Until recently, if you wanted to buy ethical or sustainable fashion you would find yourself trying on something akin to a hessian sack in a shop adorned with dream-catchers and smelling like incense, with a man called Nigel giving you an in-depth monologue about the women’s cooperative that had hand-weaved this garment from the surplus straw of their thatched roofs . After feeling morally obligated to pay a small fortune for the liberty of looking like a large sack of King Edwards, the garment would sit sulkily at the bottom of your wardrobe for the next few years.
Fortunately, there are now a lot more choices for the “woke” spender . New companies are creating pieces that are both sustainable, ethical and aesthetically pleasing. It feels like even the big dogs, the larger corporations that have traditionally been the biggest offenders are wanting a slice of the sustainable pie.
These brands that have caught my eye in recent months have questioned the unethical and the unsustainable parts of the fashion value chain and are trying to change behaviours around consumption.
Transparency is at the core of Everlane’s business philosophy, so much so that they break down the costs and wages of each stage of the fashion value chain, right down to the transport or duty costs. They even have a “choose your cost” on their sale items. They reject trends and instead opt for longlasting timeless pieces that are well made. For an industry that has a reputation of being quite ambiguous with its sourcing, Everlane is a refreshingly honest success story. Whilst I would not say it is a budget option, Everlane clearly shows the true cost of making good quality garments.
Rental is becoming a fantastic answer to those who want to buy less, own less but still want some variety within their wardrobe. I am not yet a member of Hurr Collective ( I am on a very long waitlist) but from what I can see from this recently launched UK rental service, the idea is akin to ebay but instead of buying you can rent. This is a great way of making a bit of cash on the side out of things you don’t wear very often, and reducing consumption. I am very interested to see how this takes off!
I had a meeting with someone recently who spoke passionately about the sustainable mission of these shoes. It made me really happy that this is a story that influences the buying habits of different people. These shoes are vegan and made with materials that are easy to break down and recycle. They have launched a huge recycling campaign with the target to be 100% circular by 2023. With the materials from these recycled shoes, they are hoping to provide matting for a new playground in the Vancouver area. A lot of their shoes are made with minimal or no waste in production and are definitely a shoe worth checking out.
On the subject of sneakers, the brand Veja make (really cool) sneakers from 100% recycled plastic bottles, and use another biodegradable material called C.W.L. C.W.L is a vegan and bio-sourced material made from corn waste from the food industry. They also use recycled cotton and recycled polyester in some of their sneaker styles. One of their styles even uses fish-hides, a byproduct of the food industry. They use every surplus material they can to make their sneaker have as little environmental impact as possible.
One that I am sure you have all heard of, but I had to include it in this list. Patagonia is a certified B Corp, meaning that they adhere to the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. Essentially they use their business as a force for good. They are pretty well covered on everything from releasing the first Fairtrade wetsuits to minimizing their carbon footprint through constant research for the best and most sustainable ways to produce their products. The most remarkable story of Patagonia is probably that the former CEO Kristine Tompkins bought 10,000 acres of land in Patagonia and gave it to the Chilean government as a conservation site, creating 5 new national parklands in Chile. In my mind, they are the pioneers of juxtaposing environmentalism within the fashion value chain.
Organic cotton has so many benefits. Firstly, the pesticides used in non-organic cotton are very harmful for farmers as well as eventually for the consumer. Eliminating the use of these toxic pesticides makes a much healthier environment for the land, trees, and prevents water contamination. Nudie jeans uses 100% organic cotton, offers free repairs, and takes back old jeans to reuse and recycle. Needless to say, they are making waves in the world of water intensive denim.