Awareness for ethically-made clothing became prominent in the fashion and consumer industry after the events of the Rana Plaza tragedy, where at least 1,132 people were killed following the collapse of an eight-story garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013. According to the International Labour Organization, the workers, mainly women and young girls, worked in an unsafe environment for extremely low wages. Alongside the threats of climate change, the need to adopt a new lifestyle that supports ethical practices and sustainability became vital to conscious consumers. Here are some brands that help bridge informed customers to honest clothing products.
Everlane achieves transparency by releasing information on the material they use for their clothes to the conditions of their factories that their employees work in. On their mission page, Everlane highlights the process of visiting and evaluating their factories, making sure their workers are given “fair wages, reasonable hours, and environment.” They mention that they are not big on trends, so they make sure their products are made to last a long time. A feature that Everlane provides is a graphic that demonstrates the cost of making their products “from the materials to labor to transportation” and compares their prices to traditional retail prices. Everlane’s products range from women’s and men’s apparel to accessories and shoes, all of which are timeless and easy to style.
If you watch lifestyle or clothing videos on YouTube, then you might be familiar with thredUP. If not, thredUP is an online consignment and thrift store that resells used clothing, carrying more than 35,000 brands on their site. On their “About Us” page, they state that their mission is to “inspire a new generation of shoppers to think secondhand first.” The online store carries women’s and kids’ clothing and offers a service to customers where they can sell their unused garments on the website for cash or store credit. Customers can also choose to donate their clothes through the website for a charity of their choice. They offer affordable prices and work with other companies that share their environmental goal. thredUP is a great site to give second-hand apparel a second chance at life.
Kotn (pronounced like ‘cotton’) focuses on clothing basics made out of Egyptian cotton. Their ‘About’ page tells the story of how their fiber is only grown in the Nile Delta “where millions of farmers, weavers, and craftspeople are struggling to make ends meet.” Kotn works alongside the Egyptian workers, ensuring that they are paid fair wages and are in suitable working conditions. They’ve also partnered with organizations that helped in the construction of a school, increasing the literacy rate in the Nile area, to stop child labor. Kotn provides basics for women and men at relatively affordable prices.
- Petite Studio
Like many other sustainable brands, Petite Studio aims to eliminate fast fashion by offering clothes that will last many years and work with every season. On their website, they list five “slow fashion principles” that they follow, including fabric durability and ensuring their workers are paid fairly and given benefits such as health insurance, vacation time, and “a mandatory 30-minute midday nap.” Petite Studio focuses on creating garments for petite women since it is difficult to find clothing that fits perfectly. On their website, they state, “Fast fashion outsourcing leads to inconsistent fits, which is especially frustrating for petites.” To ensure that their garments truly fit shorter women, Petite Studio samples their designs on petite models. Even though they are called Petite Studio, they also cater to taller individuals. For those curious to know what their perfect fit is, they provide a sizing chart that outlines sizes for heights 5’0” to 5’10”.
- Whimsy + Row
Whimsy + Row was founded in 2014 and is based in West Los Angeles. They create high-quality clothing while also being eco-conscious about the materials they use. On their story tab, Whimsy + Row highlights how their garments are “handcrafted under ethical conditions using only locally sourced deadstock textiles and materials.” Deadstock refers to leftover fabrics or merchandise that would have been thrown out. By using deadstock, Whimsy + Row is giving life back to would-be waste materials. Their apparel can be best described as modern chic, with a neutral, earthy toned color palette.
For consumers who still want to follow trends in an ethical and sustainable manner, look no further than Reformation. The clothing brand prides itself on its sustainable and ethical practices, while also providing modern, trendy pieces. Their “About” tab includes various links on who they are, their factories, and how they maintain sustainability. Not only do they have stylish, inclusive clothing choices, but they also offer wedding dresses and shoes. Reformation continues to improve itself in being transparent by offering a sustainability report.
Tradlands was created for women who tended to linger towards the men’s section at stores. On their ‘About’ page, founder Sadie Beaudet recalls why she gravitated towards clothing “made” for the opposite sex. “I always found myself drifting to the menswear aisles. I noticed the clothing looked and felt classic, fabrics were durable, and details simple and considered.” Seeing as there weren’t many options for women, Sadie created this brand in 2012. Tradlands values in making clothes that create confidence and flexibility for the wearer. A special feature the brand offers is a style quiz where one can discover the building blocks of their personal style.
- Back Beat co.
Back Beat Co. is a California based brand founded by Isadora Alvarez. The eco-friendly brand is inspired by the “surf ‘n’ skate culture” and includes many clothing basics and vintage-inspired pieces. On their website, Back Beat Co. uses “low impact” fabrics, which include recycled fabrics or fabrics that are “sustainably farmed” such as recycled cotton and hemp. In terms of production, the products are ethically made in Los Angeles and India, working closely with “small, family-owned operations” since they consider their workers like family. To promote sustainability, Back Beat Co. uses “recycled paper mailers or home compostable bags” when shipping out orders instead of using plastic. With a variety of color options available, Back Beat Co. ensures to breathe life into a sustainable closet.
- Jenni Kayne
Jenni Kayne creates a chic, tailored inclusive clothing, shoes, and accessories with a sustainable mission in mind. On their ‘Sustainability’ page, the brand states that they are committed to implementing sustainable practices “that will help ensure a healthy planet for generations to come.” Jenni Kayne is transparent in their approaches towards a more sustainable future by outlining the actions they are taking. They invest in quality and durability by shopping for materials that are “in season” in the natural world. Their ethical approach towards manufacturing their products include working with fair factories in Italy for shoe production and “a women’s cooperative in Peru” for textiles since they “believe in building up and empowering communities of women.” Other items such as candles and ceramics are made in their home base of Los Angeles. Jenni Kayne plans to create a recycled knits line and will continue to work with charities that share their beliefs such as the National Resource Defense Council and Girls Inc.
- Pixie market
Pixie Market is relatively new in the sustainability game. The brand states that they are committed to becoming more sustainable on its website. Their designs focus on being timeless to combat fast fashion and their clothing production is located in “small, family-run factories in Seoul, South Korea, where fair wages and safe working conditions are the norm.” Pixie Market mentions that they don’t have access to “every eco-friendly fabrics,” so they try to source locally to minimize their carbon footprint. They have managed to obtain some sustainable fabrics, but their goal is for their collection to use 100% eco-friendly materials by 2023. Their goal for 2020 is for 100% of their orders to be shipped with “100% compostable packaging that is 100% biodegradable” and to contact companies that specialize in offsetting the carbon emissions from fast shipping.
While many honest and eco-friendly clothing items are costly, it is important to think about where that money is going towards—providing fair wages to workers, ensuring a safe work environment and stopping the evil that is fast fashion. It’s a shame that there are still functioning factories that don’t care about basic human rights and force their underpaid workers to mass-produce products in poor working conditions. Within the fashion industry, a consumer can feel pressured into following a trend that does not have a long shelf life. The best option is to have timeless pieces that are durable and sustainable. It’s okay to not have the funds to purchase these garbs. Opt for second-hand attire, shop at thrift stores, sell unused clothes, or keep a little stash to save up for a desired ethical piece. Often times, it’s easy to forget that a human being is creating the garments. By making conscious efforts to purchase honest apparel, not only is the consumer aiding the laborers involved in the process, but the consumer is saving the planet from toxic waste.