Fairtrade, ethical, sustainable, green, environmentally-friendly, low carbon footprint. All of these words and phrases, to name a few, have come to fruition in the last few years and made quite an impact on many industries, including the fashion industry.
More and more people are turning to more natural ways of living and are watching their consumer habits. Many industries have risen to the demand of the consumers and the apparel industry and retailers are now offering diverse sustainable fashion brands.
I was working as a fashion designer for a major retailer in Canada when the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013, killing over 1100 people and injuring over 2000. The tragedy shook the apparel industry and consumers alike. I ended up leaving the fast fashion industry a few years later, in part because of the images that haunted me and my powerless input in the tragedy from thousands of miles away.
After leaving the fast fashion industry I started consuming more ethically and expanded my buying process by finding out where my clothing was manufactured, by who, and in what conditions. I now opt for items that are ethically made from sustainable fabrics. This sometimes involves a higher price tag, but I much prefer quality over quantity. Simply put, I buy less and wear my clothing longer.
“If you pay a little more, we can live a little better.” – Sharti Atka, garment worker from Bangladesh
What Is Sustainable Fashion
The documentary movie The True Cost exposed a lot of the human and environmental costs that fast fashion has created over the years. This helped to create consumer interest and the awakening of the wholesalers, retailers, and brands who have created a new movement that we now call slow fashion.
Sustainable fashion means keeping in mind environmental concerns and social justice issues during the production and distribution of garments.
- Natural fibers, like cotton, grown without pesticides
- Fabrics created with fewer chemical additives and dyes
- Environmentally friendly manufactured, packaged, and distributed clothing
- Manufacturers who implement ethical and fair labour conditions
Some words, certifications, and terms to look for:
- Certified B Corp
- Fair Trade Certified
- GOTS certified organic cotton
- BCSI-certified production
- OEKO-TEX certified
- Fair Labor Association
- Bluesign® certified dyes
- Non GMO Cotton
- Climate Neutral
“Clothes could have more meaning and longevity if we think less about owning the latest or cheapest thing and develop more of a relationship with the things we wear.” – Elizabeth L. Cline, journalist and author of Overdressed and The Conscious Closet
Best Sustainable Fashion Brands
Patagonia is a pioneer in environmentally-friendly and giving back initiatives. They started recycling fabrics and using organic cotton as early as 1972 and have grown to be a leader in sustainable outerwear and activewear.
Ethics: Fair Trade Certified, Certified B Corp, organic cotton, recycled materials, environmental sustainability initiatives, gives back, and a secondhand shop called Worn Wear
Products: Women’s, men’s, and kids’ outdoor and activewear
Kotn makes super-soft essentials that are made from organic Egyptian cotton. From farmer to manufacturer, the company provides a fair and safe environment for all workers. This is the place to get your basic t-shirts that are high quality and that will last for years.
Ethics: Certified B Corp, organic cotton, non-toxic dyes, plastic-free packaging, safe and fair labor standards, gives back
Products: Women’s, men’s, and home
Pact designs and produces super soft and comfortable basics and essentials made with certified organic cotton. They are also fair trade certified and make sure that everyone in the production chain gets living wages and works in healthy conditions.
Ethics: Fair Trade Certified, GOTS certified organic cotton, carbon-offset shipping, donation program for used clothes
Products: Women, men, and kids’ basics, underwear, activewear, home
TenTree offers comfortable casual essentials for the whole family made with Tencel, hemp, and organic cotton. The company is committed to planting 10 trees for every item purchased.
Ethics: Certified B Corp, ethical manufacturing, sustainable and recycled materials, environmental initiative, climate-neutral
Products: Women’s, men’s, and children’s essentials and accessories
Milo + Nicki
Milo + Nicki produce in small quantities to avoid waste and overproduction. Every piece is designed with carefully selected materials that come from natural resources (like linen or banana fibre) and can easily biodegrade with little to no impact on people, planet or animals.
Ethics: GOTS certified organic cotton, artisan made, compostable and biodegradable packaging, fair wages
Products: Women’s fashionable apparel
Eileen Fisher is a leading design brand that believes social and environmental injustices should be taken seriously. The company carefully oversees the entire supply chain to ensure fair working wages for all collaborators.
Ethics: Certified B Corp, sustainable materials and practices, Fair Trade Certified collections, gives back, secondhand initiatives
Products: Women’s fashions
Franc is a Canadian owned and operated ethical fashion business company. Their client base are people who are fed up with fast fashion. Buying an item at Franc’s assures that they can enjoy a conscious wardrobe built on timeless basics.
Ethics: GOTS certified Organic Cotton, fair wages, Bluesign certificated dyes, 100% compostable shipping bags, 100% plastic-free, gives back
Products: Women’s, men’s, kids’ basic casuals
Fair Indigo is committed to creating clothing that will last up to five years. Clothes are made with organic Peruvian Pima cotton that is grown on a family farm and harvested by hand.
Ethics: GOTS certified organic cotton, safe dyes, fair wages, artisan-made, gives back
Products: Women’s, men’s, and kids’ casuals
Threads 4 Thoughts
Threads 4 Thoughts create products that leave an innately smaller impact on the environment, supports communities, and assists in changing the narrative and understanding of ethical standards within the fashion industry.
Ethics: Non GMO Organic cotton, faire wages, gives back
Products: Women’s, men’s, kids’, casual basics
Boden is committed to responsible sourcing, fair trade, and ethical practices in all their supply chain. We especially like their beautiful dresses in fun prints.
Ethics: Fair trade production, sustainable cotton, eco-friendly practices, ethical supply chain, gives back
Products: Women’s, men’s, kids’ apparel and accessories
Do you purchase sustainable clothing? Are you interested in learning more about where your garments come from and how they are made? What are your favorite sustainable fashion brands? Let us know in the comments below.