It’s easy to do when you’re clothes shopping. You see the ideal outfit, you know it would suit you perfectly, and – bonus – it’s cheap as chips. But when you stop to think for a moment you realise if it’s ridiculously cheap for you to buy, the person making the garment must be getting paid peanuts. The excitement of the buy wears off when you put some thought into the ethics behind the clothes.
We now know that fast fashion is one of the most destructive industries on earth, filling our landfills with masses of garments born of unethical working conditions.
Here are some quick facts:
- Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are needed to make polyester fibre, a main component of fast fashion
- Polyester takes around 200 years to decompose
- Globally we are consuming 80 billion pieces of clothes a year, an increase of 400% compared to 20 years ago
- 20,000 litres of water are needed to make 1kg of cotton, equal to about a tshirt and jeans.
Thankfully, as our knowledge of fast fashion has increased so too has the emergence of new sustainable fashion brands keen to change the way our clothes are made. And the USA is paving the way, producing ethical clothing brands to suit men and women of all tastes and budgets. Here’s a breakdown of our favourite brands to get behind.
Synergy Clothing: Eco Conscious Clothing
An organic, family-operated company formed by Kate Fisher and inspired by the textures of Nepal, this company produces the finest ethically made clothing you can find anywhere. Known for the epitimous ‘Synergy t-shirt’, the pieces are formed using low impact dyes and recycled poly as well as organic cotton. Their manufacturing process is also fully transparent, with the practices highly visible on their website. Garments are produced in a GOTS certified factory by workers earning a living wage. For more on Synergy ethics and manufacturing, check out How It’s Made Matters.
Boden USA: Affordable Ethical Clothing
Boden is a name many of us will recognize, but just because it’s popular and affordable doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deserve a place on this list. Responsibly sourced? Check. Company transparency? Check. In fact, Boden are so committed to the ethical fashion train that they’ve written up a Modern Slavery statement and published it for all the world to see. Women, men and children from newborn to age 16 are catered to, with all the popular trends covered. If you’d like to know more about their commitment to sustainability, Boden have a whole page dedicated to it on their website.
Fair Indigo: Fair trade Clothing
Fair Indigo prides itself on making ethically made clothing that is built to last. Their tagline is ‘style with a conscience’ which is further reflected in their Mission to treat their staff well and paying them a fair and living wage. Their website highlights all the people who work to make Fair Indigo a reality, including in Peru, where the garments are made. Men and women will find their fashion choices well and truly covered here, while parents will also appreciate that the younger ones are taken care of too with sweaters, slippers and stuffed animals on hand.
Maggie’s Organics: Organic and Transparent Accessories
Well-made, quirky and cosy, Maggie’s is one of our most trusted organic clothing brands. Not only are their leggings, socks and other accessories fun and verified by third parties, they are also pretty serious about fair trade and heritage. Supporting their people is a big part of Maggie’s message, while outsourced manufacturing in Nicaragua is secured well above fair trade pricing.
Patagonia: Outdoor Clothing that Respects the Earth
In terms of an ethical clothing brand succeeding on an international scale, nothing really tops Patagonia. Named after South America’s raw southern expanse of the same name, Patagonia creates clothing for the adventurous at heart who seek better connections with the land they inhabit. It makes sense, then, that Patagonia takes its environmental footprint very seriously, pledging 1% of sales to the preservation of our planet. Not only are materials tried and tested, fabrics are ethical, including hemp, organic cotton, recycled down, reclaimed cotton and more.
Threads 4 Thought: Wear The Change you Want to See
Women and men’s fashion are equally represented here, as well as dedicated sportswear. The idea behind the concept is that the choices we make affect the planet, including our fashion ones. Threads 4 Thought uses sustainable materials including lenzing modal and recycled polyester while the company looks beyond fashion to greater ethical issues, supporting International Rescue Committee to benefit in-need global communities.
The Root Collective: Investing in Change
Who knew that women’s shoes could be so empowering? But that is the raison d’etre for this small business, which connects independent workshops in Guatemala in order to create jobs and combat unemployment issues. Shoes range from flats to boots, all of them gorgeous.
Everlane: Fashion Makes A Difference
These are some seriously stylish rags. Catering to both men and women, Everlane solves the issue of fast fashion by making timeless classics as well as current pieces, all built to last using only the finest materials. Everything – from the costs of cashmere to Peruvian Pima trees – is transparent, with the true costs broken down on their website. Everlane is so serious about fair trade clothing that ethical production takes centre stage in their mission.
AG Jeans: Contemporary Denim that Supports Clean Water
Men and women across the globe rave about the denims, accessories and ready-to-wear pieces, and can do so knowing that AG Jeans is aware of their social responsibility (and takes it very seriously). They have partnered with nonprofit, ‘charity: water’, which helps communities in developing countries have access to clean water.
Econcsious: Good, Clean Fashion
Like Patagonia, Econscious is part of the 1% for the Planet initiative that places a portion of sales back into environmental causes. This is good, clean fashion with a focus on the simple t-shirt – making it fit right, making it last and making it ethical, with several items being made on home turf in the USA.
Alternative Apparel: Alternative and Sustainable
Men, women and older children will be spoilt for choice with Alternative, which puts an eco twist on fashion trends. The whole process, from packaging to fibres, has been taken into account, with goods coming presented in oxo-biodegradable mailer bags and materials including low-impact dyes and recycled polyester.
Sustainable fashion isn’t about being boring – it’s about giving you the choice. These are just a snippet of our favourite ethical clothing brands – who do you recommend we check out? Add to the list in the comments so we can grow the list and make smart fashion choices!