippa K are handcrafted from a biodegradable plant-based eco acetate and are made to be individually adjusted for a perfect fit. Oh and they look great.
Editor’s Pick: Filippa K Robotnik Sunglasses
The founder, Brendon Babenzien once worked at Supreme, but broke off to create Noah, a brand that takes a stand against many of the appalling practices of the fashion industry. They donate a proportion of their profits to causes they believe in, speak out on issues and give a voice to organizations and people they care about. This T-shirt is literally garbage. It is made from 100% recycled cotton, as they say it “makes great use of what would otherwise be thrown away.”
Editor’s Pick: Noah Recycled Cotton Tee
10. Story Mfg
The East London couple that created Story Mfg did so to explore what it meant to make natural clothing that had the same vibrant, desirable aesthetic they loved. The brand moved its production to India to work with The Colours of Nature, one of the greatest natural-dye houses in the world. They use only natural fibers and natural dyes and liken their production as closer to wine making than manufacturing — how they turn out depends on the terroir.
We love this Corduroy jacket for its subtle style quirks as well as it’s functionality as a statement piece.
Editor’s Pick: Story Mfg Embroidered Organic-Cotton-Corduroy Jacket