The Best Sustainable Clothing Brands You Need to Know Now
As much as we love fashion, we have to acknowledge the industry has its fair share of bad behavior. Between environmentally-damaging practices (toxic dyes; pesticide use) and harmful working conditions, the fashion industry needs to step up its game—for us and the planet. Thankfully, some brands are leading the way. Here, we rounded up our favorite ethical, sustainable fashion labels that are making a difference and doing it in style.
Style + Travel Editor | Instagram @jackiehoman | jackiehoman.com
Everlane is all about “radical transparency.” By visiting and forming relationships with its factory owners, the brand ensures good working conditions and fair wages. The team then factors in the accurate costs of labor, high-quality materials, and transportation, and breaks down the prices of all its items for everyone to see online—all while nixing the traditional high markup of most stores—so consumers understand exactly what their dollars are paying for.
Reformation puts sustainability at its core by publicly adhering to the impressive framework its team sets for itself. On the agenda: better material choices and finishing processes for products, fair conditions and social responsibility for workers, an offset program to counter carbon and waste (the brand has been carbon neutral since 2015), and recycling programs that encourage consumers to keep clothes out of landfills—all laid out in quarterly updates posted online that keep the brand accountable.
ThredUp made a name for itself by becoming the world’s largest fashion resale marketplace, encouraging folks to shop secondhand by offering quality clothing from over 35,000 brands you know and love, including H&M and Prada. (Fun fact: if everyone purchased just one used item instead of new this year, we would save nearly six billion pounds of carbon emissions.) Don’t want to shop used? ThredUp’s new Remade line (see above) was designed with a sustainable mission in mind. You choose from several size-inclusive timeless styles (new, like new, or gently used), and then send them back when you’re bored of them for a buyback guarantee of 40% the original price.
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Cuyana’s philosophy: fewer is better. It may seem counterintuitive for a store (which makes money selling more), but Cuyana values quality and timelessness over quantity. CEO (and co-founder) Karla Gallardo's mission is to inspire intentional buying by sourcing high-quality materials and skilled craftsmen to create elegant basics like silk tops, cashmere sweaters, and leather bags you’ll wear forever. Cuyana also partners with ThredUp to encourage clothing recycling: with any Cuyana purchase, you’ll receive a complimentary shipping label for sending old clothes to ThredUp. Once processed, you’ll receive credits to use on Cuyana, and part of those profits will go toward H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Ease Abuse Related Trauma) to support victims of abuse—another way Cuyana is committed to giving back.
Workout clothes made from old water bottles and fishing nets that are actually cute—and comfy? Yes, please. Girlfriend Collective has recycling built into its DNA—its Compressive leggings are made from recycled post-consumer water bottles (25 per pair) while its LITE leggings come from ECONYL, a fiber made from recycled fishing nets and other ocean waste. The dyeing process is intense, to say the least, but pretty amazing—zero chemicals escape into the water stream, and leftover dye mud is used for pavement in the community. Their factory standards are extensive, workers are well taken care of, and, on top of all that, the products manage to be on-trend, flattering, size-inclusive, and so comfortable that one Jetsetter editor is about to buy her third pair.
Surf champion Kelly Slater and designer John Moore created Outerknown in 2015 to show that sustainability and style are synonymous, not mutually exclusive. Initially only a menswear brand, Outerknown was built around the Fair Labor Association’s strict supply chain processes, becoming the first clothing brand ever to reach accreditation in only two and a half years. In Spring 2019, the brand launched its first women’s collection, debuting breezy dresses, gauzy button-downs, linen beach pants, and more coastal staples—all with the same quality materials and environmentally-friendly practices it started with.
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ABLE is committed to solving the problem of generational poverty through its economic opportunities for women. All items are made by women in safe working environments, and the brand publishes workers’ wages online (even the lowest wages, not just the average) to prove its investment in those who are typically underpaid in the fashion industry. The result? A store full of ethically-made clothing, leather goods, and handmade jewelry you can wear with pride.
For undies and loungewear, turn to Pact. The brand sources only 100% organic cotton (meaning it uses zero pesticides, bleaches, or toxic dyes and up to 95% less water than conventional cotton) to create its super-soft basics, which are all produced in fair-trade–certified factories.
Eileen Fisher has a vision—Vision 2020, specifically. By 2020, all its cotton and linen will be organic, other fibers will be exchanged for eco-friendly alternatives, more responsible dyes will be used, and the company will continue efforts to map its global supply chain and improve the livelihood of its workers. The brand is also committed to circular production: all Eileen Fisher clothing is designed to be timeless and long-lasting, but if you no longer wear certain items, you can recycle them through the company. Over the past 10 years, the brand has taken back over one million unwanted garments, which are resold as part of the gently-used Renew line or given a new life as raw material through the Waste No More program.
According to its Impact Report, ethical shoes and accessories brand Nisolo has invested $3 million into the local economy in Peru (the location of its main factory), including paying workers an average of 27% above fair trade wage requirements. Nisolo is working to improve its carbon footprint, too: the majority of materials are sourced near its production facilities, jewelry is made from upcycled materials, and the brand is even venturing into vegetable tanned leather by working with partner factories. Through a shoe recycling collaboration with Soles4Souls, landfill waste is also reduced; simply register your old shoes online, ship them, and receive shopping credit.
Back Beat Rags
All easygoing basics like tees, sweats, flowy pants, and dresses by California-based label Back Beat Rags are made right in LA to support local makers and small family-owned businesses. In addition to using organic and recycled cotton and incorporating environmentally-friendly practices, the company goes so far as to ship online orders in 100% post-consumer recycled mailers.
Naadam’s cashmere is made sustainably in every way, from the livestock it breeds to the dyes it finishes garments with. The company pays breeders 50% more than average, invests in vaccination and veterinary care for the goats, and ensures that animals are hand-combed, not sheared. Factory conditions are also monitored and certified for ethical practices, while natural and biodegradable dyes are used in a closed loop water filtration system so that the wastewater is cleaned and reused. If cashmere has you assuming this is a winter brand, think again: Naadam’s signature Silky Soft Summer Cashmere is woven with 100% organic silk and Mongolian cashmere that stays airy and super-soft.
In the luxury world, Stella McCartney has long been an icon of green fashion. The designer herself has spoken out against the use of fur, developing a Fur-Free-Fur material to use instead. Other eco-friendly textiles the brand utilizes include re-engineered cashmere, organic cotton, vegetarian leather, recycled nylon and polyester, and wool sourced from animal welfare farms.
Rent the Runway
What if you didn’t need to buy new clothes at all? You may be familiar with Rent the Runway for its popular gowns and formal attire, but now, when you sign up for the RTR Unlimited membership program, you can regularly rent clothes for work, weekends, parties, and basically any other occasion. Simply choose 4+ items at a time from over 500 designer brands, which you can switch out as often as you want—thus creating a constant rotation of new high-fashion clothes. What's more, Rent the Runway ships clothing in its patented eco-friendly garment bags to prevent plastic and cardboard waste, which has saved more than 900 tons of shipping waste since 2015.
Frances Austen embodies luxury, quality, and social responsibility every step of the way. Case in point: the label uses silk and super-soft cashmere (from renowned Italian producer Cariaggi and Scotland mill Johnstons of Elgin) that are both 100% biodegradable, so even if you get tired of something, rest assured it won’t be stuck on the planet forever.
For capsule wardrobe lovers, époque évolution is the place to shop. The brand has built a cult following for its travel-friendly staples—think chic black pants, white button-downs, and wrinkle-resistant slip dresses. The clothing is always made with sustainable, organic, upcycled, deadstock, or recycled fibers whenever possible, and best of all, nothing requires dry cleaning or other toxic care.
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Here at Jetsetter, our editors curate everything you need to travel—and live—smartly, fashionably, and consciously. All of our market picks are independently selected. If you buy something we link to on our site, Jetsetter may earn commission.
All products are independently selected by our writers and editors. If you buy something through our links, Jetsetter may earn an affiliate commission.
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