Here are 10 brands that prove you can have style with sustainability and that you can wear your values on your (responsibly made) sleeve.
The Rana Plaza tragedy on April 24, 2013, killed over 1,100 garment workers in a factory in Bangladesh, and forced consumers around the world to question at what human price they are getting their fast fashion.
Years later, the unsustainable and unethical practices of dozens of fashion brands have emerged once again. The current pandemic crisis and its effect on supply chains and retail businesses the world over highlighted the ethical problems with many fast fashion chains as numerous brands and companies failed to pay up for produced orders. This left millions of garment workers in Bangladesh and around the world, out of work with no pay, and no way to pay for bills or healthcare.
Fortunately, many smaller independent companies are leading the way where larger brands have failed, showing that fashion can and should be responsible, ethical and sustainable, caring for the planet and people. These companies have developed a framework that adheres to ecological, sustainable and social standards by using organically produced fibres, reducing, reusing, recycling or upcycling their source materials. They are committed to transparency in the production and supply chain, as well as providing a living wage that complies with legal or industry standards, health and safety protection in the workplace, and the prohibition of child labour and forced labour.
Here are 10 brands that prove you can have style with sustainability and that you can wear your values on your sleeve.
Since launching her brand in 2016, young Paris-based designer, Marine Serre, has gained renown for her eco-futuristic designs that incorporate up-cycled fabrics. Her collections feature jackets and evening gowns made of discarded scarves, T-shirts and printed blankets. Her signature crescent moon print pieces, made from recycled polyamide, have become iconic and a favourite of celebs and fashionistas.
Aussie brand KitX’s ethos is to create as minimal environmental impact as possible whilst offering unique pieces with wearable sensibility. Each piece is carefully constructed from consciously sourced or recycled fabrics that are traceable, and are made in ethical working conditions. Their Unearthed dress is dyed with a non-toxic technique using jackfruit and marigolds, and upcycled water.
A pioneer of sustainable and cruelty-free luxury fashion, Stella McCartney has two decades head start. The brand is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and it uses numerous eco-friendly materials including recycled polyester, organic cotton, and regenerated cashmere. They have waste-reduction strategies in place across their entire supply chain, and they measure and report on their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. The brand never uses fur, leather or animals skins in their designs, while their cashmere is regenerated and wool is sourced responsibly from farms committed to animal welfare and environmental stewardship. They have recently launched their Mylo collection, made from a mycellium-based leather in collaboration with Bolt Threads, and are currently exploring vegan wool.
This Aussie label's clean, minimalist aesthetic and commitment to sustainable manufacturing has marked it out as a favourite for every day basics. Bassike use GOTS-certified organic cotton-jersey and linen for their pieces, and eschew the use of AZO dyes and all toxic chemicals on the restricted substance list. Most of their pieces are locally made in Australia ensuring a very high level of supply chain transparency while supporting and helping to preserve the local fashion industry, and they work with suppliers who are committed to upholding fair and ethical workplace standards and care about environmental stewardship.
Another Tomorrow pushes the boundaries of what responsibly grown and ethically manufactured materials can achieve with their minimalist and elegantly designed pieces. This B Corp certified company has put concern for human, environmental and animal welfare at the core of its business, without compromising on design. They do not use animal skins, silk, fur, or horn buttons in their collection, and ensure they use only non-muelsed wool from zero-slaughter farms in their production.
Since 2000 CFDA designer Mara Hoffman has used her brand to reduce her environmental impact through conscious fashion. The brand has numerous sustainable and ethical initiatives its belt. They prioritise the use of sustainable fabrics and raw materials, like hemp, organic cotton and linen; avoid leather, fur, feathers or muelsed wool; and all their swimwear is made using recycled nylon and recycled polyester. Fabrics are digitally printed to reduce water waste. Packaging and labelling is recycled, recyclable or compostable. And they work with a traceable supply chain with factories that ensuring fair wage and treatment, and safe working conditions. They also support artisanal groups made up of women and small producers in developing countries. The brand has also launched Full Circle Marketplace, an online platform on their website dedicated to buying and selling pre-owned Mara Hoffman garments.
Although well known for their comfortable basics and stockings, Wolford is also the first and only hosiery producer in the world allowed to call itself a partner of the bluesign® system and the first company in the textile industry to hold two certificates stating they are Cradle to Cradle Certified™ at gold level. Each of their suppliers comply with ecological and social standards. The brand also recently launched its Aurora collection is made of biodegradable and recyclable fabrics, and they aim for 50% of all their products to be recyclable by 2025, i.e. either biodegradable or technologically recyclable.
Maggie Marilyn is an eco-conscious and sustainable luxury brand made in New Zealand using eco -friendly fabrics and manufactured locally to reduce carbon footprint. Its labour rating is ‘Good’ by the Good On You app, and it has implemented a labour code of conduct that covers the ILO (International Labour Organisation) Four Fundamental Freedom Principles. It ensures a living wage in its supply chain, visits its suppliers regularly and traces most of its supply chain. The brand does not use leather, fur or down, and its wool is non-muelsed while it uses Peace silk.
This German brand makes versatile functional apparel that pairs minimalist and timeless design with technical performance, and a strict focus on sustainability, from athletic wear, outdoor wear to casual wear. Their fabrics and materials comply with strictest eco-standards such as bluesign®, OEKO-TEX®, GRS (Global Recycle Standard) and ZQ Merino. Designed in collaboration with industrial designer Konstantin Grcic, AEANCE also produced a collection made with 96% recycled, natural, biodegradable and bio-based material. Their pieces are all made in Portugal by manufacturers committed to fair wages and working conditions.
Aussie denim company, Outland Denim, has some serious ethical and sustainable cred—it’s B Corp certified and received an A+ rating on its 2019 Ethical Fashion Report. They source the finest raw materials from around the world while offering sustainable employment and training opportunities to women who have experienced exploitation. All its suppliers are listed online, and the company outlines its own ethical trading policy which is set upon the foundations of The Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code, and the International Labour Organisation’s Four Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The brand also published an environmental policy online. Their denim is organic cotton farmed with zero agrochemicals and locally produced in Melbourne. They also have a range of vegan jeans that sport a leather free back patch, and use plastic free packaging.
This Melbourne-made label cares about provenance and sustainability. Everything they design and create is made for the circular economy: each A.BCH garment is built to last, is repairable and completely compostable at the end of its life. They offer full transparency on the sourcing of every bit of material and component in the manufacturing of their garments, and their clothes are made locally in Melbourne from renewable, organic, recycled and vegan materials. This brand is on a mission to transform the way people buy, wear and discard clothing.