Take a minute to think about what you’ve got in your closet right now. Are there items you bought last year that still have tags on them? Things you’ve purchased but only worn once or twice? How often do you buy clothing online and send back items that don’t fit quite right? BBC Earth reveals that the majority of returned items are thrown away or torched in massive burn piles, which is outrageous and horrifying.
Investing in sustainable clothing and companies that are dedicated to ethical and Earth-friendly practices may be the solution. Fast fashion may be convenient and cheap, but its cost runs deep, from unfair wages to negative environmental impacts. And consumers are catching on—Fast Company reported that the fast fashion industry is taking a hit as people start to care more about how and where their clothing is produced. Sustainable fashion is the future and I am here for it.
I’m a huge proponent of sustainable living—I’ve taught several co-workers how to properly compost, I shop locally when I can, and I try to find retailers who care about the environment as much as I do. Buying consciously is important, but what you do with the clothing you already have is also important. Buy items that you plan to keep forever—and when you do, consider buying from one of the brands we’ve tested and loved whose fabrics are made to last.
Everlane is a big name in sustainable fashion because of their radical transparency, quality products, and (my favorite) “Choose What You Pay” option on overstock items. The latter allows you to select from three pre-set prices, making items more affordable! They boast “The world’s cleanest denim factory” and have a wide range of products that are suitable for the office, lunch dates, nights out, and shoes that will take you between all three. Extra pluses: a men’s line, a new “wear-anywhere” legging, sustainable sneakers, and free shipping on your first order.
Patagonia is also a B-Corp, and I’m sure you’ve heard of them in recent years. They have outdoor/adventure clothing that is both quality and functional. Whether you’re looking for a cold-weather pullover, a backpack, or slicker bib overalls you can buy knowing they were created using high-quality organic cotton, recycled wool, Bluesign standards (ethical dyeing practices), and made in Fair Trade factories.
Patagonia has also dedicated a clothing line for workers in outdoor professions made from “industrial strength” fabrics like wool and hemp. Pieces in this line include windbreakers, coveralls, double knee pants, and work gloves.
It can be hard to find sustainably made shoes, but I’m sure you’ve seen Allbirds ads on your social media feed. They’re a B-corp using carbon offsets, recycled materials and have an FSC Certification (“strict standards to protect forests/animals and people who depend on them”). We tried Allbirds and found that they were definitely worth the hype. Their bestselling pair (the wool runners we tried) is a lightweight shoe that you can walk and run in—making it an ideal shoe to have by the door. Each pair of laces is made from a plastic water bottle and you can toss them in the wash too! The wool runners are already at the top of my holiday wishlist!
And on top of all their great reviews, the wool runners made the Reviewed Top 100 list!
You may have seen Reformation’s floral dresses tagged on your fave influencer’s account. Whether you’re looking for an outfit for brunch, a wedding, or a trip abroad, Reformation has you covered with timeless silhouettes and desirable patterns.
Reformation has been carbon neutral since 2015 (!!) and they make it easy for you to reduce your footprint too. They’re incredibly transparent because they post their sustainability reports quarterly, pay living wages, share where their fabrics are sourced, and report their upcycled waste fabric. They also partner with thredUp to provide shopping credit for clothing you send in! Though their items are pricier, you’ll know they’ll have you looking fabulous forever.
Athleta is where I buy most of my clothes, especially because they have storefronts near me. (Less shipping!) They’re a B-corp that uses recycled materials in their (comfy) leggings and shirts AND have a great exchange policy where you can bring in worn items at any time and select new ones for the same price. They’re a go-to place for yoga, training, and general outdoor exploration clothing. On top of all this, they carry plus sizes and have a great girls’ line that gives back through youth programs.
Madewell probably has a storefront in your local mall, but their impact goes far beyond. They have Fair Trade Certified factories, a better cotton initiative, and a denim recycling program that helps reduce greenwashing. Take in a worn pair of jeans (any brand) and exchange them for a $20 voucher toward a new pair in-store; your old duds will be shredded and made into house insulation! I’m a big fan of their cardigans, bandanas, and tote bags. If they are near you, reduce your carbon footprint by carpooling to their shop and buying from the store instead of buying online!
Prana creates “Clothing for Positive Change” ranging from everyday wear to travel pieces to workout wear. Their bestsellers include long-sleeve crew necks (closet staples), several variations of leggings for all types of movement, and a fluffy, hooded half-zip that allows you to wear comfort wherever you go. Their recent collection is inspired by the sensations of Portugal, so if you like to wear Earth tones they’re the place for you! They are Fair Trade Certified, cruelty-free, and use organic wool—and they address upstream chemical management in relation to their factories. I recently bought their Eco Yoga Mat and it came shipped in compostable materials too!
Pact is a Fair Trade Certified shop from Colorado with options for the whole family. Their basics are affordably priced, plus they have kids, home, and maternity sections. One of my favorite features on their site is that they list how many gallons of water are saved in the production of different products, like these leggings, so you can see how your buying habits impact natural resources.
9. Girlfriend Collective
Girlfriend Collective is my recent obsession. Their leggings are truly the comfiest I’ve ever felt in athletic wear, and they come in a range of “essential” and limited edition colors that are updated each season—think lime, honey, daybreak, and pansy. It’s easy to mix and match bras, leggings, and bike shorts, and it’s refreshing to see the clothing styled on all types of bodies. Like other shops on this list, they are Fair Trade, transparent, and use eco-friendly dyes.
As I began to fill my closet with more sustainable pieces, I forgot the item I wear closest to my skin: undies! They might be one of THE most important products you know the production process of, and Parade makes it easy. Each of their fabrics is Oeko-Tex certified, meaning they are “free from harmful chemicals that pollute your skin and our waters,” which we should all want. The undies come in sizes XS-3XL, and they ship in compostable mailers! Parade is a woman-owned business looking to “rewrite the American underwear story” by showcasing all types of bodies and investing in sex education around the country.
Kotn is a Canadian B-corp creating wardrobe staples made from organic cotton from Egypt. As a result of working directly with Egyptian farmers, Kotn’s clothing is super soft, and their efforts are helping sustain the agriculture business in small locales. Kotn considers “Circular Traceability” a standard—from farming to yarn milling to travel costs to dyeing. Their solid-color basics, like the puff sleeve sweatshirt and fitted henley, are timeless, affordable, and easy to layer. Consider me sold.
12. REI Co-op
REI Co-op uses sustainable fabrics and packaging, responsible Bluesign dyeing, and fair labor to produce outdoor gear and clothing for the whole family. REI has been around since 1938, and their Co-op line “breaks down barriers like cost, activity level, and sizing to get everyone outside.” The Co-op line makes it easy to buy a wide range of things all in one place. I’m talking tents, gloves, backpacks, gaiters, baselayers, trekking poles, socks, sleeping bags, and practically everything else on your adventure packing list.
13. Outdoor Voices
Simple mix and match athletic wear is EASY at Outdoor Voices. Their bestselling leggings, hoodies, and bras are all made with sustainable fabrics and packaged in recycled and recyclable materials. They also have a sleek tracksuit that reviewers have called “comfortable and chic” with a “dope 80s feel.”
14. Shop Arq
Shop Arq is an undergarment shop imagined and manufactured in the U.S. with ethical labor standards and sustainable dyeing practices. Their (mostly) primary color organic cotton undies are soft and comfortable. Just looking at them makes me want to lounge all day!
Plus, you can get a matching set for the whole family.
ABLE is an ethical brand that employs, empowers, and invests in women as a way to combat and end cycles of poverty. They publish wages and work with communities around the world to create economic change. Their products range from denim to jewelry to home goods, making it a great place to buy from for yourself and your home. New arrivals feature perfect tote bags for early spring days, block heel sandals, and jumpsuits to bridge the season shift.