My life has been really bugging me lately, over the past month or so I have bombarded myself with books and articles about sustainability which engulfed me for hours on end. Supply chains are often obscured, filled with lies and lack any thorough transparency in the role they play not to mention sugar coating the saddening truth behind their supply chain.
At the same time I cannot deal with the unbearable thought of trying to make a difference but failing to understand that a company such as H&M, that sticks a ‘conscious’ label on their product, while burning 12 tonnes of unsold items behind our backs, I’m just buying into people’s misery without even realising it. My first experience of the damaging effects of fashion on our lives and the environment came with the massive protest in Central London which involved activists being chained round their necks to the main entrance of Color Of Benetton’s store shortly after the factory in Bangladesh collapsed, as a result killing 900 people. Color Of Benetton failed to acknowledge the fact that they were buying into people’s misery by resorting to the cheapest alternative possible. Truth of the matter we shouldn’t put all the emphasis on big corporations to make a change to their supply chain, each change should begin with the consumers being aware sustainable sources of material, how your clothes got from the factory to your wardrobe and how much of an environmental footprint along the way.
Thankfully sustainable fashion is not only going down in price, but also raising more and more heat from the consumers who are becoming increasingly aware of ethical guidelines. We’ve picked out number of brands that appeal to us by making stand-out pieces and although not all of them are fully certified, each one follows strict ethical guidelines.
Ethical Clothing – what does it mean?
Ethical clothing is a term to describe the design, production, retail and the purchasing of a given company and their affects to improve working conditions, eliminate workers’ exploitation, improve fair trade, increase sustainable production and in the whole process reduce their carbon footprint on the environment and animals’ welfare. As it stands fashion industry is the world’s second biggest pollutant after oil and there are some companies which are taking it seriously to changing this by producing sustainable clothing. Above all, after 2013 disaster in Bangladesh companies became more scrutinised for their lack of actions against workers’ rights, sustainability and labour exploitation. Thankfully things are changing, however we should stop relying on large corporations to make any drastic decisions and instead first focus from consumer level and focus on shopping for clothes from companies that have already embedded sustainability as their core value.
One thing that makes me fall in love with Everlane is their cleanest denim factory, they use Saitex their LEED-certified facility recycles 98% of its water, relies on alternative energy sources, and re-purposes byproducts to create premium jeans without any waste. 2% of the water gets evaporated and it’s so clean, you can actually drink it. Overall, 99% of companies waste all the water used to produce their clothes, but not Saitex. Everlane’s mission is simple in words yet complex in the whole delivery process, their radical transparency, most importantly clothes are top quality and believe me when I say it, they last much longer. I still have few
Everlane shirts after 4 years. Above all, you just have to love Everlane’s ethical clothing range. The brand doesn’t just stop with shirts and pants, they have also started doing sneakers recently and have taken the market by a storm picking up some very positive reviews from the critiques, Everlane stuck with its agenda, and of course they as sustainable as they can be.
I could write a book about Patagonia and why it’s the leading company for sustainability and although they will never be 100% sustainable, the company is lead by some of the most inspirational people who seek to lead the path for green future. All of Patagonia’s cotton is certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standa. Patagonia are leading the way when it comes to good labour policies. They received the second highest rating in the 2017 Ethical Fashion Report. ‘Let my people go surfing‘ is a book written by Patagonia’s CEO Yvon Chouinard who outlined core values of the company, the company is about challenging conventional wisdom, leading a simplistic and more examined life, and making a living without losing your soul.
Brand led by two brothers has recently hit a big milestone raking $15mil in revenue. Brothers spend roughly two months each year travelling the world looking for the most sustainable factories. If any of your items from their store break, or a button fell off, they will make sure to either fix or replace the item for you. Fabrics are designed by Faherty, it may come across as a bit expensive for many however the brand is aimed at over 30 year olds and Faherty aren’t shy talking about it. You end up paying for high quality sustainable garments which also reflect casual lifestyle. Mike and Alex (founders of Faherty) paid their dues in design at Ralph Lauren and finance/business strategy in Private Equity. They ended up bringing their expertise together.
Brand which started 2010 with the sole reason of creating outdoor brand which can also do some serious conservation work in the process. This ethical clothing brand organises cleanups of rivers, creeks, beaches and streams in order to reduce the ocean trash and plastic pollution. Their products for outdoors are also kind to the outdoors, this involves recycles polyester, bison and organic cotton which accumulates to happier planet by keeping our oceans, air and soil a little cleaner. Above all United By Blue, the ethical clothing brand is a certified b-corp, another words they are part of group of for-profit companies that meet specific standards of social and environmental performance accountability, and transparency.
In 1991 Levi’s developed their Terms of Engagement – a code of conduct to guide ethical production throughout the denim giant’s supply chain. Many ethical clothing companies were inspired to do the same as this was a landmark in the fashion industry. As we all know, production of standard jeans requires A LOT of water, much like Everlane, Levi’s create the same jeans they did 50 years ago, but have heavily cut down on their H2O consumption, using mere 20 water-saving finish techniques. They have cut down as much as 9% of water consumption in denim finishing. Also, their old denim gets new life as Levi’s teamed up with RE/DONE to remaster vintage Levi’s jeans. Levi’s take pride in their LGBTQ activities, workers’ wellbeing and community days – although they aren’t perfect in every department, and a lot needs to be done they certainly are going in the right direction as a company.
This is one of very few companies that is awfully transparent about their production line, you can find out pretty much all the information you need about Nudie Jeans’ factories and their locations. Their signature jeans come from suppliers in Turkey, Italy and Japan. The majority of the Turkish cotton is sourced from AKASYA The cotton is certified organic by GOTS, OCS and USDA Organic. Each factory is audited by Nudie Jeans making sure high standards are kept throughout, non-compliances are rectified after the audit. I think the most exciting part about Nudie Jeans is free repair service, I had the opportunity to make most of it on two occasions and in both cases jeans were repaired, free of charge within 5 working days. In fact over 55,000 pairs of jeans were repaired free of charge back in 2018 alone. As much as 98% of Nudie Jeans’ garments are sustainable making it one of the most, if the most ethical clothing brand on the planet right now when it comes to jeans production.
Truth be told all companies try to show they care about our planet and their workers, after all this is how they can make you feel like you’re buying into something that is ecologically friendly and benefits their workers in one way or another. However when it comes to setting a sheer example of how it should be done across the board, Pyua are the experts in this area, not only do they make high-quality and functional outwear for people who treat nature with respect, but they also care about sustainability and set out high standards for themselves. According to the motto: “PYUA is YOUR statement about the environment“. Their sole purpose is to pursue the goal of combining style, function and sustainability together. At the design stage, each product is carefully crafted by making it as sustainable as it’s physically possible. Of course not all clothes can be 100% sustainable therefore PYUA also takes into account recycling process during their planning stages. PYUA also sees itself as a brand that cares about their social responsibility interconnected with the textile value chain. PYUA is not only a member of the Fair Wear Foundation, but has also decided to produce mainly in Europe.
“Soft. Simple. Sustainable”, are the words that Alternative Apparel lives by. Their sustainability agenda starts with packaging and distribution as they use oxo-biodegradable mailer bags and have implemented a vendor recycling program. Most of their factories are WRAP-certified, most importantly the factories stick to the Fair Labor Association guidelines & workplace code of conduct. As the brand name may suggest, they are an alternative for those seeking for clothes that are: simple, sustainable, organic, eco-friendly, recycled with fair labour. Alternative Apparel provide best everyday basics, with modern silhouettes, balancing simplicity and style. More than 80% of their clothes are made with sustainable practices, they are also part of the Fashion Revolution movement, because clothes shouldn’t come at the expense of our planet or people.
“At Kuyichi we believe in taking environmental and social responsibility for our actions.” This is why the brand generates annual reports on their sustainability and actions taken to improve certain sectors. Each and every one of their factories is listed in the report, giving us further insights on how the company carefully selects their suppliers, improving conditions in the industry. Their denim jeans are 100% organic and Kuyichi visits multiple factories each year to make sure standards are upheld. All used cotton is GOTS certified. GOTS stands for the Global Organic Textile Standard, and it is the global standard for organic fibres, All of their cotton is 100% organic GOTS certified, but not all the final products are GOTS certified. Since 2012 Kuyichi uses recyclable cotton and restricts hazardous substances to be used in their production. Above all they care about their workers and everyone is paid at least the living wage, overtime is voluntary and paid at a premium rate with workers not being required to work for more than 48 hours on regular basis.
Yet another company with annual reports, and take a great pride in their business as a way of reducing harm to our environment and the people who make garments in the fashion industry. They don’t just revolve their business around the usage of sustainable materials but also engage in making sure that working conditions are met across all of their suppliers all the way down to their own employees in Cologne. Armedangels are involved with many independent organisations such as Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), GOTS and Fairtrade. Sustainable products start with sustainable supplier relations and Armedangels are transparent about their production line.