Most of my wardrobe is vintage or thrifted, which in itself is sustainable as it’s considered upcycled fashion. When I do buy new, I try to purchase only from ethical, sustainable and fair trade brands. Given the world of fast fashion, it’s hard to imagine that ethical fashion brands exist, but they do and they are in fact producing some of my favorite new pieces on a regular basis. I think the era of ethical equals crunchy granola is dead; what is emerging is unique, modern style from forward thinking fashion brands.
What is ethical or sustainable fashion?
Sustainable or ethical fashion is the opposite of fast fashion. Ethical fashion takes into account the full lifestyle of a product – design, sourcing, production, fabrics, manufacturing and consumption. They look at everything affected by it, from the environment, to the the workers where and who product it, to the consumer who purchase it, and the lifespan of the product once it’s discarded. There are many facets of sustainability but the major ones are: water usage, fair labor practices, waste, hazardous chemicals, and agriculture.
Although we like to use the term eco-friendly, all fashion (and other products) have at least some negative impact on the environment. But, there are many brands who see this as a problem to solve and aim to be as sustainable as possible taking into account the environment and the people who produce and consume the product.
Ethical Fashion Brands
This is not a complete list, it’s a partial list of my favorite ethical brands which you can easily find online and in brick and mortar shops.
alo Yoga – if you’re searching for fashion focused athleisure, alo is my top choice. In addition to being eco aware, they are also 100% sweatshop free.
Bel Kazan – The label’s founder Belinda built her Balinese factory from the ground up over a decade ago and has been producing sustainable pieces since. The company also invests in its employees by paying a living wage.
Botanica Workshop – easy to wear loungewear and underwear using organic cotton and sustainable materials.
Clare V. – Clare Vivier (the original brand name) has been a go-to brand for leather bags and goods here in Los Angeles. The brand has been made exclusively in Los Angeles since 2008!
Frank & Oak – I first became familiar with Frank & Oaks thanks to Alan. Most of his wardrobe is exclusively from them. They have since launched a women’s line. Frank & Oaks produces environmentally conscious clothing; their production uses up to 79% less energy, up to 50% fewer chemicals, and 95% less water than standard methods.
Girlfriend Collective – I love their solid workout pieces which are made of recyclable materials. I also love their employee-focused initiatives: they start pay at 125% of the local minimum wage, provide both free catered lunch, no forced or child labor, safe working conditions, and the right to unionize.
Levi’s – You know Levi’s is a favorite brand of mine – their denim is by far the best – after all they are the experts. In addition to responsible design and production, they also committed to responsible practices in their factory. Check out my Levi’s Guide here.
Mara Hoffman – Another all time favorite brand for both fashion and swimwear, I love the bold colors and prints from Mara Hoffman. The company sources organic, recycled and regenerated materials whenever possible, plus high standards for responsible manufacturing.
Marais – I fell in love with the candy colored sandals a few summers ago and then the brand’s commitment to produce shoes and handbags locally in a Los Angeles factory in small batches, at an affordable price point.
Pact – I recently went on an undie spree at Pact – their organic cotton is super soft and holds up very well. In short, they are a sustainable, environmentally friendly clothing manufacturer.
Reformation – the brand that changed recyclable fashion into a household (and stylish) term. Reformation uses sustainable fabrics (natural and recycled) as well as deadstock and vintage. They also invest in green building infrastructure to minimize their waste, water, and energy footprints. If you want ethical fashion at a great price, Reformation is it.
Sezane – An influencer favorite for the past few years, I was glad to see the brand finally take a stance and develop a sustainability program which scrutinizes their fabrics, products, and environmental impacts.
Tradlands – I love their approach to ulta minimalist basics as well as their ethical standards. They employ adults who are paid a living wage, work in bright, clean and airy environments, and abide by US-based standards of working hours, paying over-time, and never allowing triple shifts.
Ulla Johnson – One of my favorite brands of all time, I love the bohemian inspired pieces that work from poolside to cocktail hour!
For a complete list, I highly recommend The Goodwear’s list of ethical fashion brands.