As a result of continued inquiries, we have a running series of posts outlining some ethically-manufactured “alternatives” to fast fashion. (Find previous lists here). It is worth noting that in general, ethically made garments and accessories tend to cost a bit more than their fast fashion alternatives. However, there are certainly pros in favor of spending a bit more: the quality is significantly better, as is the peace of mind of knowing your clothes were not made in sweatshop-like conditions.
The brands listed below engage in original design, local production (many of the brands manufacture locally), responsible selection of raw materials (think: the use of Viscose, which comes from man-made fibers made from renewable plant material, and requires approximately half of the energy than a cotton garment to produce), careful oversight (these brands are working with factories that abide by national labor standards, visiting the factories on a regular basis and speaking to factory owners even more frequently), and/or focus on creating sustainable garments and accessories with a lower environmental impact. (think: minimizing waste by repurposing it to make additional garments, reducing carbon emissions and/or shipping using recycled paper products). Check out the list below and remember, shopping responsibly does not mean only wearing Hermès or Prada; there are reasonably priced alternatives.
“We decided to take a stand against brands that focus on profits at the expense of quality, fair factories, and the environment.” That is the motto of Girlfriend Collective, a Seattle-based startup that boasts a collection of leggings that are ethically made, sustainably sourced, and, most importantly, accessibly priced. Ellie Dinh, who started the company with her husband, Quang, says that they “started Girlfriend Collective because we saw the need for affordable, luxury activewear that doesn’t destroy the environment, and that gives everyone from the factory to the office living wages and a decent life.”
MUD | $
Dutch denim brand MUD Jeans – not to be confused with Mudd Jeans – is revolutionary. CEO Bert van Son says his 30 years in the fashion industry made him see the impact fast fashion has on the environment and its factory workers and made him determined to find an alternative way. So, he launched MUD, a denim brand that puts sustainability first by basing its business model on a circular economy: MUD recycles old jeans to produce new ones, helping to reduce waste and protect the environment – not to mention that all orders are shipped in returnable, reusable packaging to eliminate even more waste. Buy new jeans, or vintage ones, and send them back for a discount (and to continue the loop) them when you’re done. Note: shipping to the US is steep.
WORON | $
Sisters Anya and Arina Woron launched their Copenhagen-based label out of a desire to share their take on perfect lingerie, done in a sustainable way. It provides comfort without sacrificing feminine shaping, fashion, and style – and style without sacrificing sustainability. Made from eco-friendly Beachwood fiber, the collection includes soft-bras, panties, and bodysuits, and is full of accessible designs with exquisite attention to detail and fit.
RIALTO JEAN PROJECT | $$
Rialto Jean Project is an eco-friendly, philanthropic denim brand specializing in hand-painted, one-of-a-kind vintage product. Started by Founder & Creative Director Erin Feniger, each piece is handcrafted in her art studio at South Street Seaport in NYC. Feniger sources rare American made vintage, personally hand-painting every single piece herself, and thereby creating what she calls “a unique, fashion forward experience.”
KOWTOW | $$
Kowtow, a New Zealand-based brand, is one of our go-to brands for upscale minimalist pieces that incorporate clever cuts and takes on volume, making for a unique collection that defies a market of otherwise trend and season-specific wares. Per kowtow: “All of our garments are made at our incredible SA8000 credited factory in India, where workers receive the following benefits: living wage, social security fund, pension fund, paid holiday leave, sick pay, medical insurance, subsidized lunches, overtime pay, workplace unions, free transport to the factory, and 5% housing allowance.” In case that’s not enough, they also limit their raw materials to certified organic cotton.
SHAINA MOTE | $$$
The Shaina Mote collection provides versatile and timeless staples – all made in Los Angeles – for the distinctive, modern woman. Established in 2012, the line emphasizes longevity through superior construction techniques and exceptional fit. A clean color palette focusing on black, white and easy-to-wear neutral tones, assures lasting significance – making these pieces you can invest in and wear for years to come.
BLAKE L.D.N. | $$
If there is anything worth splurging on, it’s knitwear. Enter: Blake London, a contemporary knitwear brand that offers consumers a conscious alternative to mass market garments. Central St Martin's trained, founder Alice Ashby previously worked as assistant knitwear designer at Rag & Bone in New York, before launching her own label in September 2012. Ashby takes pride in her label which combines a traditional British craft alongside a modern day contemporary vision, all while focusing on sound sourcing and manufacturing.
$ = majority of pieces under $150
$$ = majority of pieces between $150-$400
$$$ = majority of pieces between $400-$750
$$$$ = majority of pieces over $750